The Foot Locker Midwest Region went down Saturday at the University of Wisconsin's Parkside Wayne Dannehl Course in Kenosha. As always, both races did not disappoint.
Ten boys and 10 girls punched their tickets to the Foot Locker National Championships on December 9 in San Diego, California.
In the boys race, Danny Kilrea from Lyons Township in Illinois took the win in 14:53.3. That time is one of the fastest all-time on this course. It's only behind eventual two-time Foot Locker National Champion Lukas Verzbicas (14:44.20) and two-time Foot Locker Nationals runner-up Futsum Zienasellassie (14:47.60).
In second was Ohio Class D2 state champion and NXN Midwest sixth-place finisher Zach Kreft. Kreft earns a spot on the line in San Diago after placing just outside of the top five individuals at NXN Midwest.
In third was senior Clayton Mendez from Whitney Young High School in Illinois. Mendez has been crushing the postseason, placing fifth at NXN Midwest and now third at Foot Locker Midwest. He was also the 3A IHSA Cross Country State Championship runner-up behind Kilrea. Mendez was unranked all season but look for him to get a nod on to the Flo50 rankings this week after two very impressive postseason national qualifying meet performances.
Some big-name athletes who just missed qualifying are Gabe Fendel, Cole Hocker and Derick Peters. Gabe Fendel was the Indiana state champion this fall. He finished 12th at last year's Foot Locker Nationals and 28th at last years Nike Cross Nationals, but it looks like he will be out of both national championships after finishing 11th this weekend and 13th at the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional on November 12.
In the girls race, Olivia Theis from Lansing Catholic in Michigan took home the victory in 17:13. Her time puts her just inside the top 10 all-time on the course. The senior was 14th at last year's Foot Locker Nationals.
Finishing in second was Katelynne Hart from Glenbard West high school in Illinois. The sophomore ran 17:17.1. She was the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional champion only a few weeks ago on November 12. We will see her on the starting line in San Diego for the first time ever. Last year, however, she did face some national competition at NXN, where she placed 18th as a freshman.
Rounding out the top three was Minnesota state cross country champion Emily Covert. Covert ran 17:17.4 to take home third-place honors. She will also be racing at NXN next weekend as she placed second at the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional a few weekends ago.
Fenske, a Farmington Minnesota freshman, finished 16th this weekend. She will still have her shot at a national meet after she placed third at the NXN Heartland regional.
The same cannot be said for Flo50 bubble athlete and 3A Colorado state champion McConnell. McConnell was seventh at the NXN southwest regional, just missing qualifying and finished 15th this weekend. Last year at NXN as a junior she placed 17th.
- Bryan Deibel