* JoJo Jourdon in 2023 at NXN and 2022 after his finish at RunningLane
Photo Credit: Bobby Reyes/Chris Wells
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It was exactly this time a year ago when JoJo Jourdon missed his opportunity.
The Salt Lake City Olympus High School (UT) then-junior was shoulder-to-shoulder with Steven West at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships with a little less than 800 meters to go in the championship race and let him go.
A move was made. Jourdon eased up.
West, the Albuquerque Sandia (NM) then-senior who would go on to sign with the University of New Mexico that spring, proceeded to surge on the downhill and then went on to win the title, a wild race that took place on a mud-caked John Hunt Park.
Jourdon ended up in third.
It's hard to say whether a memory such as that created the primal instincts Jourdon would need to step on the gas on Saturday and win a national title in 15:16.5 at Nike Cross Nationals. But what if it did?
Runners are always looking for an edge. Losing is an edge. Pain is an edge. Visualizing a move gone wrong can eat you up inside.
Watching the Nike Cross Nationals title back on Sunday, and then going back and watching Jourdon's race at RunningLane last year, it's hard not to pair those two moments together to form some kind of clear picture.
Jourdon learned his lesson.
"I told myself, 'I'm going to make a move It's my senior year. I have got nothing to lose.'"
On Saturday, there was no second-guessing.
When the field eased up just past the 2K mark, Jourdon scurried up on the inside line at Glendoveer and started to push. He pushed and pushed and pushed, so much so that by the time the clock hit 14 minutes and 30 seconds and those two last hills were there, there was nothing anyone could do.
Jourdon had made a decision that had won him the race.
But he wasn't the only athlete who learned from last year. So did three more of his Southwest Region brethren.
|2023 nxn finish
|2022 rxc finish
|JoJo Jourdon, Olympus (UT)
|Austin Westfall, Orem (UT)
|Porter Middaugh, Battle Mountain (CO)
|Andrew Ludwig, Riverton (UT)
While no one expected Jourdon to win a national title -- he was ranked No. 31 by MileSplit entering the race -- it's not like he hadn't earned it.
The Wake Forest signee had won at Bob Firman in September.
He followed with a Utah regional win and then his divisional title in October and then a state crown on Oct. 24, claiming the 5A victory in the state's second-fastest finish in 14:58.30.
He was second at NXR Southwest, only behind Daniel Simmons of American Fork.
Jourdon was capable, willing and driven to make it happen. He only looked back once -- on those two final hills.
"I knew where two-and-a-half K was and I felt good and I told myself, 'I'm going to make a move It's my senior year. I have got nothing to lose. I'm here at NXN. I'm here to have some fun,'" Jourdon told Grant Fisher afterward. "I made it and I didn't look back. I was really proud of my performance."
A Flipped Coin
Interestingly enough, that year-over-year theme was a little more even-keeled on the girls side.
While Peyton Adams improved on her performance from RXC to NXN on Saturday, three of the top-ranked girls from last year's race in Huntsville had varying degrees of success on the individual front in Portland.
Zealand became an All-American in 13th, while Juliet Frum added another All American honor in 34th -- the top 40 finishes are All-American at NXN. Hardly a step back.
Caroline Hood held strong and finished 63rd, outside an All-American placement but still a solid showing.
Better for Frum and Adams, however, was the team result.
Mountain Vista podiumed in third, just behind their Southwest counterparts, Air Academy (the NXN champions) and Niwot.
|2023 nxn finish
|2022 rxc finish
|Allie Zealand, Lynchburg (VA)
|Juliet Frum, Mountain Vista (CO)
|Caroline Hood, Pace Academy (GA)
|Peyton Adams, Mountain Vista (CO)