Every year the Northeast puts out some incredible distance talent, but this fall may be the greatest collection of distance talent seen in some time. Between Doug Smith, Brett Johnson and Solomon Haile, the boys have strong front runners, while the girls follow the lead of Foot Locker veterans Emily Lipari, Emily Jones and Shelby Greany. Come late-November and early-December the Northeast may be looking at national champions at Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals.
Northeast Individual Rankings
1. Doug Smith (Sr., Gill-St. Bernard's, NJ) - Since his freshman season, Smith (pictured left by NJRunners.com) has been one of the top distance runners in the nation among his grade. Despite injuries and inconsistencies, Smith showed time and again that he could become one of the best in the country. Last fall, despite an end of season illness that wore him down, Smith finished 15th overall at Foot Locker Northeast, the top non-senior finisher. This fall Smith returns as the favorite to win the region, but his bad luck at FL Northeast is something he is going to have to overcome. Smith showed some consistency in times this spring, and stayed healthy to boot. If he can take that next step in his performances, look out for Smith to make a potential run at the top prize at Foot Locker Nationals.
2. Brett Johnson (Sr., Ocean City, NJ) -With a fifth place finish at the New Jersey Meet of Champions last fall under his belt, many might be wondering why Johnson is ranked so high. Lets look at the facts. He is the third returnee from Foot Locker Northeast, won the New Jersey Meet of Champions 1600m run, and ran a national top junior mile time of 4:08.51. His consistent improvement and newfound top level speed shows that Johnson (pictured right by NJRunners.com) is ready to take another step in his cross country career as well. Every year it seems a few runners come out of the woodwork and show that they are the best in the country come championship season and Johnson has all the tools to do just that.
3. Solomon Haile (Sr., Shorewood, MD) - A year ago Solomon Haile was just arriving in the United States, moving across the Atlantic from Ethiopia. Since then Haile has shown why he could very well with a national title this fall, as the Shorewood senior won the NIN and NON 5k titles in impressive fashion. Running away from his competition is something Haile seems comfortable doing, and if he can continue to improve his strength, do not be surprised if he does that same thing in San Diego this December. With great family support and a good coach, the sky is the limit for Haile.
4. Tyler Udland (Jr., Millburn, NJ) - While his sophomore season had been one of big improvements and much success, Udland didn't break through onto the national stage until he won the New Jersey Meet of Champions 3200m race this spring, beating NE #1 Doug Smith with a kick to the finish, running 9:04.08. Udland's time not only ranked him as the top sophomore in the country, but also laid the groundwork for a huge cross country campaign in 2008. With his sophomore success', Udland should be looking to press the other top New Jersey harriers for top billing. If Udland can keep up, he could very well finish as the top junior in the country at Foot Locker Nationals or NXN, depending on which he decides to run.
5. Joe Whalen (Sr., Hamburg, NY) - If it hadn't been for a broken foot near the end of the cross country season last fall, Whalen may have qualified for Foot Locker Nationals. Leading into the championship part of the season, Whalen was riding a wave of momentum, winning four races early on and showing time and again that he was one of the best in New York. While his season ended with some hard luck, he pressed forward and ran 9:15.92 for 3200m this spring, while continuing to work on his strength. Every year New York has at least a few standout athletes, and this fall Whalen seems to be the leader of the pack.
6. Graham Bazell (Sr., Atholton, MD) - While showing some inconsistency over the past few seasons, it seems as though Bazell may have found his stride. After an up and down junior season, Bazell flew to Lisle, Illinois to take part in a top field two-mile race at the Midwest Distance Gala. Placing second behind top Foot Locker returnee Bobby Nicolls, Bazell ran 9:04.55 and qualified for the fast heat in the event at Nike Outdoor Nationals. While NON certainly didn't play out as he had hoped, Bazell's performance showed that when he's at his best very few can beat him. If he can show consistency this fall, look out for Bazell come November and December.
7. Robby Andrews (Sr., Manalapan, NJ) - Known more for his speed then his strength, Andrews looks to once again make a run at a national cross country berth. Last fall Andrews proved he could compete with nearly anyone in the Northeast, placing fourth at the New Jersey Meet of Champions. This spring he took another big step forward, placing second in the state 1600m behind NE #2 Brett Johnson, while running personal bests of 4:12.48 in the mile and 1:52.56 in the 800m dash. If Andrews can keep close to fellow Jersey runners Brett Johnson, Doug Smith and Tyler Udland, he'll be in fine shape at the regional championships.
8. Demetri Goutos (Sr., Saratoga Springs, NY) - Any time a number two Foot Locker regional returnee has a good spring on the track and a solid summer of training, they almost always have to be considered sure bets to qualify for the national meet. However, Goutos has a lot of up front depth to deal with this fall, as the Northeast is showing itself to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, region in the country. Luckily for Goutos he has a few things working for him. First, he runs for the historic Saratoga Springs program. Few teams are as well prepared and trained as Saratoga. Second, he has the experience of finishing well at Foot Locker regionals, as well as finishing in the top ten at New York Federations. His combination of great coaching, a solid team and veteran experience could all help Goutos earn a trip to San Diego or Portland later this fall.
9. Drew Perilli (Jr., Lockport, NY) - After placing 26th at Foot Locker Northeast last fall, Perilli has to feel confidence about his chances in 2008. With his finish, Perilli ranked as a fourth non-senior in the race, as well as the top sophomore. He also returns as the #2 returnee for New York Federations, and with some strong improvement coming from a healthy and hardworking summer, Perilli could very well become one of the top two or three best runners in the state. Generally a ranking like that leads to a successful post-season.
10. Francis Hernandez (Jr., Bishop Guertin, NH) - It would be easy to overlook Hernandez this fall. Living in New Hampshire, rarely facing top-notch competition and only being a junior, are all things that would work against gaining attention for your accomplishments. However, Hernandez showed that he has what it takes to reach that next level. After placing fifth in his state meet last year as a sophomore, Hernandez ran 9:18 for 3200m, winning the NH 3200m state title in the process. While he may not receive the same attention the New York and New Jersey distance runners will this fall, Hernandez has a great shot to make a serious run at a national berth.
11. Chris Stogsdill (Sr., Marcellos, NY) - Despite a poor showing at Foot Locker Northeast last fall, Stogsdill showed he has what it takes to come up big in cross country. All season long in 2007 Stogsdill showed time and again that he was one of the best in New York, winning a few races and running competitively in a few others. This spring he took to the track and came up big, with new personal bests of 9:17.41 and 4:17.52. With some momentum behind him, Stogsdill now turns his sights on cross country courses across the state, hoping once again to prove he's one of the best in New York, but this time hoping to prove he's one of the best in the region.
12. Alex Hatz (Sr., Fayetteville-Manlius, NY) - While some of his times may not match up to some of the other top ranked individuals, Hatz has shown consistent improvement over the past year. 2007 was the debut of Hatz as a cross country runner. He showed his talent time and again over hill-n-dale, turning it on even more this spring, as he ran 4:13.94 in the 1600m run. If Hatz can gain strength this summer and fall, he could very well be one of the most improved nationally and make that leap to becoming one of the best in the country.
1. Emily Lipari (Jr., Roslyn, NY) - Lipari's (pictured left by ArmoryTrack.com) sixth place finish at Foot Locker Nationals last fall was the surprise of the weekend. After placing sixth at Foot Locker Northeast, stepping it up another notch and finishing in the top ten at nationals was quite the accomplishment. Since then Lipari has continued to impress. Quickly becoming the top distance runner in New York by winning state titles, while placing second in the Nike Outdoor National mile and placing eighth in the NON two mile, keep Lipari on top in the Northeast. Her best performance of the year came at the NY State T&F Championships, which saw the Roslyn standout win both the 1500m and 3000m events, running 4:30.58 and 9:37.53 respectively. She'll be hard to beat this fall.
2. Emily Jones (Sr., Bromfield, MA) - Perhaps the most consistent performer in the Northeast all track season, Jones broke 10:35 in the 3200m run numerous times from the earliest parts of indoor all the way through the outdoor season. That success came after her eleventh place finish last fall at Foot Locker Nationals, a high quality result, but Jones now looks to finish right with the leaders this time around. This spring it seems Jones took her talent to the next level, capping her season with a 10:22.40 two mile effort at Nike Outdoor Nationals, placing second overall. Another fall of progress could mean Jones finishes top five at Foot Locker Nationals.
3. Melanie Thompson (Sr., Voorhees, NJ) - What a track season it was for Thompson. At the New Jersey Meet of Champions, Thompson beat one of the best fields assembled in the 3200m event all season nationally, scoring a big win in 10:17.18. Thompson's time ranked her as the number three non-senior in the country, trailing only past Foot Locker champions in Jordan Hasay and Ashley Brasovan. While Thompson showed superior strength in the event, she decided to run the mile at Nike Outdoor Nationals, placing third overall. Last fall Thompson ran NTN Regionals, seeing if she could qualify her team to NTN, instead of competing at Foot Locker Nationals. This fall Thompson will have to make a choice once again, but don't be surprised to see her tackle NXN and vie for the individual national title in Portland.
4. Shelby Greany (Sr., Suffern, NY) - Greany has the potential this fall to earn a spot in history. Very few athletes have ever qualified for Foot Locker Nationals each of their four years in high school. If Greany can qualify once again this fall, she will have accomplished that feat. For years Greany's (pictured right by ArmoryTrack.com) been a force in New York distance running. State championships, national caliber performances and all-American finishes dot her resume. With a 24th place finish at Foot Locker Nationals last fall, a 9:48.92 3000m 2008 personal best and a handful of fantastic steeplechase performances under her, Greany has everything lined up to have yet another successful fall season.
5. Jillian Smith (Sr., Southern Regional, NJ) - Despite running some outstanding efforts last fall, Smith finished one spot short of qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. Her frustration with that result could be seen during the winter indoors, where she dominated her competition in the mile and 800m. Later on in the track season, Smith ran under 2:06 two seperate times in the 800m dash, winning the state meet in 2:05.26, then winning Nike Outdoor Nationals in a new personal best of 2:05.24. With plenty of speed underneath her, Smith will look to finish much higher in '08 than her disappointing position at FLNE '07.
6. Sam Roecker (Sr., Burnt-Hills, NY) - Leading one of the best, if not the best, team in the country this fall is Roecker's primary mission. However, with some great results to her name, you can bet Roecker also wants to prove she's one of the best distance runners in the land this fall as well. With her senior season upon her, Roecker should look to improve on her finishes at the NY State Champs and Nike Cross Nationals. Last fall she finished third at NTN, placing only behind Foot Locker all-American Katie Flood and Alabama standout Madeline Morgan. With a 9:42.16 3000m state meet effort, Roecker has shown she can run with nearly anyone in the nation.
7. Chelsea Ley (Jr., Kingsway, NJ) - While many may consider this a low ranking, especially after finishing 18th at Foot Locker Nationals last fall, Ley certainly has the talent to make a run at top three in the region. With considerable depth in the Northeast on the girls side, Ley will have plenty of challengers along the way this fall. Last fall Ley showed why she was one of the top sophomores in the country, qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals and running to a third place finish in the NJ Meet of Champions 3200m run, finishing in 10:27.29.
8. Kristen Kasper (Sr., North Andover, MA) - Often overshadowed by in-state sensation Emily Jones, and the success of the New York girls, Kasper showed signs of greatness throughout her junior year. While making quick work of most competition in Massachusetts during last fall, Kasper's biggest accomplishment came at Foot Locker Northeast, which saw her finish 12th overall, just missing a trip to Foot Locker Nationals. This spring Kasper placed ninth in the Nike Outdoor National mile. Those elite level results, combined with her consistent improvement, shows that she's ready to make another run at making nationals this fall.
9. Courtney Chapman (So., Fayetteville-Manlius, NY) - The top runner for the top team in the country, Chapman showed time and again last fall that when she's needed most she always comes through. Last fall Chapman earned impressive marks at the New York Federation Meet by placing second, then placing eighth overall at Nike Team Nationals. While she tends to stick with the pack mentality during the fall, she thrived on the track this spring, putting up a big personal best of 9:48.02 for 3000m. Like most F-M runners, Chapman should make big strides in her sophomore season, giving her even greater odds to prove she's one of the best in the region and nation.
10. Sarah Pagano (Sr., Immaculate Heart Academy, NJ) - The fourth New Jersey girl in the Northeast Top 12 Individual Rankings, Pagano earned this spot with her breakout race at the New Jersey Meet of Champions 3200m run. Before her standout race, Pagano had shown flashes of greatness, but at the New Jersey Meet of Champions in cross country she finished seventh overall, well behind notable frontrunners Melanie Thompson, Jillian Smith and Chelsea Ley. Well, the 10:29.79 3200m effort vaults her into elite territory now, and if she can find that top level consistency in her performances, she may very well find herself on a plane to San Diego come December.
11. Lillian Greibesland (Sr., Warwick Valley, NY) - Finding her stride is something Greibesland accomplished this spring, which saw her transform herself to one of the top middle distance runners in the country. Her top performance all season came at Nike Outdoor Nationals, which saw the Warwick Valley athlete run a 4:50.0 1600m split on the team's DMR, one that finished with a national record victory. While also sporting a 9:56.65 3000m effort, Greibesland now looks to improve upon her cross country results of 2007. Perhaps her top result last fall came at Nike Team Nationals, which saw her finish 24th overall. If she hopes to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals or finish in the top ten at Nike Cross Nationals, she'll have to improve her strength.
12. Jessica Cygan (So., Liberty, PA) - Last fall Cygan made a big impression in Pennsylvania. Not only did the Liberty standout finish second in the state cross country championship, only trailing all-American Neely Spence, but she also finished an impressive 13th at Foot Locker Northeast. Her 13th place finish ranks her as one of the top returnees in the region this year, but a quiet track season leaves a few question marks looming. If Cygan can show the same fitness she showed during her freshman campaign, expect her to make a push once again to qualify for the Northeast squad.