Preseason CC Coverage: Top 10 Girls Returnees

It's never happened before and it may never happen again, but the 2008 cross country season is shaping up to become one of the most memorable ever. In a rare twist of fate, this year's national meet could host three Foot Locker national champions, as '07 champ Ashley Brasovan, '06 champ Kathy Kroeger and '05 champ Jordan Hasay all come back for their senior seasons, hoping to repeat the magic they've had before in San Diego. All three top our preseason girls top ten, but see who else made the list.

Girls Top Ten Watchlist

(In Alphabetical Order) Brasovan (Sr., Wellington, FL) - One can never discount a defending champion, and the way Brasovan (pictured left by John Herzog) has competed since winning Foot Locker Nationals last fall who in their right mind would count her out. Despite coming down with an injury during the early part of the track season, Brasovan bounced back to win the Nike Outdoor National 5k in convincing fashion, while coming back less than 24 hours later to place sixth in the two-mile with a 10:25.28 effort.

At NON Brasovan talked about her lack of speed work in preparation for the event, just trying to get strong enough to maintain a fast pace, rather than working on becoming a faster miler. While she lacked closing speed in the two-mile, at her state meet a few weeks earlier she earned one of the top times in the country this season with a 10:15.93 effort. If Brasovan can remain healthy this summer and take her training one step further, expect her to be one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in San Diego this December.

Katie Flood (Jr., Dowling Catholic, IA) - Her team. That is what matters most to Katie Flood it seems. While she had a solid spring on the track, Flood doubled or tripled up most of the time, sometimes even competing in four events, all for the sake of helping her team win meets. That is her focus. It's been that way for her first two years in high school and it will remain that way it seems her final two years. However, cross country is all about team and scoring the lowest point and Flood seems to be a perfectionist when it comes to that.

Last season as a sophomore, Flood not only finished eighth at Foot Locker Nationals, but also placed second at Nike Outdoor Nationals behind Alabama's Madeline Morgan, guiding her team to a 14th place finish. This fall Flood should be reaching for similar goals. Her squad returns back five of their top seven, while Flood seems to be showing the same strength as last fall, something that earned her all-American status. Hasay (Sr., Mission Prep, CA) - It's easy to look at last year's Foot Locker National cross country results and see Hasay (pictured right by Tim Fulton) sitting in third place behind returnees Ashley Brasovan and Kathy Kroeger. However, while both Brasovan and Kroeger showed some solid results during the track season, Hasay set the track world on fire with a new U.S. 1,500m record in 4:14.50, earned a spot in the women's 1,500m final at the Olympic Trials, placed fourth in the same event at the World Junior T&F Championships, ran the second fastest time ever for 3,200m in 9:52.13 and showed continued improvement throughout the year and a great peak right when it counted most at the end.

While Hasay has one more season to finish up, her '08 track season will go in the books as perhaps the best track season ever by a female distance runner. While her track season finished up in July, the California standout has all fall to get in base work and focus on Foot Locker Nationals once again. After winning the national harrier title as a frosh, Hasay has looked to winning it again, coming up short in her sophomore and junior campaigns. Her continued improvement bodes well come early-December and Hasay will be fighting for the win in San Diego one more time.

Emily Jones (Sr., Bromfield, MA) - The time is now for Jones. One of the most consistent performers, if not the most consistent performer, on the track this spring, Jones established herself as national class once again. Last fall at Foot Locker Nationals, Jones placed eleventh overall, earning all-American status. This year a top five finish is not out of the question.

At Nike Outdoor Nationals in June, Jones placed a somewhat surprising second overall in the two-mile. While earlier marks indicated that she would be in the hunt for a top three finish, Jones hung out and pushed some of the pace work, especially over the last 1,200m. Jones' runner-up finish was timed in 10:22.40. Throughout the year she showed similar tenacity at the distance, going under 10:35 for 3,200m a half dozen times. With such a great performance at NON and coming up big time and again this past spring, Jones seems ready to take that next step towards being the best in the land.

Kathy Kroeger (Sr., Independence, TN) - Second place in 2007, first place in 2006, Kroeger will be looking to jump back on top again this fall.  Health issues plagued Kroeger for much of her sophomore track season, slowing her down in her bid to get back into shape in time for Foot Locker Nationals.  While it seems she rounded into shape just fine, questions still remained that if she had a healthy track season, how much better would she have been in December?

Her spring led her to an undefeated season on the track in Tennessee, never contested, but she faced some stiff competition at Nike Outdoor Nationals.  Running in both the mile and two-mile, Kroeger finished fourth in the longer race in 10:24.53, while finishing fifth in the mile at 4:51.47.  With a solid track season now behind her, it will be interesting to see if Kroeger can improve and show once again that she is tops in the land over hill-n-dale.

Emily Lipari (Jr., Roslyn, NY) - Small in stature, but big in heart, Lipari exemplifies what makes the young women in New York so tough to beat year in and year out at Foot Locker Northeast and Nike Team Nationals.  She never relents, never seems to slow, always hanging on.  Last year at Foot Locker Nationals Lipari did the same thing, latching on to the back of the chase pack and closing strong over the final 800m to take home a surprising sixth place finish.

Her track season continued that success with fine performances at Nike Outdoor Nationals and the New York State T&F Championships.  Lipari ran a strong race at NON by placing second in the mile with a 4:50.24 performance and a 10:33.72 two-mile that led to an eighth place finish.  She showed she can run with anyone and it seems the longer the race the better she can be.  Look for her to make an impact this fall as the course moves out to 5k and lead the New York contingent once again. Sisson (Jr., Kansas) - As a freshman Sisson (pictured left at the Arcadia Invitational) placed top five at Foot Locker Nationals and showed she may be a force for the next four years. This past season Sisson had a sub-par race in San Diego, placing twenty-third overall. While that could have detered some athletes, it certainly didn't for Sisson. The Nebraska star cruised through her season, running 10:21.71 at the Arcadia Invitational earlier in the season, then coming back to win multiple state titles and finished strong by winning the girls two-mile at the Midwest Distance Gala and placing top five in the women's 5k at USATF Junior Nationals.

This fall Sisson has another challenge lying ahead. She has moved from Nebraska to Kansas, hoping to take that next step in a different state now. Her gritty determination has proved a strong-point since her freshman year, and with two years of experience behind her, Sisson looks to take another step back into the U.S. elite. A top five finish has to be a goal.

Chelsea Sveinsson (So., Greenhill, TX) - Many who've followed Sveinsson's career over the past year may point to Nike Indoor Nationals as her breakthrough performance onto the national stage. The Texas native earned much acclaim after winning the girls freshman mile in a solo, lead from the gun effort, while also winning the 800m dash. However, last fall's Foot Locker Nationals really seemed to be her turning point.

After running much of the cross country season in smaller meets, mostly due to the size of her school, Sveinsson placed well enough to earn a trip to San Diego. She certainly capitalized on the challenge, placing fifteenth overall and earning top freshman in the nation distinction. Her track season furthered the case that she'll be a top ten contender this fall. If her strength can catch up to her amazing leg speed, Sveinsson will undoubtably be a force.

Melanie Thompson (Sr., Voorhees, NJ) - Every year there seems to be one athlete who really breaks through onto the national scene during the cross country season. Last year Claire Durkin of Ohio seemed to be that athlete. Well, this year Thompson could very well be that athlete, especially after seeing her gritty determination all spring in New Jersey. A 10:17.18 3,200m effort at the New Jersey Meet of Champions ranked her in the U.S. top eight in the event, following some very select company. Add to that a 4:50.68 mile performance at Nike Outdoor Nationals to place third, and you have the makings of someone who is ready to take the next step in their running.

What was Thompson's most major accomplishment last fall you might be asking? Well, she placed 13th overall at Nike Team Nationals, helping her Voorhees team placed 13th overall in the competition.

Jessica Tonn (Jr., Xavier Prep, AZ) - The lone representative on this list from the Southwest, Tonn took another step forward in her running career this spring. After placing 20th last fall at Foot Locker Nationals, her second trip to San Diego, Tonn doubled up at Nike Outdoor Nationals by placing eighth in the mile and fifth in the two-mile. The more impressive performance was most certainly the two-mile, where she ran a great race in 10:24.57.

This fall Tonn will look to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals for the third consecutive year. Helped along by her equally as successful teammate Sarah Penney, Tonn should be looking to place back in the Foot Locker top ten. She may be overlooked for much of the year since she doesn't face too much competition out in Arizona, but Tonn will be ready to take on all-comers come the bigger meets in the season.