Jeff Benjamin visited the NXN New York/Northeast regional, on Friday and Saturday, providing us pictures for Instagram and twitter on race days, and then, the following piece on the event. We will continue covering the event, at the NXN Nationals on December 3! See you there!
Observations from the NXN New York Regionals- by Jeff Benjamin- 11/28
So it ends for many, but not for the few. For almost more than a decade, the format and setup of the Nike Cross Regionals NY once again left many in suspense and surprise as the lists of teams and individual qualifiers bound for Portland for the National Championships in a week began to settle into place. With 8 nationwide regional races comprising the competition, along with a set standard of 22-7 person clubs and an additional 45 individuals (male and female) who would qualify for the coveted spots to compete in the Swoosh home field atmosphere, the pressure which fans, friends, family and the athletes themselves felt was nothing short of intense. Once again, like so many XC races of all ages, abilities and regions, this sport where the individuals try and compete to their highest levels is also connected to their other teammates, with their 5th finisher possibly deciding which teams move on and which teams end their season.
Here are some observations from this years event which was held at Bowdoin Park:
1) Bowdoin Park is a heckuva tough course! With its rolling back hills coming on top of each other, combined with the upgrade taking runners into that area, its no wonder some coaches and athletes call the course a "pinball machine". If one can hold on, then competitors are rewarded with a downhill back to the flats of the course. However it isn't over as another incline challenges the runners with about 250 yards to go!
2) The leadership and camaraderie of the meet directors Bob Baratta and Paul Limmer, who, along with former York coaching legend Joe Newton, were brought in by NIKE along with other coaches to help create the event.
3) The weather! One wonders how the TV weatherman would have handled the changes of the climate all throughout race day. From drizzling rain to cold temperatures then to some warm, sunny skies and then back to the clouds again, it seemed that the running powers-that-be wanted to sprinkle on everyone all the facets of weather experienced in XC into this one day.
4) The medical staff with Stephen Segatore, along with the finish line crew, the announcing of Ian Brooks, Kyle Brazile and Mike Frazer, combined with the help of volunteers along the course who did pre-day setup shows that every event is only as good as the efforts that the people put into it.
5) The power of the Swoosh, so evident in every facet of the events, shows that, from its growth from Phil Knight's trunk to the power it is today, NIKE has always kept a close bond with the Sport from where it started from. Add to that the participation of close to 3000 runners, and one has a very successful event.
6) What was Manlius Coach Bill Aris thinking?! His girls team won the team title, but, to the surprise of many, his boys team, who had not even run well at their Sectionals 3 weeks ago, came roaring back to win and travel to Portland with the girls for the 11th time, which matches the girls as well! Peak when it counts??
7) Marielle Hall showed exactly why she's not only a world-class athlete but a world class individual. Like so many others in the Sport, she "gets it", as the 10K Olympian from Rio willingly and happily signed every autograph and posed for every pic and selfie imaginable. The night before the race, emcee extraordinaire Ian Brooks hosted a talk with Hall, which lasted well past the scheduled end time, as Hall quite happily addressed EVERY question from the athletes!
8) My Personal Favorite - David DJ Principe & Ainslinn Devlin immediately after winning their races (with Principe finishing in a new course record of 15:18!) and not celebrating but rather almost immediately turning around to see how their teammates fared in finishing behind them, and then greeting them encouragingly at the finish. If that's not teamwork then nothing is, which is the true theme of XC!