It was a perfect, overcast day, with a bit of mist, for the 38th version of the FootLocker Cross Country Nationals, the oldest national high school championships in the country. Last weekend, I was at the NXN, which celebrates team running. The FootLocker is all about the individual performances.
Started 38 years ago by some management from Kinney Shoes, the FootLocker Champs has seen three decades of young American distance talent move onto major American elite talent. From Bob Kennedy to Todd Williams to Rueben Renia in the golden days to Meb Keflezighi, Jorge and Eduardo Torres, to Alan Webb and Drew Hunter on the boys side. On the girls, Molly Huddle, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Erin Keogh, Julia Stamps, Jordan Hasay, Jennifer Barringer Simpson to Katie Rainsberger!
The top 40 boys and girls are feted at the FootLocker. The Hotel Del Coronado is an amazing hotel in San Diego, the the holiday decorations are mesmerizing. On Thursday, New Balance, the new sponsor, brought each team in one by one and gave them a bag full of goodies. The colors of the product (see our video on runblogrun FB), the quality of the product just added to the excitement.
In the end, for the girls, there was a tremendous race between two dominant athletes up front and 38 athletes chasing the leaders. Here is how I saw it.
Claudia Lane ran the FootLocker just like she did every other race this year: she went out hard, and just did not stop! Hitting the mile in 5:18, she had MW winner Ann Forsyth, sophomore MW Lauren Peterson, closely followed by India Johnson, MW, with Nevada Marino in sixth place.
Claudia runs efficiently, and fluidly over the course. After the race, when I asked her about her toughest race of the year, Lane admitted “this was the toughest. There was a lot of pressure and many good girls to race with.”
The mile in 5:18 was fast and Claudia built up a ten second lead by 1.5 miles. But, Nevada Marino had gone out much slower than last year and she was moving up. ” I just tried to go out a bit slower than last year, and push the hills, ” noted Nevada after the race. And move up she did. By the first set of hills, Nevada Marino was up on Lane’s shoulder, but that was close as it would get.
The two miles were hit by Claudia Lane in 10:55, with Nevada Marino in 11 minutes. Twenty seven seconds back, Rebecca Story was putting on a stirring battle for third.
Claudia Lane continued her relentless front running and looked fantastic, but Nevada Marino was menacing, slowly moving up on Lane and was in fantastic position when they hit the three mile point. Just as the two girls hit the three mile point, Claudia Lane found one more gear and took off, insuring a nice four seconds between her and Marino, with Lane winning in 17:04.8. Next came Nevada Marino in second in 17:08.3.
Rebecca Story held onto third in 17:35.4. Ten seconds back, in fourth, India Johnson put on a sprint show of her own, running 17:45.4. In fifth was Ann Forsyth, who ran 17:46.8, after having gone out so hard with Claudia Lane. In sixth, Kearan Nelson ran 17:48.5. Nicole Fegans followed her in 17:48..6. Eighth was Hayley Jackson in 17:49.7. Ninth was Grace Connolly in 17:50.2 and finishing in tenth ws Marin Coffin, in 17:50.6.
The girls race once again showed the continued growth and talent of girl’s cross country. Over 260,000 high school girls ran cross country in 2016, and today, 40 of the finest battled. On the team size, South surprised with 39 points, Northeast, 51 points, Midwest, 62 points and West, 69 points.
Biggest observation? How many sophomores are here this year. Two more years for them, and great experiences on which to focus in next couple years.
Claudia Lane did it like few others. Her front running was exciting, gutty and amazing TV to watch!