2009 Foot Locker girls' champion Megan Goethals took her coach's advice
and used that insight to turn a seemingly insurmountable late-race lead by
Chelsey Sviensson into a final lean for victory.
The observation her coach made to Megan was that this race is often not
won with the first move... or even the second move... but ultimately, with
the third one.
It's the deceivingly challenging slight uphill from the bottom of the back
course downhill that makes for some interesting, and surprising finishes.
Just last year, Jordan Hasay was more than 30 meters behind with 400 to
go, and pulled out the win. No one who saw the lead that Ashley Brasovan
had on Hasay thought the gap could be bridged.
Today, Goethals repeated the same late surge strategy, with maybe even a
little more real estate to make up.
The first part of the race saw Chelsea Ley try an early move, putting 20
meters on the chase pack through the 800. But she was neatly reeled in by
nine others, as the lead group of ten to thirteen settled in and
approached the course's largest hill for the first loop.
At the top, it was a tight pack of ten that included Megan Ferowich,
Kathryn Fluehr, Marielle Hall, Ley, Emily Sisson, Sveinsson, Goethals,
Amanda Russell, Aisling Cuffe and Wesley Frazier. And it wasn't more than
a few meters back that Kelsey Lakowske, Molly Grabill and Katie Flood were
But it was on the steep downhill after the brief 200 meter flat section at
the top that the pack splintered. Coming down in front for the first tour
of the loop was an elite group that included Cuffe, Goethals, Ley and
Sveinsson. They were followed by Kathryn Fluehr, Sisson and Hall, with
Grabill and Flood a few meters behind them.
The race for the win had begun.
By the time the group had finished their final loop from the start through
the front hills, the lead pack had been realigned. Ley had been replaced
by Ferowich and Sisson, and the five began the final mile with a
comfortable lead on both Ley and Lakowske.
As the group approached the big hill for the final time, Sveinsson,
Goethals and Cuffe had gapped Sisson and Ferowich.
At this point, Sveinsson knew she was going to have to make a move because
she simply had to respect Goethals' speed.
Her move on the hill dropped Cuffe, and ultimately Goethals.
When it happened, Cuffe remembers thinking, "Oh no!" She didn't have the
response she expected or needed. "I felt really tired the second half of
the race and I don't know why.
Sveinsson did get the separation she knew she needed on Goethals as she
flew down off the hill and hit the uphill approach to the road and the
And as had been the case in 2008, those who saw the lead with 400 to go
were reasonably confident that the 2009 champ would be a Texan. "I was
trying to give it my all, but it wasn't quite enough to keep Megan off my
back," Sveinsson said.
For her part, Goethals wasn't exactly sure she could catch Sveinsson. "I
thought she was too far ahead."
Then she remembers thinking "second is still good."
But something clicked. Maybe the coach's advice on two moves not always
being the winning ones. She quickly dismissed the thought of settling for
second, and put on a full sprint at the three mile mark that ultimately
became the winning lean.
Sveinsson was thinking "I got it, I got it, I got it," as she made her
But with Goethals' fierce sprint, Sveinsson found herself diving for the
line. "I didn't really do it on purpose. Either I tripped or it was
Goethals admitted that the race didn't exactly go as planned.
But she most certainly now has to admit that the third move is sometimes the winning move.
Photos by Don Rich, Margot Kelly and Nicoll Knudson