Methner's Chance For A National Title Is Here At Foot Locker

* Hersey's (IL) Josh Methner is the favorite to win Foot Locker Nationals on Saturday

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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- There's little debate entering the 2019 edition of Foot Locker Nationals.

This is Josh Methner's race to win. 

Since 2000, the Midwest region has claimed 11 titles at this famed event, including four wins in the past six races. Two Midwest athletes in recent years -- Cole Hocker and Dylan Jacobs -- have come off appearances at Nike Cross Nationals to claim national titles of their own. 

Methner, comparatively, might be in line for a special race. The Notre Dame signee had a historic year, breaking the all-time 3-mile record at Detweiller Park at the IHSA Class 3A Cross Country Championships with a time of 13:49.90. It was a mark that had stood since the 70s and had endured multiple attempts to break it -- from future Foot Locker National champions like Lucas Verzbicas and Jacobs. 

Behind that performance, Methner also posted wins at NXR Midwest and Foot Locker Midwest and is coming off a runner-up performance at NXN, where he posted a time of 15:06.10 at Glendoveer, 11th all-time on the course. 

Methner has the highest speed rating of any athlete entering Foot Locker, too, with a rating of 200 from NXN and a 197 from the state championships. He's averaged 198 across his final four races. No other athlete in this field has broken a speed rating of 200. 

The question for Methner here, potentially, will be where he might finish historically. The last runner to break 15 minutes on Balboa Park soil was in 2012, when St. Benedict's Prep's Edward Cheserek posted a win in 14:59.00. Methner's performances suggests he's capable of doing the same. 

* Josh Methner breaks down his performance at NXN

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But there will be challengers. The first among them is Aledo's Graydon Morris, a Texan who became just the second boys athlete in Foot Locker's history to qualify for four straight national championships. Only Jorge Torres, of Wheeling High School (IL), accomplished that previously -- and he ended up winning in 1998. 

Morris is clearly capable. The University of Texas recruit has finished third and second in recent years. But he also tends to play his cards close to the vest. 

He was third at Foot Locker South, in a time of 15:01.00. Before that, he ran 14:33.43 at the UIL Class 5A Championships, earning a speed rating of 193. He enters the race just fifth based on speed ratings and has raced just five times over 2019. 

Then there's Mount Lebanon's Patrick Anderson, the Foot Locker Northeast champion. He's surged in the final weeks of the season, buoyed by incredible performances in championship events. 

While Anderson finished 29th in this race a year ago, much has changed. His fitness, his form, and his overall confidence is at an all-time high. He hasn't lost a race in 2019, and that 15:26.60 performance at the PIAA Class 3A Championships is better than that 195 speed rating might suggest. 

Then there's Conard's Gavin Sherry, perhaps the country's brightest underclassmen cross country talent, and Allentown's Liam Murphy, who will follow an All-American finish at NXN. Since 2000, the Northeast Region has seen the most success in terms of overall wins, totaling three overall, compared to two for the South and two for the West. 

Sherry was only behind Anderson at Northeast, and he generally has been the name to watch in the sophomore class -- ironically, another talented sophomore from Connecticut, Aidan Puffer, will also be in this race. Up until Foot Locker Northeast, Sherry was undefeated and he pocketed three speed ratings of 193, 194 and 195 across five races. But it will also be his first appearance at Foot Locker. 

Murphy, like Anderson, struggled in last year's race, where he finished 33rd. But he, too, has the kind of confidence that will keep him near the leaders. His best performance of the season came this past weekend at NXN, where he was eighth overall at NXN. 

It would be deceiving to just mention Methner as the sole Midwest representative to potentially place high. Besides Morris, Michigan's Carter Solomon, of Plymouth High School, is one of the top returners. He was fourth in this race last year and his season also suggests a strong race. 

The Notre Dame signee pocketed a time of 14:42.70 at regionals and went 15:01.20 at Michigan's LP Division I State Championships, the fastest among all the classes. In a strong Foot Locker Midwest Region he finished fourth. 

East Grand Rapids' Evan Bishop, who was ninth last year, returns as well, and he is one of seven athletes from Michigan with hopes to claim All-American finishes. 

Skyline's (UT) Thomas Boyden, choosing to focus exclusively on Foot Locker, was third at Foot Locker West -- in a ridiculous finish that saw all 10 qualifiers separated by just two seconds -- and remains one of the region's best returners. 

Top Returners:

3. Graydon Morris, Aledo (TX); 4. Carter Solomon, Plymouth (MI); 6. Josh Methner, Hersey (IL); 9. Evan Bishop, East Grand Rapids (MI); 11. Daniel O'Brien, Virginia Episcopal (VA); 13. Thomas Boyden, Skyline (UT); 17. Zachary Stewart, Brighton (MI); 23. Matthew Farrell, Loomis Chaffee (CT); 27. Brendan Favazza, Clarkston (MI); 29. Patrick Anderson, Mount Lebanon (PA); 31. Sam Lawler, Pittsford-Mendon (NY); 33. Liam Murphy, Allentown (NJ); 39. Silas Winders, Henry County (TN). 

Titles By Region Since 2000: 

Midwest: 11

Northeast: 3

South: 2

West: 2

Former Winners: 

2018: Cole Hocker, Indianapolis Cathedral (IN), 15:13.70 -- Midwest

2017: Dylan Jacobs, Sandburg (IL), 15:19.70 -- Midwest

2016: Reed Brown, Southlake Carroll (TX), 15:01.80 -- South

2015: Drew Hunter, Loudoun Valley (VA) -- South

2014: Grant Fisher, Grand Blanc (MI), 15:03.00 -- Midwest

2013: Grant Fisher, Grand Blanc (MI), 15:06.50 -- Midwest

2012: Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ), 14:59.00 -- Northeast

2011: Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ), 14:51.5 -- Northeast

2010: Lucas Verzbicas, Sandburg (IL), 14:59.00 -- Midwest

2009: Lucas Verzbicas, Sandburg (IL), 15:07.8 -- Midwest

2008: Soloman Haile, Sherwood (MD), 15:15.00 -- Northeast

2007: Michael Fout, LaPorte (IN), 14:50.00 -- Midwest

2006: Chad Hall, Big Bear (CA), 15:20.00 -- West

2005: AJ Acosta, El Camino (CA), 15:02.00 -- West

2004: Kenneth Cormier, Douglas (AZ), 15:22.00

2003: Matthew Withrow, VJ Andrew (IL), 14:55.00 -- Midwest

2002: Chris Solinsky, Stevens Point (WI), 14:40.50 -- Midwest

2001: Timothy Moore, Novi (MI), 14:50.40 -- Midwest

2000: Dathan Ritzenhein, Rockford (MI), 14:35.00 -- Midwest

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All-Time Top 25 Rankings At Balboa Park

114:36.80Reuben Reina
TX San Antonio Jay
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 14, 1985
214:38.10Marc Davis
AZ San Diego High School (SD)
1987Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 13, 1986
314:40.50Chris Solinsky
WI Stevens Point
2003Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 14, 2002
414:41.30Mark Mastalir
CA Jesuit (SJ)
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 14, 1985
514:41.70Adam Goucher
CO Doherty High School
1994Foot Locker Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 11, 1993
614:49.80Todd Williams
DC Monroe Middle School
1987Kinney Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 13, 1986
714:49.90Bryan Dameworth
WI Agoura High School (SS)
1987Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 9, 1989
814:50.00Scott Fry
WI Sandusky
1985Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 8, 1984
814:50.00Mike Fout
FL LaPorte High School
2008Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 8, 2007
1014:50.90Mark Dani
WI Valhalla High (SD)
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 3rd
Dec 14, 1985
1114:51.40Jonathan Hume
DC Green Mountain High School
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 4th
Dec 14, 1985
1214:51.50Edward Cheserek
NJ St. Benedict's Prep
2013Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 9, 2011 - Dec 10, 2011
1314:52.10Futsum Zienasellassie
IN North Central High School (Indianapolis)
2012Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 9, 2011 - Dec 10, 2011
1414:52.60Robert Henes
DC Woodbridge
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 5th
Dec 14, 1985
1514:53.00Mebrahtom Keflezighi
CA San Diego High School (SD)
1994Foot Locker Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 11, 1993
1614:53.20Troy Maddux
IL Streator High School
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 6th
Dec 14, 1985
1714:53.30Jon Hatley
MO West Plains High School
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 7th
Dec 14, 1985
1814:54.10Matt Giusto
DC San Mateo High (CC)
1984Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 10, 1983
1914:55.00Matt Withrow
IL Andrew High School
2004Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 13, 2003
2014:55.70Drew Hunter
VA Loudoun Valley
2016Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 2015 - Dec 12, 2015
2114:56.40Eric Mastalir
CA Jesuit (SJ)
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 9th
Dec 14, 1985
2214:57.00Chris Derrick
Il Neuqua Valley High School
2008Foot Locker Nationals
Dec 8, 2007
2214:57.00Galen Rupp
OR Central Catholic
2004Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 13, 2003
2414:58.00Shadrack Kiptoo-biwott
NM La Cueva High School
2004Foot Locker Nationals 3rd
Dec 13, 2003
2514:58.30Matthew Downin
WI Pinkerton Academy
1995Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 1994