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Monday, December 14, 2009
Updated: December 23, 11:37 AM ET
All-Decade Boys' Cross Country Team

By Dave Devine & Steve Underwood
ESPN RISE

Runners are all listed alphabetically with school and high school graduation year.

Dathan Ritzenhein is decade's top athlete

Chris Derrick, Class of 2008
Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.)

He emerged as Illinois' top harrier with a slate of performances that culminated in a historic state meet run at Detweiler Park, his 13:52 mark considered at least equal to Craig Virgin's 1973 record on a slightly altered course. With his Neuqua Valley team near the top of the national rankings, Derrick attempted to simultaneously lead them to a Nike Team Nationals title and seek Foot Locker individual glory. The month-long quest began with a decisive NTN Midwest Regional win, then a Foot Locker Midwest second-place finish. He won the NTN individual title in 15:39 while leading his squad to the top of the podium, then a week later was second at the Foot Locker Finals in 14:57 behind Michael Fout's victory. Derrick now competes for Stanford University and recently placed third at the NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Championship.

Michael Fout
After winning a Foot Locker national championship his senior year at LaPorte (LaPorte, Ind.), Michael Fout now runs for Florida State.

German Fernandez, Class of 2008
Riverbank (Riverbank, Calif.)

An undefeated California cross country season helped Fernandez soar to national prominence. It concluded at the CIF State Meet, where he slashed 14 seconds from Olympian Marc Davis' Woodward Park record. After winning the Foot Locker West Regional, expectations were high for a triumph at the national finals, but the Riverbank senior managed third on a day when Michael Fout took the win. Fernandez wouldn't lose again on U.S. soil, winning the USATF Junior Cross Country Championships, leading the U.S. team in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his 25th place finish, and then embarking on an unforgettable and undefeated outdoor track campaign. At Oklahoma State University, Fernandez has already set a World Junior Indoor Mile record and the U.S. Junior record in the outdoor 5000-meter run.

Michael Fout, Class of 2008
LaPorte (LaPorte, Ind.)

Though he ruled The Hoosier State during his senior year, many did not consider Fout a serious national title threat, even after he won the 2007 Foot Locker Midwest Regional in 14:54 over heavily-favored Chris Derrick. But at the Foot Locker national finals, facing one of the best boys fields this decade, the LaPorte senior made a monster move in the final mile no one could match, and sped to a 14:50 clocking for the national title. Saddled by injuries the remainder of his senior year in outdoor track, Fout now competes for Florida State University.

Solomon Haile, Class of 2009
Sherwood (Silver Spring, Md.)

Despite only competing in the United States for one full academic year, after moving to Maryland from his native Ethiopia, the Sherwood senior cemented his all-decade credentials with two major victories in the fall of 2008. At the Manhattan Invitational in New York, Haile blazed a course record 12:06.7 on the venerable Van Cortlandt Park 2.5-mile layout. In the ensuing weeks he went on to dominate his state meet, the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, and the Foot Locker National Championships in San Diego, where he pulled away for a comfortable 15:15 win in the final mile. Haile is now competing for the University of Arkansas.

Dathan Ritzenhein, Class of 2001
Rockford (Rockford, Mich.)

In the years since his prep track and cross country ended, "Ritz" has been a two-time Olympian, a national champion multiple times, and recently set the American record in the 5000 meters with a 12:56.27.

Haile
Solomon Haile had a dominant senior season at Sherwood (Silver Springs, Md.) before heading to Arkansas.

Chris Solinksy, Class of 2003
Stevens Point Area (Stevens Point, Wis.)

After a third-place finish at the Foot Locker National Championships as a junior in 2001, Solinsky dominated the 2002 final in its return to San Diego after a 5-year hiatus in Orlando, Florida. The 14:40 clocking turned in by the Stevens Point senior that day is the fastest winning time of the decade on the Balboa Park layout, and third fastest mark ever run there. Solinsky later became a 5-time NCAA champion and recently a member of the U.S. team at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

Matt Withrow, Class of 2004
Andrew (Tinley Park, Ill.)

With a massive mid-race surge, the Andrew High senior stunned the field at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wis., in the fall of 2003, and then soared to the national championship in San Diego two weeks later. His come-from-behind kick with 300 meters remaining in the Balboa Park final has become the stuff of prep distance running legend, as he ran down pre-race favorites Galen Rupp (Central Catholic, Portland, Ore.) and Shadrack Kiptoo (La Cueva, Albuquerque, N.M.) for the 14:55 victory. Withrow went on to qualify for the U.S. Senior Men's team to compete in the World Cross Country Championships as a true freshman at the University of Wisconsin.

Boys Team of the Decade: York (Elmhurst, Ill.) 2004
In 2004, when the new age of national team cross country championships was rolled out, an epic showdown was at hand between York and Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.). Both teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 all year, with legendary coach Joe Newton's squad being led by front-runner Sean McNamara and the prodigal Dettman twins. When they finally met at Portland Meadows for the first NTN (as it was called then), the crew from the Land of Lincoln carried the day.

McNamara would finish first in 15:43.9, leading York to a 92-point total. Through the 2009 NXN, no boys team has had a lower score. Earlier, York had gone 1-2-3 at the Illinois 2A state meet, an unheard-of feat in a major state, and won by 95 points. It was the squad's 24th title under Newton. One of the small handful of consistently national elite programs, York had many great teams in the past and more would come later in the decade, but this one has been judged the best.