Craig Lutz is one of few brave top ranked runners in the nation willing to attempt the Nike Cross Nationals/Foot Locker Nationals double this season. The Marcus High School junior from Dallas, Texas posted the nation's fastest time for 5K this cross country last week in his near course record breaking 14:34 win at Foot Locker South. Lutz will travel to the West Coast in two consecutive weekends as he'll hook horns with Joe Rosa of New Jersey and Zach Wills of Ohio this weekend at NXN and will follow up next week against Lukas Verzbicas of Illinois at Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego. Brandon Miles of MileSplit US interviewed Lutz as he makes the trip to Portland, Oregon for round one of two against the nation's best.
MileSplit US: A couple of days out from your near course record performance of 14:34 at Foot Locker South, how are your legs feeling as you make the trip soon out to Portland for NXN?
Craig Lutz: Coming off of Saturday, my legs were feeling fresh already by Monday and my body has been feeling amazing with absolutely no pains. I don't think I've ever felt like this at this point any other season.
(Photo right by Alex Aldaco of tx.milesplit.us)
MileSplit US: You ran a 1:30 for your last 600 meters at McAlpine. Thats quick! Obviously you have been doing some kind of speed work this fall right? If so, whats your been your best work this fall exhibiting some turnover?
Lutz: My coach and I have really been working on my turnover this season and trying to improve more on using it to inhance my speed endurance more than straight speed itself. For a race itself, I've never been a kicker in the end and thats something we've been working on also as we come into these weeks.
MileSplit US: You stated that you were attempting to only run fast enough to qualify in both the NXN and Foot Locker regionals, but opted mid-race to change your plans at Foot Locker South and go for it. Do you feel that getting an opportunity to run fast and exhibit your fitness gives you more confidence and secureness about what you are capable of doing than if you had cruised through 2 straight races before the national races?
Lutz: Nike was just a bad race for me. Yes, I was trying to save myself but a win would have been nice. Parker Stinson and Ryan Dohner had great races that day and dropped me. I left that race and pulled in my focus and once again, coming into my Foot Locker regional, my coach and I decided that we would race to qualfiy. Well, coming through the mile, it felt like it was going to be a fast race anyways and i felt like I had an unlimited amount of energy that day. So I surged and ran strong for the rest of the race. I honestly didn't think we were going that fast and fortunately I did run fast because there wouldn't have been a way to race easy enough to qualfy when everyone in the top 10 was breaking fifteen.
(Photo left by Alex Aldaco of tx.milesplit.us)
MileSplit US: What was the decision process like in deciding to compete in both NXN and Foot Locker? Why do you personally feel that you are capable of running well in both meets after a long cross country season? After all, it is a tough quadrouple (regional qualifiers & national races) after the state meet.
Lutz: My coach and I looked at my season and decided that I had enough base milage and fitness to be able to handle both. My season started later due to injury at the beginning of the summer, so I haven't had as long of a season as most would think. My first few meets of the season were being run off of nothing but long runs still.
MileSplit US: Do you believe the high mileage that you run helps you over other low mileage runners in having the strength and base to race often and late into the year?
Lutz: I actually don't run very high mileage compared to what I've seen other runners doing. My highest week of the season this year got to about 65 miles and everything else was in the high 50s. Our system has been more quality workouts vs. pounding out the miles more then once a week. I'm still in high school with a body that is still growing, I don't need to be loading 70 to 100 miles a week on it.
(Photo right by Bruce Taylor of ga.milesplit.us)
MileSplit US: You ran really great as an underclassmen with national caliber times and performances running right with the best of your state as a freshmen and underclassmen, but what improvements and differences have you seen in yourself as runner this fall as a junior?
Lutz: I've noticed that I have matured in the sport, meaning that I understand more of what I'm doing. I can bounce back from bad races or workouts faster and put them behind me but still learn from them.
MileSplit US: You had a great race in your really you first national experience last December at NXN with a 5th place finish in Portland. How pleased are you with that performance, especially running in your first race on a national stage?
Lutz: I was very happy with it. My coach and I had come into it not really knowing what to expect. We had talked of top ten and that he would be happy no matter what. There was also the fact that I was tired at this time last year so we weren't sure how my body would hold. We were very surprised with how I handled the meet. I showed that I wasn't used to the national setting as I ran a poor race in terms of strategy, but was still able to run well off of effort and desire.
MileSplit US: You finished a couple seconds behind a young man named Joe Rosa from New Jersey in that NXN, who is also a junior and been posting some pretty impressive performances on the East Coast this fall. How excited are you about getting an opportunity to race against him and renew what could be a great rivalry between the two of you for the next 2 years?
Lutz: I'm very excited to be racing against him and the other great runners from around the nation. There is a rivalry between a lot of us already because a vast majority of us are all in the same grade so we are going to be seeing each other a lot more.
(Photo left by Brandon Miles of va.milesplit.us)
MileSplit US: How do you like to recover in between big races and how do you plan to recover in between Portland and San Diego?
Lutz: I don't load the miles on Sunday after the meets like summer runners do. I feel like that saves them more. I also enjoy ice baths after harder workouts that may have dealt with harder surfaces. For the next week, I'll be running to save my fitness so I won't be training very hard at all. We trained this season to be able to be strong right now and it worked out perfectly.
MileSplit US: The fact that you will be racing against all of the nation's best at either NXN and Foot Locker Nationals with nationally ranked runners who might not be racing at both like yourself such as Rosa and others at NXN and Verzbicas and others at Foot Locker Nationals....are you welcoming the challenge up ahead and really the opportunity to prove yourself as one of the nation's best in head to head racing while the others will have to play the hypothetical game since they will not face off?
Lutz: Yes. A goal is to be able to do well in both against both sides of competition to be able to prove that I'm up there. Its the only way for a runner to be able to run against everyone right now.
(Photo right by Barry Jones for fl.milesplit.us)