Foot Locker Midwest: Davis Vs. Veatch, Redux

Judy Pendergast (left) broke the LaVerne Gibson course record set by Anna Rohrer (right) at NXN Midwest. Can she become the second girl to break 17 minutes at Foot Locker Midwest? Rohrer's course record is 16:54.

Girls Race Preview

Flo50 Individuals: No. 3 Judy Pendergast, No. 7 Stephanie Jenks, No. 11 Taylor Werner, No. 13 Lauren Gregory, No. 18 Maryjeanne Gilbert, No. 21 Cailie Logue, Bubble Sarah Leinheiser

Top returners (2014 regional placement): Lauren Gregory (2nd), Maryjeanne Gilbert (3rd), Stephanie Jenks (5th), Sarah Kettel (8th), Morgan Florsheim (10th), Kayla Young (12th), Alex Buck (13th), Lauren Johnson (14th), Lexa Barrott (19th)

Two-time Foot Locker Nationals champion Anna Rohrer owns the top two times ever recorded in the history of this meet and is the only female to break 17 minutes over the 5K course. Top-ranked Judy Pendergast of Naperville North has already broken one Rohrer record this year - can she make it two? The course record is 16:54, set in 2012 before Rohrer's first national title.

The Harvard-bound senior broke Rohrer's record at LaVerne Gibson; she nearly broke 17 minutes to win the NXN Midwest Regional by a dominating 28 seconds. Runner-up Anna West is not attempting the double, but the rest of the top 10 is entered: Sarah Leinheiser (3rd), Madison Troy (4th), Alex Buck (5th), Jocelyn Long (7th), Brooke Wilson (9th) and Sarah Kettel (10th).

No one from that field will challenge Pendergast, but there are a few battle-challenged All-Americans from other regions with whom she must contend here.

Stephanie Jenks poses the biggest threat: the Cal signee is fresh off a win at NXN Heartland in 17:01.3. She's fresh, period - the Linn-Mar High School senior does not compete during the regular high school season and used the NXN regional as her rust-buster. Not a bad start. She is a three-time NXN competitor and and two-time Foot Locker qualifier; she placed 15th at Foot Locker and 18th at NXN last fall - though her best finish came in 2013 with a ninth-place run in San Diego. Jenks has been through the drill before and is ready to contend for top honors; with such a sparse racing schedule this fall, she also has the biggest ceiling for improvement.

Taylor Werner of Ste. Genevieve, Mo. is having her best season yet in her senior year. The Arkansas commit competed in both NXN and Foot Locker both her freshman and sophomore years - with her best finishes in 2013 as a soph (10th at Foot Locker, fifth at NXN). She struggled with injuries last fall, but seems back on top in recording course PRs in nearly every race. Most recently, she cut 16 seconds off her own Missouri state meet course record by winning her fourth consecutive title in 17:14.22.

Lauren Gregory has only one blemish on her resume this season - and that's a runner-up finish at NXN Southwest to Katie Rainsberger, who ranked No. 2 in the nation. The three-time Colorado state cross country champion from Fort Collins has the speed (4:41 Mile/10:15 3200m) and experience (7th at NXN '13, 11t at FL '14) to contend with anyone in the country.

There's only one other name we see legitimately contending for the top spot here: Maryjeanne Gilbert of Peoria Notre Dame. The fellow Illinois star has dominated Class 2A for the past four years the same way that Pendergast has cleared out Class 3A this fall. She ran a solo 16:23 for the third-fastest time of the day at the Illinois state meet and her only loss was an early September run that she trained through. She placed 12th at Foot Locker Nationals last year and is the No. 7 returner to San Diego.

That leaves five spots, which we're predicting will be filled by the following:

  • Kansas state champion Cailie Logue ran within 12 seconds of Jenks at NXN Heartland
  • Leinheiser was third by just milliseconds at NXN Midwest behind West
  • Sophomore Troy's 17:28.2 was the fastest time across all divisions at the Michigan state meet and her fourth place at NXN Midwest was her debut in a major national-level race
  • Buck has already qualified for NXN by virtue of a fifth place finish at NXN Midwest and she was one of the first girls out of FL qualification last year in 13th; she is the No. 7 returner to Kenosha
  • Emma Benner of Forest Lake Area, Mn. finished fifth at NXN Heartland - but she nearly got third behind Jenks/Logue, as she and Grace Ping and Bethany Hasz (MN state meet record holder) all crossed the line in a dead heat at 17:17 

PICKS: 1. Judy Pendergast 2. Stephanie Jenks 3. Taylor Werner 4. Lauren Gregory 5. Maryjeanne Gilbert 6. Cailie Logue 7. Sarah Leinheiser 8. Madison Troy 9. Alex Buck 10. Emma Benner

Continue reading for the Boys Preview