Hail-e to the Foot Locker King

Maryland senior Solomon Haile eases to Foot Locker win

To hear Trevor Dunbar tell it, Solomon Haile slithered away gracefully. There was no great move, no defining surge, no decisive burst. It was simply a methodical sharpening of the pace that, before those with him noticed, turned into an insurmountable margin.

Running with the grace and ease that we have come to expect from the Sherwood, MD senior this year, Haile capped off a perfect season, finishing undefeated by winning the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships on a cool, breezy day at Balboa Park in San Diego.

"I am so excited to be here, cross country is my favorite race, more than track, I ended my season with victory, I like everything I am so happy,” Haile said.” I know Midwest and west runners are very good. In my past races I did not get this type of competition but I am happy.”

Haile’s winning time was a pedestrian 15:15, ranking as the sixth slowest time for a Foot Locker winner. Rueben Reina set the course record of 14:36 in 1985. But time alone does not even begin to tell the story of the Maryland star with the sinewy gait.

Despite the fact that there was no run at the course record like we’ve seen out of Haile on several occasions this season – most notably Van Cortlandt Park and the Maryland state championships, the seven-second victory was as dominant and understated as they come. For that, you just have to look at the ease with which he ran away from an impressive collection of competitors, clamping a vice grip like control on a race that was never really in doubt.

“We stayed together the first mile,” Haile said. “Halfway through the race I felt the pace slow down so I decided to pick it up. After two miles I decided to pick it up more and continue to the end.”

If anybody can attest to that unique combination of grace and talent that Haile possess’ it would be Dunbar. The Alaska state champion, who set a couple of impressive course marks in his own right this season, had the best seat in the house, finishing as runner-up in 15:22.

“It went out pretty conservative,” Dunbar said. “I expected to be farther behind in the field, but I put myself in the front group really early and just felt phenomenal the whole way almost. I was really happy to be up there and finish second.”

Three-time Foot Locker finalist Evan Appel, who finished sixth (15:36), pushed the pace early holding a slight margin as he took the lead pack through 800 meters in 2:14. He fronted the leaders all the way to the course’s first ascent, which is about the time, Haile eased to the fore.

After Dunbar and Thomas Porter, who improved on a 40th place finish from a year ago, was one of a strong contingent of Midwest runners willing to front the race. Indiana state champion Drew Shields, who capped off a fine season, which included a top-10 finish at the NXN meet a week earlier, was fourth in 15:27. Shields was followed by the ever-personable Jakub Zivec, the Czech Republic exchange student from Minnesota, who won the Midwest Regional.

Indiana freshman Futsum Zeinasellassie placed seventh in 15:40, the highest finish by a ninth grade boy in the history of the event. He was the only non-senior among the top 10.

The final top finish of note was the diving effort by California star Zach Torres, a baseball player, who went for the line head first, earning a tie for 15th and All-American status.

But none was as good as Haile on this day.

 “I wouldn't say he really made a move,” Dunbar said. “He just slowly picked up the pace and grinded it out on me and eventually broke me up. He's really good. He's been tearing it up and held true today.”

Baseball player turned cross country all-American Zachary Torres of La Crescenta, California, uses his skills acquired on the diamond to earn a tie for top 15 with Dylan Sorensen of Zionsville, Indiana. The 15th spot was originally awarded to Sorensen, but the two were later awarded the tie in 15:48.