Neely Spence of Pennsylvania is the top girls returnee
The stars align at Van Cortland Park Saturday in New York. The field is set with top talent going head to head with only ten national berths in the boys and girls races up for grabs. A lot of senior talent leads the way in both races, with a wealth of Foot Locker finalist talent in the girls race.
Race to San Diego: Foot Locker Northeast Preview
While some have called this Saturday's Foot Locker qualifying races anything but strong, the talent that runs the Van Cortland course this weekend is anything but weak. A slew of senior talent leads the way in both the boys and girls races.
No fewer than six boys challenge for the top spot. Brian Leung (NJ), Donn Cabral (CT), Vince McNally (PA) and Sinatayehu Taye (MA) all have a shot to win the race after many strong mid-season and late-season performances. While each have a question or two by their name, all should make the Foot Locker National squad.
The girls race is a little less crowded up top. Pennsylvania seniors Carly Seymour and Neely Spence both have something to prove. All season long it seems each girl saw what the other was doing and tried to one up the other. The two finally get their chance to meet, both being top five favorites for the national meet.
The competition is fierce and the field strong, as the best of the best roll into Van Cortland Park Saturday to see just who has what it takes to qualify for a trip to San Diego.
Brian Leung of New Jersey leads the boys field
1. Brian Leung (Sr., WW-PS, NJ) - Leung's attendance in the elite race Saturday should have the field keeping an eye on him. New Jersey's best has run at the top of his game all season long, running great time all along the east coast. His big win last weekend at the NJ Meet of Champions serves him well leading into this weekend's action.
2. Vince McNally (Sr., Conestoga Valley, PA) - McNally entered the Pennsylvania State Meet a few weeks ago as the heavy favorite. For the past few years McNally's dominance in the state was fantastic. However, illness stuck at the wrong time, leading the senior to falter in the last mile. McNally's shot to qualify is here now and assuming he is healthy, look for him to be up front early on.
3. Donn Cabral (Sr., Glastonbury, CT) - Being labeled by many as the pre-race favorite, Cabral is running great currently. His domination wins at the Connecticut State Meet and the New England Championships have him riding a wave of confidence.
4. Sinatayehu Taye (Sr., Cushing Academy, MA) - The hyper experienced senior saw very little competitive action throughout the year. For some that is a good thing, for others it is bad. However, few results allow Taye to be analyzed the way most other athletes are. Taye finished second in the region last year and if he is on a similar path expect him to vie for the win.
5. Doug Smith (Jr., Gill-St. Bernard's, NJ) - Smith's front running abilities served him well all season, beating a lot of top talent along the way. However, last weekend Smith dropped out of the NJ Meet of Champions from illness. If he can bounce back in time expect Smith to finish very high up in the results. His status is uncertain.
6. Brandon Jarrett (Sr., St. Benedict's, NJ) - Jarrett's chance to match fitness came at the Manhattan Invitational in mid-season, but the senior star dropped out. Since that time the New Jersey star has run well enough to gain back the momentum lost from that race.
7. Chris Aldrich (Sr., West Chester Henderson, PA) - A smart early part of the race will serve Aldrich well, as the Pennsylvania star is as tough as nearly anyone in the field. After a great state meet performance, Aldrich should be feeling very confident.
8. Pat DuPont (Sr., Fairport, NY) - The King of New York is DuPont this year. The New York boys have shown a lot of talent at this race over the years, but this year the state is a bit weak on the boys side. DuPont is not weak, far from it, as he continously proved throughout the season. His biggest win came last weekend at the New York Federation meet.
9. Matt Kane (Sr., Fairfield Warde, CT) - While Kane fell into the shadows of Cabral during the Connecticut season, his impressive performance at the New England Championships earns him some major consideration to make the Northeast team.
10. Alex McGrath (Sr., Con-Val, NH) - Despite running a sub-par race at the New England Championships, McGrath dominated the New Hampshire season like very few in recent history. He likes to lead races a bit, which can hurt or help him Saturday in New York
Best of the Rest: New York of course has depth, and with Foot Locker Regionals being held in their home state one can expect most of the top atheltes to run. Leading the way outside of DuPont are Kyle Merber (Sr., Half Hollow Hills West) and Giovanni Signoretti (Sr., East Smithtown). Both runners have emerged at the end of the year as two of the top runners in the region. Both show consistency on a weekly basis and should use their senior experience to race well.
Mark Dennin (Sr., Boyertown, PA) leads the charge for athletes not in the preview top ten. Dennin ran some great races during the season, including a nice performance at the Pennsylvania State Meet. His third place finish last weekend at the Mid-East CC Championships served as a strong tune-up for this weekend.
One complete dark horse on the boys side comes from Vermont senior Kenneth Bunnell (St. Johnsburg). Bunnell ran very strong at the New England Championships and seems to be coming on at the right time. A few athletes always seem to surprise at Van Cortland, don't be surprised to see Bunnell way up front.
1. Carly Seymour (Sr., Central Cambria, PA) - Seymour's dominance this season can only be matched by two other girls, Jordan Hasay (CA) and Ashley Brasovan (FL). Both those girls are considered Foot Locker pre-race favorites, well so is Seymour now. The senior star improved a lot since last year, where she finished third in this race. Her big win at the Manhattan Invitational earlier in the season bodes well for further competition in the Bronx.
2. Neely Spence (Sr., Shippensburg, PA) - Spence may have been sick a couple weeks back at the Pennsylvania State Meet, but her tune-up race at Van Cortland was fantastic. Spence is obviously ready to roll and should be looking forward to her first match up with in-state rival Seymour on Saturday.
3. Emily Lipari (So., Roslyn, NY) - All season long many questioned who the best girl in New York was. At the New York Federation meet, Lipari answered the question, beating one of the better state fields in the country by five seconds. She is the hometown favorite.
4. Emily Jones (Jr., Bromfield, MA) - A strong season, coupled with past Foot Locker Nationals experience, bodes well for Jones as she looks to make another trip to San Diego. Her state meet performance over second place Keely Maguire indicates her desire to come up big at the end of the season.
5. Jillian Smith (Jr., Southern Regional, NJ) - Smith followed the lead of former teammate, and former Foot Locker qualifier, Danielle Tauro for two years. This year the junior sensation broke out onto the cross country scene on her own, proving in a big way that she can easily earn a trip to San Diego. Her strong one second loss to Melanie Thompson (Voorhees) at the NJ Meet of Champions says a lot.
6. Shelby Greany (Jr., Suffern, NY) - Greany's results this season have been very good. While she ran a bit farther back last weekend at N.Y. Federations finishing fifth, the returning Foot Locker Finalist knows what it takes to make nationals.
7. Chelsea Ley (So., Kingsway Regional, NJ) - Ley started the season very fast, blitzing all her competition by solid margins. At the New Jersey Meet of Champs. last weekend, Ley placed third behind Melanie Thompson (Voorhees) and Smith. Her mark was only a couple seconds off each runner, so her up side is very strong.
8. Keely Maguire (Sr., Triton Regional, MA) - Maguire ran an impressive race at the Massachusetts State Meet, but lost to Jones. However, Maguire's experience is one of her key's to earning a Foot Locker berth.
9. Kacey Gibson (Sr., Neshannock, PA) - After missing Foot Locker Nationals by only a few spots last season, Gibson's goal Saturday should be to qualify for Nationals. The senior is giving it one last shot and after such an impressive season making nationals has to be in the cards.
10. Jeanne Mack (Sr., LaSalle, RI) - Mack ran through the competition in her home state of Rhode Island all season. The senior ran well at the New England Championships as well, placing second to US ranked Georgia Griffin (Hanover, NH).
Best of the Rest: While the talent is not as deep as past years, mostly due to the conflict with the Nike Team National Regional, the strength of the Northeast Region can never be denied. Kara Millhouse (Sr., Boiling Springs, PA) and Kathleen McCafferty (Sr., Oak Knoll, NJ) are two runners who may surprise Saturday. Millhouse's training partner the past few weeks has been Spence, which always gives her a leg up. McCafferty proved to be one of the best in New Jersey, which means a lot this year with many Jersey girls in the mix.