* Photo Credit: Raymond Tran
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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- After running second to Nico Young at Nike Cross Nationals last week, Hersey High School senior Josh Methner said he didn't feel as well as he normally does after a race. But a week of recovery left him heading into the 41st Foot Locker Cross Country Championships knowing that if it came down to a kick, it likely wouldn't be his day.
With that fresh in his head, Methner made his move about halfway through the 5,000-meter race, and, refueled by periodic inspiration from familiar faces along the course, he was able to maintain his lead and sailed to the finish in 15 minutes, 8.8 seconds.
Methner, a Notre Dame signee, won by eight seconds over future college teammate Carter Solomon in a 1-2 finish by members of the Midwest Region team on Saturday at Morley Field in San Diego's Balboa Park.
It was the 10th race win in 11 times taking the line this season for the senior from Mount Prospect, Illinois -- the only blemish being the race last weekend outside of Portland, Oregon -- and it allowed him to finish his near-perfect season back on top. It was also his second straight All-American finish, following his sixth-place nod in 2018.
"I don't know about redemption, but it's just special to have a day like today come together," Methner said. "I'm grateful that I was feeling good enough to get the win today against some awesome guys."
Solomon, a senior from Plymouth HS (Canton, MI), crossed in 15:16.9, with Patrick Anderson, a senior from Mt. Lebanon HS (Pittsburgh, PA), crossing third (15:18.0).
"I had a few plans in my head if someone took it out or not," Methner said. "I stayed kinda smooth the first mile. I didn't want to take the lead early, push the pace at all, just let the guys take us through.
"Up the hill, Carter made a slight move. I think I covered that. And just going down the downhill I felt pretty good. I wanted to test the guys a little bit earlier on in the race instead of leaving it to a kick. I wasn't feeling on top of my game if it was going to come down to a kick."
Methner made his move about halfway out and wasn't really challenged.
"I really wanted to see who would go with me at that point," he said. "Test it earlier rather than later.
"I looked back by the dog park area (a little before the 2-mile mark) and saw I had a little bit of a lead. I kept throwing in surges every now and then, especially when I saw my coach and my family. They're like, 'just keep the gas down.' "
And that he did.
By the 2-mile mark, he had put nearly four seconds on Texan Graydon Morris, a rare four-time participant in this race. A half mile later, Methner's lead was 10 seconds with Morris, Michigan's Evan Bishop and Texan Judson Greer all within four tenths and Solomon another couple seconds behind them. At the 3-mile mark, Methner's lead was nine seconds on Anderson and Solomon.
Methner said he had "been practicing all year to just go with a (kilometer) to go and just sail into the finish."
Methner's season has included a second consecutive IHSA state title, while running a 3-mile PR of 13:49.90, an NX Midwest title where he ran a 5K PR of 14:57.70, and a runner-up finish at NXN. Saturday's victory on a pleasant 60-degree morning under gray skies was his 16th over the last two years.
"It's super special for me, my coach, my teammates who have been working the past four years. It's just icing on the cake."
Solomon, fourth at FLN as a junior and the No. 2 returner, improved year-over-year by 8.4 seconds.
Anderson, who ran the 2018 FLN race with a heavy heart after losing his grandfather, placing 29th in 16:16.4, improved by nearly a minute despite persevering through bloody big toes on both feet.
"This year I wanted to come back and do better," Anderson said. "The goal going in was, coming off an undefeated season, just try to hang with the best. ... I put myself in up there with the front; it's not easy running that pace with the best guys in the country.
"I think that's the hardest I've ever pushed in a cross country race, the hardest I've fought. To come away with third place in this race and All-American, I'm pretty happy with that."
Morris, a senior from Aldo (TX) HS, finished a tenth of a second behind Anderson in fourth place (15:18.1). Morris is only the second boy in the history of the event to qualify all four years.
"It was pretty tough today," Morris said. "A lot of pressure coming into it. That made it a little difficult trying to deal with the nerves. Ultimately, I can't complain with the finish. To be in the top five again, I'm pretty blessed."
The three-time Texas state champion was the top returner after placing third in 2018 while running 15:25.1. His time here bettered his previous best of 15:23.3 when he placed second as a sophomore.
"Something to be proud of," he said.
Greer was the top non-senior this year. Greer, a junior from Melisa (TX) HS placed fifth in 15:22.2 as week after placing 26th at NXN. Greer said the conditions at Morley Field felt almost like home.
"From the start of the race I really felt more in my element," Greer said. "The weather and everything is something I was used to. I haven't been here before but I felt like I had."
Greer said he wasn't surprised with Methner started to separate from the lead pack -- that also included Bishop, a senior from East Grand Rapids (MI), who placed sixth -- about halfway through the race.
"I wasn't really too surprised when that was happening," Greer said. "When he did that I thought, 'OK, I'm going to just keep fighting with this group that I'm with.' ... We were a little bit of a chase pack and I tried to stick with them."
Meanwhile, Methner was periodically surging to maintain his cushion until the course was too short for him to be caught. Admittedly, he didn't remember all that was going through his head as he approached the tape.
"I remember smiling at my coach," Methner said. "He got me here. And some of my teammates. I don't remember what was going on in my head at the finish. I was just ... happy."
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Boys 5K Run Championship
(Corrected to reflect a incorrect order of 11th and 18th place.)pl time bib name yr team 1 15:08.8 71 Josh Methner 12 Midwest John Hersey HS Mount Prospect IL 2 15:16.9 79 Carter Solomon 12 Midwest Plymouth HS Canton MI 3 15:18.0 51 Patrick Anderson12 Northeast Mt. Lebanon HS Pittsburgh PA 4 15:18.1 63 Graydon Morris 12 South Aledo HS Aledo TX 5 15:22.2 61 Judson Greer 11 South Melissa HS Melissa TX 6 15:23.7 76 Evan Bishop 12 Midwest East Grand Rapids HS East Grand Rapids MI 7 15:24.1 65 Daniel O'Brien 12 South Virginia Episcopal HS Lynchburg VA 8 15:25.0 54 Kevin Antczak 12 Northeast Mainland Regional HS Northfield NJ 9 15:29.4 55 Jack Jennings 12 Northeast West Morris Mendham HS Mendham NJ 10 15:30.0 59 Colton Sands 11 Northeast Penns Valley Area HS Centre Hall PA 11 15:33.0 88 Ahmed Ibrahim 12 West Parkrose HS Portland OR 12 15:34.9 83 Thomas Boyden 12 West Skyline HS Salt Lake City UT 13 15:36.1 56 Matthew Farrell 12 Northeast The Loomis Chaffee School Glastonbury CT 14 15:36.8 52 Gavin Sherry 10 Northeast Conard HS West Hartford CT 15 15:37.3 80 Parker Wolfe 11 Midwest Cherry Creek HS Denver CO 16 15:40.8 85 Dalton Mortensen11 West Bountiful HS Bountiful UT 17 15:41.9 68 John Higinbotham 12 South Home Schooled Covington GA 18 15:42.1 89 Creed Thompson 11 West Skyridge HS Lehi UT 19 15:42.6 78 Jack Spamer 12 Midwest Brighton HS Brighton MI 20 15:44.7 77 Brendan Favazza 12 Midwest Clarkston HS Clarkston MI 21 15:45.4 57 Aidan Puffer 10 Northeast Manchester HS Manchester CT 22 15:49.1 84 Colin Peattie 11 West Bellarmine College Preparatory School Los Gatos CA 23 15:49.8 90 Davin Thompson 11 West Skyridge HS Lehi UT 24 15:52.6 74 Bob Liking 12 Midwest St. Charles East HS St. Charles IL 25 15:53.6 53 Liam Murphy 12 Northeast Allentown HS Millstone NJ 26 15:55.2 75 Zachary Stewart 12 Midwest Brighton HS Brighton MI 27 15:58.6 81 Mateo Althouse 11 West Lincoln HS Portland OR 28 15:59.6 73 Nathan Walker 11 Midwest Fremont HS Fremont MI 29 16:07.9 66 Ethan Strand 11 South Vestavia Hills HS Birmingham AL 30 16:09.5 87 Nolan Topper 11 West Bellarmine College Preparatory School Redwood City CA 31 16:12.1 60 Robert DiDonato 11 Northeast Germantown Academy Glenside PA 32 16:13.0 72 Michael Hancock 12 Midwest Divine Child HS Dearborn MI 33 16:13.2 67 Canaan Anderson 12 South Siegel HS Murfreesboro TN 34 16:13.4 86 Ignatius Fitzgerald 11 West Hellgate HS Missoula MT 35 16:15.9 82 Charlie Robertson 11 West Franklin HS Portland OR 36 16:19.9 58 Mike Griffin 12 Northeast King Philip Regional HS Wrentham MA 37 16:25.9 64 Justin Wachtel 11 South Mary Persons HS Forsyth GA 38 16:30.3 69 Avery Cannon 12 South Watauga HS Boone NC 39 16:36.0 70 Silas Winders 12 South Henry County HS Mansfield TN 40 16:47.7 62 Coen Roberts 12 South Greer HS Greer SC