Cover photos by Victah Sailor/Photorun.net. Center photo of Cheserek by Don Rich
The boys race at Foot Locker Nationals has the potential to be a very special event. The course record of 14:36 at Balboa Park has been held by Reuben Reina since 1985. This record is in serious jeopardy as both Edward Cheserek (NJ) and Futsum Zenasellassie (IN) have been consistently under 15 minutes this year and neither one of them has raced a competitor that can push them to this type of performance. Cheserek is fresh off his 7th course record in 7 races and Zeinasellassie is riding a wave of confidence after running away with the Nike Cross Nationals title. Neither runner will give an inch as they both seek their first Foot Locker national title.
Of course there is a load of talent in the race besides these two, most notably 3 returners from the top-14 from 2010. Tony Smoragiewicz (SD) was 3rd last year and comes into this season strong and prepared to race well again. Andrew Gardner (WA) finished an impressive 4th last year as a Sophomore and comes in this year with the experience to improve on that run. Perhaps most improved out of the 3 is Ahmed Bile (VA), who was 14th last year and looked very good in the South regional, finishing 2nd overall.
Other strong runners from the South include champion Craig Nowak (TX) and 3rd place finisher Daniel Vertiz (TX). These two runners have been trading wins all year long at the state meet, Nike regionals and finally Foot Locker regionals. All of this back and forth has surely made them race-ready for their first trip to the nationals. A newcomer from the South is Joshua Brickell (GA) who garnered attention early for impressive wins, and took the GA state title. Joshua was just 4 seconds back of Nowak in the South regional.
Out of the West region Darren Fahy capped an impressive year with a tough win over 2010 Finalist Nathan Weitz (WA). The two were separated by just 1 second and both have had stellar fall campaigns with Weitz finished 2nd at his state meet to NXN top-7 finisher Anthony Armstrong and Fahy winning his in CA.
Out of the Midwest Jake Leingang (SD) was runner-up to Futsum and had a great year lighting the state of North Dakota up with victory after victory. With such convincing wins in was great to see Jake run with with tight competition in a national caliber race. Michael Clevenger (IL) was 3rd, just a 2nd back from Leingang and put together a string of impressive victories including the IL state title prior to his impressive Foot Locker showing.
Out of the Northeast Daniel Lennon (NY) and Tim Ball (NJ) ran impressively behind Cheserek as the pair was 2-3 in the race. Lennon was 3rd in the NY state meet but bounced back when it counted to put himself in a confident position going into nationals. Ball was winning all year, and won the NJ Meet of Champs convincingly to ride a wave of confidence into the national championship race.
Keep reading below for a brief summary of all 40 Foot Locker Finalists
Boys from the Northeast:
Cheserek on his way to a CR in the Northeast (Photo by Don Rich)
Edward Cheserek (St. Benedict's Prep NJ) was the Northeast Champion with a course record clocking of 15:20. Dominate all season long, the Northeast Champs was his 7th race of the season and his 7th with a course record finish, most notably running 11:55.4 on the Famed Van Cortlandt Park layout in the Bronx, NY, marking the first sub-12 time ever recorded there. Just learning the in's and out's of HS XC last season, Cheserek wound up with a runner-up showing at Nike Cross Nationals behind Lukas Verzbicas. One year older and much stronger and smarter of a runner, Cheserek chose Foot Locker to attempt to gain the sports most prestigious individual XC crown. Only a Junior, Cheserek will have to see if he can get meet management to change race schedules to he can get to both meets, as he wanted to make the attempt this year.
Daniel Lennon (Peru NY) was 2nd in the Northeast with a time of 15:45. Daniel finished 3rd in the state of NY after an undefeated season, setting himself up for his qualifying race out of the Northeast. Daniel did not compete at Foot Locker last season, making his runner-up finish that much more impressive and should give Daniel confidence heading into the national championship race.
Tim Ball (Piscataway NJ) was 3rd in the Northeast with a time of 15:47. Tim qualified for nationals after an impressive season that saw him winning all of his races except for a Manhattan Invite defeat to Cheserek, with a still quick time of 12:21. Tim won his State Group title and State Meet of Champions title in NJ, showing that he was ready for a great showing going into Regionals and Nationals.
Joel Hubbard (Marshfield MA) was 4th in the Northeast with a time of 15:49. Hubbard also finished 2nd to Cheserek this year at the Brown Invitational with a time of 15:21 before finishing 2nd at his Divisional state champs and All-State champs races in MA. Joel punched his ticket to another opportunity to race well and to end his senior season in memorable fashion.
Dustin Wilson (Chestnut Hill Academy PA) was 5th in the Northeast with a time of 15:50. Dustin won 5 of 6 XC races this season before landing on Long Island for the Northeast championship race. His 5th place showing punched a ticket to the big show in San Diego, likely the first time an athlete from the city of Philadelphia has accomplished the feat.
Matthew McClintock (Athens ME) was 6th in the Northeast with a time of 15:51. Matthew won his Class C state championship to set himself up for a strong showing in Long Island. A senior, Matthew has steadily improved each year to put himself in position to qualify for nationals and will end his senior XC season in sunny San Diego.
Jonathan Green (St. John's MA) was 7th in the Northeast with a time of 15:52. Jonathan won the MA All-State champs over Hubbard leading into the Foot Locker regionals. Jonathan also won his Divisional champs in an impressive Junior year campaign. Jonathan can carry this experience into next year when he can again attempt to qualify for a spot at nationals.
Blake Udland (Millburn NJ) was 8th in the Northeast with a time of 15:55. Blake had a year filled with wins and numerous top-3 finishes before winning his NJ Sectional and Group State titles. Blake had an off race to finish 7th at the NJ Meet of Champions but bounced back at the right time to capture a Foot Locker qualifier in his last year in the sport as a high schooler.
Christopher Allen (King Philip Regional MA) was 9th in the Northeast with a time of 16:01. Christopher won his Divisional MA title before falling to 5th at the All-State meet. He rebounded nicely to grab a Foot Locker spot with his finish in the Northeast race.
Connor Rog (Fairfield Prep CT) was 10th in the Northeast with a time of 16:03. Connor was on a winning streak all season prior to a close loss at the New England Champs to Mike Marsella of RI. Popping another great race at the right time, Connor will finish out his HS XC season with a trip to San Diego for his first national championship experience in XC.
Boys from the South:
Nowak during his FL South victory (Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net)
Craig Nowak (Cypress Woods TX) was the South Champion with a time of 14:37. Craig was undefeated all season in TX until a 3rd place finish at the NXN South Regional. Craig passed over the Nike Cross Nationals meet to then focus on Foot Locker and won a tough race to win his first title and improve on his 51st finish in last years race. As a senior, Craig has improved tremendously and should carry a load of confidence into the national championship race.
Ahmed Bile (Annandale VA) was 2nd in the South with a time of 14:38. Ahmed is a veteran at Foot Locker, having finished 15th last year as a Junior, so he knows how to run the course and how to handle the pressure of the experience. Ahmed had a successful year and capped it with a VA state title leading into the Foot Locker qualifying.
Daniel Vertiz (Ronald Reagan TX) was 3rd in the South with a time of 14:40. Daniel had an undefeated season before finishing 2nd to Nowak at the 5A state champs and then rode that momentum into a Foot Locker Qualifying spot and his first XC national championship meet of his HS career. Vertiz will cap his successful senior year in San Diego and it looks promising that he will continue to run his A-game at Balboa Park.
Joshua Brickell (Peachtree Ridge GA) was 4th in the South with a time of 14:41. Joshua was undefeated on the season including the GA state championships prior to his stellar race at the South Regional to make his first XC national championships. Joshua finished 25 at the 2010 regional meet as a sophomore. While he is capable of a great showing this year at Balboa Park, he can also carry his experience forward into his senior season as he will attempt to qualify again.
Thomas Graham (Cary Academy NC) was 5th in the South with a time of 14:52. Graham is a Foot Locker veteran, having qualified last year and finishing with a 20th place finish. Graham was undefeated on the season prior to the regional championship and goes into this years race stronger and with the experience of having run well at nationals last year.
Sean McGorty (Chantilly VA) was 6th in the South with a time of 14:54. Sean had a successful season in VA, capped by a 2nd place finish to Bile at the VA state meet. Riding the confidence of his 6th place finish in the South, Sean should have confidence in his ability to run well in the national championship race.
Jacob Thomson (Holy Cross KY) was 7th in the South with a time of 14:55. Jacob had a great year and capped it with a state title performance prior to competing in regionals. Just a Junior, Jacob should be able to translate this into a solid showing in San Diego and then carry that experience forward into next year's XC season.
Thomas Madden (Skyline VA) was 8th in the South with a time of 14:56. Thomas had a handful of wins this season, including winning a VA state title prior to entering the South Regional race. As a Junior, Thomas was able to vastly improve from his 30th place showing at this meet last year to punch his ticket to San Diego where he can gain experience for an attempt at qualifying next year as well.
Mark Blackmon (West Charlotte NC) was 9th in the South with a time of 15:01. Mark had an undefeated season capped with a state title in 4A leading up to the Foot Locker qualifiers. Mark made his last attempt count as he punched his ticket to San Diego to close his Senior season with an XC national championship experience.
Robert Domanic (Hebron TX) was 10th in the South with a time of 15:02. Domanic had a handful of wins this season and finished 4th at his state meet in the deep state of TX. Domanic then finished 7th at the NXN South Regional, falling short of qualifying. Domanic made his Junior attempt count as he qualified for his first XC nationals experience.
Boys from the West:
Fahy during his FL West win (Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net)
Darren Fahy (Carlsbad,CA) won the West regionals with a time of 15:29 and will be heading to San Diego for the 2nd time finishing 6th at the regionals in 2010 and 30th at Nationals. Fahy had an incredible season winning every race in California with the top time of the day including the Stanford Invitational and the California State Meet. His 5K PR is 14:54. Fahy should move up quite a bit this year and is a contender for a top 5 finish.
Nathan Weitz (Spokane, WA) finished 2nd to Fahy by 1 second at the West Regionals and will also be making his second trip to San Diego. In 2010 Weitz finished in 5th place at the West Regionals and 31st at Nationals. Weitz finished 1st or 2nd in every race in Washington battling other Nationally ranked runners. Weitz should do very well at Nationals.
Dallin Farnsworth (Pocatello, ID) finished 3rd in the West in 15:41. Farnsworth also finished 3rd at the NXN Northwest regionals but opted out of the National race to run the Foot Locker West regionals. Farnsworth is a 2 time Idaho State Championship and won this year's title by 40 seconds. Farnsworth also has a 5K PR of 14:54.
Andrew Gardner (Spokane, WA) was 4th in the West with a time of 15:41. The junior will be making his second trip to Foot Locker Nationals and should do well after finishing 2nd at the West Regionals and 4th at Nationals in 2010. Last year Andrew's dad told him he would get his ear pierced if he made the top 10. Dad is now sporting and new ear ring.
Billy Gaudreu (Dana Point, CA) had a fifth place finish at the West Regionals with at time of 15:42. Gaudreau is a two-time D5 State Champion and has a PR of 15:28 in the 5K. A senior, Gaudreau will be making his 1st trip to San Diego.
Cameron Miller (Bakersfield, CA) finished 6th in the West in 15:43. Miller has many top times in big meets this year including a 3rd place (overall) finish at the Stanford Invitational and a 4th place finish in the Team Sweepstakes division at Mt. Sac. Miller also has a 5K PR of 15:09.
Luis Luna (Santa Rosa, CA) finished 7th in the West with a 15:43. Luna finished 2nd overall at the Stanford Invitational and had several first place finishes in Northern California. Luna also has a PR of 15:08 in the 5K.
CJ Albertson (Fresno, CA) had an 8th place finish with a time of 15:46. Albertson had a great start to the beginning of the season with a huge win at the Woodbridge Invitational but an injury got in his way midway through the season. With a brief time off he had to run with the injury in order to qualify for the California State Meet finishing 4th in Division 1. If everything comes together for him on Saturday he should have a great race. Albertson also has a PR of 14:51 in the 5K.
Myles Smith (Lakewood, CA) finished 9th in the West with a time of 15:47. A junior, Smith makes his first appearance at Foot Locker Nationals. Smith had a breakout track season which propelled him into the cross country season. Smith had many 2nd place finishes and has a PR of 15:34 for 5K.
Keven Durham (Lake Forest, CA) finished 10th in the West in 15:50 and will be making his first appearance at Foot Locker Nationals. Durham had a very successful season with several first place finishes. Durham also had an impressive 9th place overall finish at the California State Meet and has a 5K PR of 14:55.
Boys from the Midwest:
Zeinasellassie during his FL Midwest win (Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net)
Futsum Zeinasellassie (North Central IN) was the Midwest Champion with a time of 14:58. Futsum had an undefeated season to earn his first Regional title on his way toward mimicking Verzbicas' feat of an NXN and Foot Locker double last year. Futsum won the Nike Cross Nationals with an impressive runaway performance,and while he worked hard, it should leave him fairly refreshed for Foot Locker and another formidable opponent in Edward Cheserek. Regardless of the outcome, Futsum and Edward could make history at Balboa Park in a few days time.
Jake Leingang (Bismarck ND) was 2nd in the Midwest with a time of 15:10. Jake won the ND state title as his team recorded an impressive victory before heading to the NXN regionals where he finished 2nd to Tony Smoragiewicz. From there Jake finished 2nd to Futsum at Foot Locker before finishing 8th at the Nike Cross Nationals. With a successful string of performances behind him Jake should be riding a wave of confidence into the national championship race.
Michael Clevenger (Decatur MacArthur IL) was 3rd in the Midwest with a time of 15:11. Clevenger was 13th last year at the regional, so came into this race hoping to improve and punch his ticket to nationals. He closed out his season well with 6 straight victories prior to an IL state title and his impressive runner-up showning at the NXN Midwest regional race. After a disappointing 87th place finish at Nike Cross Nationals Clevenger rebounded nicely at Foot Locker and looks to carry that momentum forward into the national championship race.
Malachy Schrobilgen (Oak Park River Forest IL) was 4th in the Midwest with a time of 15:13. Malachy won a handful of meets this season before finishing 3rd at the IL state champs. He then placed 3rd at NXN regionals and closed that out with a 44th place finish at Nationals. He found his place again at Foot Locker has he ran his way impressively to a spot in San Diego to cap his Senior year of high school XC.
Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City Central SD) was 5th in the Midwest with a time of 15:15. Tony is the 2nd returner behind Futsum from last years race where he was 3rd in 15:16. Tony won the SD state title this year and finished 1st at the NXN Heartland regional. He ran his way to an 11th place showing at Nike Cross Nationals, which is somewhat of a disappointment. But Tony has experience running well at Balboa Park and has shown great fitness this season, leaving him in a great position for another high finish.
Evan Chiplock (Saginaw Heritage MI) was 6th in the Midwest with a time of 15:18. Evan put together a great race when it counted to qualify for nationals as he ended his season with a 38th place showing at the MI state meet. He did bounce back to finish 4th at the Mid-East XC Champs in OH prior to the Midwest regional meet.
Grant Nykaza (Beecher IL) was 7th in the Midwest with a time of 15:18. Grant finished 2nd in the IL 1A state meet and placed 9th at NXN Midwest prior to the Midwest regional. Grant had a handful of XC wins this season, and as a Junior he can take this year's national championship experience into his Senior year of competition.
Ryan Polman (Independence OH) was 8th in the Midwest with a time of 15:20. Ryan won quite a few races this season before finishing runner-up at the OH state meet and placing 6th at the NXN Midwest meet. He then ran 5th at the Mid-East XC Champs in his preparation for Foot Locker. Ryan will end his campaign at the national championship race in San Diego.
Addison DeHaven (Brookings SD) was 9th in the Midwest with a time of 15:20. Addison was 2nd behind Smoragiewicz at the SD state championship, just 13 seconds behind the top Foot Locker returner. He closed the gap to just 5 seconds in a close race at the Midwest regional, and should be riding a wave of confidence into the national championship race. Only a Sophomore, Addison can use this national level experience toward the rest of his high school XC career.
Sam Berger (Zionsville Community IN) was 10th in the Midwest with a time of 15:20. Sam was just 29th at his IN state championship meet, and only 44th at the NXN Midwest meet, making him an unlikely candidate for Foot Locker. But Sam kept his composure and raced his way to a Foot Locker berth with 11th place just a few hundredths of a second behind him