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Foot Locker Nationals is almost here.
The final national championship of the cross country season will commence on December 8 at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, and a new national champion will be crowned in both the boys and girls races.
Who's in line for their big moment?
There are a handful of contenders from around the country with the potential to win on race day. Below, we've compiled notes, information and insight into the race. Check back on Saturday for full recaps, statistics and videos from the race.
- Girls Race: 9:15 a.m. PST
- Boys Race: 10:00 a.m. PST
- Morley Field, Balboa Park
- 40 girls and boys runners from the Northeast, Midwest, South and West
- The Fast And Prodigious Rise Of Josh Methner
- Colin Baker Inspired By His Retired Coach
- Gwen Jorgensen Reflects On 1987 Championship
- The last 10 girls winners from Foot Locker Nationals have won their regions
- The last boy to break 15 minutes at Balboa Park was Drew Hunter back in 2015 (14:55)
- There have been two back-to-back boys winners since 2010 -- Edward Cheserek (2011, 2012) and Grant Fisher (2013, 2014)
- The girls race will crown a new champion for the first time since 2015 -- an injury sidelined Malibu's Claudia Lane for the entirety of the cross country season, preventing her from going after her third straight title
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We're going to have our first new champion since 2015, and this race could get crazy. Based on empirical evidence, you could argue that two favorites have emerged for the title in the girls field: Minneapolis Washburn's Emily Covert and Beavercreek's Taylor Ewert.
Covert dominated the state of Minnesota for much of the year and then won two regional titles at Nike Cross Heartland and Foot Locker Midwest. While Ewert was third at NXR Midwest and was second to Covert at Foot Locker Midwest, she surged past the Minnesotan at NXN to log a third-place finish at the national meet in 17:06.70. Covert was fourth in 17:10.20.
You could argue Covert's seventh-place finish at Foot Locker last year would give her the inside edge on Ewert, who's a first-timer on the Balboa Park first (but you could also argue that Ewert puts as much research into pre-race walk-throughs than anyone in the country).
Both Ewert and Covert have the third fastest speed ratings entering Saturday's race -- 157. The second fastest? That would be Marlee Starliper's 158. The Pennsylvanian, who finished second to Sydney Masciarelli at Foot Locker Northeast, will be another front runner on Saturday.
And then you have the Marianpolis Prepatory (CT) sophomore. Masciarelli enters with the highest speed rating of any athlete in this field (161) and ran the fastest 5K at Foot Locker Northeast's Van Cortlandt Park since 1984 on November 24, producing a time of 17:12.60. But will she able to counter the moves of Ewert and Covert? Will she even need to? This question could get answered in a hurry on Saturday.
Beyond those three, Glenbard West (IL) junior Katelynne Hart is the highest returner, having finishing second in this race last year. Hart was 16th at NXN, but she's traditionally has fared better on fast and dry courses in Illinois. Natick (MA) senior Grace Connolly and Rockford (MI) senior Ericka Vanderlende are also very capable of running in the front and pressing the field's top runners.
Don't Sleep On These Athletes:
Any one of these athletes could make a run for a top 10 finish: London Culbreath (McKinney North, TX), Alex Morris (Naperville North, IL), Abby Vanderkooi (Western Michigan, MI), Abby Loveys (Randolph, NJ), Adelyn Ackley (Hart, MI), Kristin Fahy (La Costa Canyon, CA), Brynn Brown (Denton Guyer, TX).
- 2017: Claudia Lane, Malibu (CA), 17:03.40
- 2016: Claudia Lane, Malibu (CA), 17:04.81
- 2015: Weini Kelati, Leesburg Heritage (VA), 17:09.70
- 2014: Anna Rohrer, Mishawaka (IN), 17:13.00
- 2013: Tessa Barrett, Abington Heights (PA), 17:15.4
- 2012: Anna Rohrer, Mishawaka (IN), 17:24.8
- 2011: Molly Seidel, University Lake School (WI), 17:21.4
- 2010: Aisling Cuffe, Cornwall (NY)
Based on his fearless finish at Nike Cross Nationals and his aptitude for high performances in championship races, Indianapolis Cathedral (IN) senior Cole Hocker has to be high on the list of contenders. He's just a week removed from his runner-up finish at NXN in 15:00.90 -- and he was one of three runners on the day that broke the former record on the course in Portland, Oregon.
Hocker earned a 200 speed rating at NXN -- higher than the 198 Dylan Jacobs won with last year -- and has shown he can compete on any course and within any conditions. But challenging the Indiana athlete will be a handful of top talent from other regions. The big returners are Graydon Morris of Aledo, Texas, and Drew Bosley of Homestead, Wisconsin. Bosley was 23rd at NXN this past week in 15:22.90 -- in a race where he battled for much of it at the front -- but was seventh in this same race in 2017. Morris, meanwhile, is the top returner, having placed second in this race last year, but he hasn't been challenged much in 2018. Three more runners from the Midwest, Northeast and expected to race in the front are Josh Methner (Hersey, IL), Jack Stanley (Mendham, NJ) and Devin Hart (Pt. Pleasant, NJ).
Don't Sleep On These Athletes:
Anything is possible on race day, which means beyond those six athletes there are a handful of other capable athletes who could very well contend for a national title. Last year, for instance, Dylan Jacobs won Foot Locker after placing 13th at NXN the week prior. In 2016, Reed Brown grabbed the title after finishing sixth at NXN.
Strong runners from the South include Camren Fischer (Fayetteville, AR) and Colin Baker (Academic Magnet, SC); from the West, Kashon Harrison (Kirtland Central, NM); from the Northeast, Connor Nisbet (Wilmington Friends, DE); and from the Midwest, Evan Bishop (East Grand Rapids, MI).
- 2017: Dylan Jacobs, Sandburg (IL), 15:19.70
- 2016: Reed Brown, Southlake Carroll (TX), 15:01.80
- 2015: Drew Hunter, Loudoun Valley (VA), 14:55.70
- 2014: Grant Fisher, Grand Blanc (MI), 15:03.00
- 2013: Grant Fisher, Grand Blanc (MI), 15:06.5
- 2012: Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ), 14:59.00
- 2011: Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ), 14:51.5
- 2010: Lukas Verzbicas, Sandburg (IL)