It's Anyone's Race To Win In Girls Field At Foot Locker

* Beavercreek's Taylor Ewert is a contender to win the 2019 Foot Locker Nationals girls race

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The girls championship field at the 2019 edition of Foot Locker Nationals could be, at the very least, unpredictable. 

Generally speaking, defending champions typically get the benefit of the doubt when returning to the place where they won a year prior, especially when it happened with such fanfare.

But 2019 is one of those years could get wild. 

A year ago, Marianapolis Prepatory junior Sydney Masciarelli ran the eighth-fastest time on Balboa Park soil, finishing in 17:00.30 after a dead-sprint next to Katelynne Hart in the final 100 meters. 

But Masciarelli hasn't been untouchable in 2019.

View: All Your Foot Locker Nationals Qualifiers

She finished fourth at the Mayor's Cup in Boston in October, then was beaten by Northern's Marlee Starliper in November at Foot Locker Northeast. Was she saving some for nationals? As we witnessed in 2018, a focused Masciarelli is a dangerous runner, and her get-up in the final 1K shouldn't be overlooked. We must not forget, it was on Balboa Park's hills where she made two significant moves -- and if she's in the race at that point again, do not count her out. 

But the Northeast-based runner also should be mindful of her competitors. The field is as strong as its ever been.

The likes of Starliper and Hart are back again. Starliper, who has finished 13th in back-to-back years at Foot Locker, is coming off a fifth-place finish at NXN. Her eyes have been set on a national title in this very race all year long. 

Speed ratings put her as the seeded favorite in this field. She's got two efforts over 160, including runs at Foot Locker Northeast and states. But Ewert, like Starliper, also owns a 163. And generally, any athlete who has produced a 160 or higher will be a contender in this race -- both Zofia Dudek and Abby Vanderkooi have hit marks that high, too.  

Read: This Could Be The Year For Josh Methner To Win Foot Locker

Then there's Hart, who's coming off a disappointing turn at NXN. She fell off the pace after a mile at Glendoveer and faded to 50th overall. But those who were at this race last year saw how Hart confidently made a move early and never let off the brakes. Can she strike that same gold in 2019? In doing so, she was just inches away from a title.

Let's talk about Taylor Ewert. The Beavercreek senior looks to be ready to go after a title. She was fourth in this race in 2018, and had her best competitive-outing in a championship setting last week, finishing second to Katelyn Tuohy at the line at NXN.

* Taylor Ewert talks about her runner-up finish at NXN

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Ewert's the kind of runner who steps up in big situations, and while she didn't set a career PR for 5K this fall, she proved on Saturday that it didn't matter -- her guts will keep her in this, or any race. 

But Ewert's trusted move over three championship runs over two seasons has been to make key surges off the leaders and wait for her kick to pull her back in. Will that be enough here? The Ohio-runner will have to question whether that will be the move to win a title -- if it's close enough, she'll have a chance, but if the pack breaks away, there might be some ground to cover. 

Dudek is another runner with the potential to win. The Ann Arbor Pioneer athlete has been nearly unbeatable in 2019, save for her one loss to Vanderkooi at Foot Locker Midwest -- a venue featuring mud, cold and general craziness. 

Balboa Park will offer quite the opposite. Dudek has been good in fair conditions. She's also s ready-made to compete, as she's coming off a fifth-place finish at the Euro U20 Cross Country Championships. 

Then there's Vanderkooi, perhaps a sleeper in this field, who, much like Ewert, tends to make her move late against better competition. But as the Midwest proved, she was willing to lead when the conditions got tough. The Michigan sophomore finished third in 2018. 

* Science Hill's Jenna Hutchins won Foot Locker South

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From the South there's Jenna Hutchins, who was ninth last year. A smart race could put her in the hunt. And she's motivated, having lost her state title weeks prior. 

Cailfornia's Mia Barnett, winner of Foot Locker West and the runner-up at her CIF Division 5 Cross Country Championship, will be in her home state. 

Virginia's Kelsey Harrington was an All-American at NXN last week. She's one of five runners doubling in back-to-back weeks: That list also includes Ewert, Starliper, Hart and Cherry Creek's Riley Stewart.

Judging by history, no region tends to overwhelm another. California athletes tend to produce strong results at Balboa, given the similar terrain and weather. But 2019's edition probably has stronger Midwest and Northeast regions, which could signify more top-end talent toward the front of this race. 

Top Returners: 

1. Sydney Masciarelli, Marianapolis Prep (MA); 2. Katelynne Hart, Glenbard West (IL); 3. Abby Vanderkooi, Muskegon Western Michigan (MI); 4. Taylor Ewert, Beavercreek (OH); 7. Kate Wiser, Pomperaug (CT); 9. Jenna Hutchins, Science Hill (TN); 13. Marlee Starliper, Northern (PA) 14. Sofie Matson, Falmouth (ME); 17. Alyssa Hendrix, Riverview (FL); 21. Riley Stewart, Cherry Creek (CO); 26. Valerie Lastra, Mater Academy (FL); 27. Taryn Parks, Greencastle-Antrim (PA); 31. Grace Ping, Winona Cotter (MN); 32. Nicole Vanasse, The Pingry School (NJ); 34. Anna Martin, Lehi (UT).

Titles By Region Since 2000: 

Midwest: 5

Northeast: 4

South: 3

West: 7

Former Winners: 

2018: Sydney Masciarelli, Marianapolis Prep (MA), 17:00.3 -- Northeast

2017: Claudia Lane, Malibu (CA), 17:03.40 -- West

2016: Claudia Lane, Malibu (CA), 17:04.81 -- West

2015: Weini Kelati, Heritage (VA) -- 17:09.70 -- South

2014: Anna Rohrer, Mishawaka (IN), 17:13.00 -- Midwest

2013: Tessa Barrett, Abington Heights (PA), 17:15.40 -- Northeast

2012: Anna Rohrer, Mishawaka (IN), 17:24.80 -- Midwest

2011: Molly Seidel, University Lake (WI), 17:21.40 -- Midwest

2010: Aisling Cuffe, Cornwall (NY), 16:53.00 -- Northeast

2009: Megan Goethals, Rochester (MI), 17:06.9 -- Midwest

2008: Jordan Hasay, Mission College (CA), 17:22.00 -- West

2007: Ashley Brasovan, South Wellington (FL), 17:20.00 -- South

2006: Kathy Kroeger, Independence (TN), 17:29.00 -- South

2005: Jordan Hasay, Mission College (CA), 17:05.00 -- West

2004: Aislinn Ryan, Warwick Valley (NY), 17:31.00 -- Northeast

2003: Katelyn Kaltenbach, Smoky Hill (CO), 17:24.00 -- Midwest

2002: Zoe Nelson, Flathead (MT) -- West

2001: Amber Trotter, Ukiah (CA), 16:24.10 -- West

2000: Sara Hall, Montgomery (CA), 16:55.00 -- West

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All-Time Top 25 Rankings At Balboa Park

116:39.20Melody Fairchild
CO Boulder High School
1991Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 8, 1990
216:41.90Julia Stamps
CA Santa Rosa High (NC)
1997Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 1994
316:43.70Janet Smith
NC Edison HS
1984Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 10, 1983
416:43.80Erin Keogh
VA Langley
1987Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 14, 1985
516:48.10Cathy Schiro
NH Dover High School
1985Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 8, 1984
616:53.00Aisling Cuffe
NY Cornwall
2011Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 10, 2010 - Dec 11, 2010
616:53.00Julie Nacouzi
CA Montgomery HS (NC)
2011Foot Locker Nationals 3rd
Dec 10, 2010 - Dec 11, 2010
817:00.3Sydney Masciarelli
MA Marianapolis Prep
2018Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 8, 2018
917:01.0Katelynne Hart
IL Glenbard West HS
2018Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 8, 2018
1017:03.40Claudia Lane
CA Malibu High School (SS)
2019Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 9, 2017
1117:04.70Rebecca Chamberlain
CA Leigh High School (CC)
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 8, 1984
1217:05.00Jordan Hasay
CA Mission College Prep (CS)
2009Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 10, 2005
1317:06.90Megan Dedering
MI Rochester
2010Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 2009 - Dec 12, 2009
1417:07.10Chelsey Sveinsson
TX Greenhill
2011Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 11, 2009 - Dec 12, 2009
1517:07.90Suzy Favor-Hamilton
WI Stevens Point
1986Kinney Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 14, 1985
1617:08.32Nevada Mareno
NC Leesville Road
2017Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 10, 2016
1717:08.70Kira Jorgensen
CA Rancho Buena Vista High (SD)
1989Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 12, 1987
1817:09.70Weini Kelati
VA Heritage (Leesburg)
2016Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 2015 - Dec 12, 2015
1917:10.60Maryjeanne Gilbert
IL Peoria Notre Dame High School
2016Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 11, 2015 - Dec 12, 2015
2017:10.70Stacia Prey
PA Rochester High School
1985Kinney Cross Country Championships 3rd
Dec 8, 1984
2117:11.80Erin Davis
PA Saratoga Springs
1997Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 11, 1994
2217:12.10Sally Glynn
MD Walter Johnson High School
1996Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 11, 1994
2317:12.40Kim Mortensen
CA Thousand Oaks High School (SS)
1996Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 9, 1995
2417:12.70Megan Thompson
MO Hazelwood Central High School
1990Kinney Cross Country Championships 2nd
Dec 9, 1989
2517:13.00Anna Rohrer
IN Mishawaka High School
2015Foot Locker Nationals 1st
Dec 12, 2014
2617:14.40Celeste Susnis
TN Kankakee Valley High School
1990Kinney Cross Country Championships 1st
Dec 10, 1988
2717:14.50Melissa Lucas
DC Jesuit
0Foot Locker Nationals 2nd
Dec 11, 1994