Cover photos by Victah Sailor/Photorun.net.
The girls race at Foot Locker Nationals is a little more wide open than the boys race, but there are still a handful of girls at the top who will be difficult to beat. The top 3 returners from last year have all had great seasons and have proven they can race well under the pressure at Balboa Park. Just a Sophomore last year, Erin Finn (MI) pulled off a 7th place finish and has come back looking stronger than ever this year. Making her 3rd straight Foot Locker appearance, Grace Tinkey (GA) was also a Sophomore last season and finished 15th overall. She finished 20th overall as a Frosh. Tinkey spent her 2011 season breaking records and winning a state title in GA, and should finish much higher this year at nationals. Abbey Leonardi (ME) is also making her 3rd straight Foot Locker Nationals appearance and moved up each year, finishing 16 last year and 22nd in 2010. Leonardi broke records on some sloppy Maine courses this Fall and appears very fit headed into the national championship race.
Joining Tinkey out of the South region are Cali Roper (TX) and Sophie Chase (VA). Roper won most of her races this fall, finalizing her season with a TX state championship. Roper has run 2 milers all season long in TX, but has made the move up to 5k smoothly and looks very strong heading into the national race. Chase also had a solid season and capped it with a VA state title before her Foot Locker performance. Chase was a finalist in 2010 and finished 38th.
From the West are Karlie Garcia (CA) and Kelsey Braithwaite (UT) ran great races at the West regional to come into the national championship as top contenders. Garcia won meets all season long with a 2nd place finish early and a narrow 2nd place finish at the CA state meet to Carrie Verdon. Braithwaite also had a great season, with her only losses coming to Katie Knight out of WA and Garcia at the Foot Locker West regional. Kelsey will be making her first trip to the big dance and looks poised to run well.
Out of the Midwest Molly Seidel (WI) and Julia Bos (MI) had impressive Midwest races and join Erin Finn as favorites from this region. Molly won all of her races this season and blitzed a 13:10 for 4k, showing tremendous fitness leading into the national race, certainly as a contender for the overall title. Julia was a close 2nd in the Midwest and won a state title in MI leading up to her qualifying run, and also looks to be in great shape as she heads out to Balboa Park.
Hailing from the Northeast, and joining Leonardi are Northeast champion Angel Piccirillo (PA) and Catarina Rocha (MA). Angel followed a calculated and precise race plan to perfection as she moved through the pack and made a break with 100 meters to go to secure the win. With prior Foot Locker Nationals experience and an ability to always rise to the level of the competition around her, Angel could surprise the other runners if she is able to hang around to the end. Catarina won a state title in MA and then put together a great race in the Northeast to secure her 2nd straight Foot Locker berth and looks poised to carry that experience to a top-10 finish in Balboa Park.
Keep reading below for a brief summary of all 40 Foot Locker Finalists
Girls from the Northeast:
Picirillo biding her time before striking (Photo by Don Rich)
Angel Piccirillo (Homer Center PA) was the Northeast champion with a time of 18:01. Angel is undefeated on the season, including a #3 all-time performance at the Spiked Shoe Invite at Penn State. Angel briefly held the state record from the PA small schools race before it was broken in the large schools race under more competitive conditions. Angel was a 2010 qualifier, placing 32nd overall, and will surely improve in this year's race.
Abbey Leonardi (Kennebunk ME) was the Northeast runner-up with a time of 18:05. Abbey has qualified for 3 straight Foot Locker finals and finished 16th last year and 22nd in 2009. Abbey had an amazing season in Maine, winning her 4th straight Class A state title and set several records on sloppy courses. Her fitness is better than last year and she knows the Balboa Park layout well, which could translate to a top finish in 2011.
Catarina Rocha (Peabody MA) was 3rd in the Northeast with a time of 18:19. Catarina won the MA state title this year and qualified for her 2nd straight Foot Locker berth. Only a Junior, Rocha will have valuable experience for this year's race on how to run well at Balboa Park. She was 31st last year. Of interest is that both her parents were also Foot Locker finalists when they were in high school.
Holly Bischof (Bishop Eustace Prep NJ) was 4th in the Northeast with a time of 18:24 and will be making her first appearance out in San Diego. Holly won the NJ Meet of Champions with a time of 18:13, for her 4th post-season win prior to Foot Locker. Holly will make her first appearance at Foot Locker and has momentum on her side as she enters nationals.
Laura Leff (West Genesee NY) was 5th in the Northeast with a time of 18:26. Laura improved as the season went along, finished 4th at her NY state meet and then 2nd only to Jillian Fanning at the NY Federation championships race. Laura competed in the NXN regionals last year, finishing 16th, so this will mark her first national championship race. As a Sophomore, she should be in great shape to race well and gain valuable experience on the Foot Locker course.
Hannah Oneda (Westminster MD) was 6th in the Northeast with a time of 18:27. Hannah was undefeated in Maryland this year, capping her dream season with a MD state title. Once she hit the Northeast regional Hannah raced with confidence and put together a great race to continue her final season of high school cross country in San Diego. Hannah did not get many opportunities to race top girls in the country during her season, making her regional race all the more impressive against a talented field that includes 4 repeat returners.
Alexis Panisse (Benjamin Cardozo NY) was 7th in the Northeast with a time of 18:29. Alexis won a handful of races during the season, including her city league champs, prior to placing 3rd at the NY Federation meet. She also became the first runner from a NY city school to qualify for the Foot Locker championships in the meets 32 year history. As a Senior, Alexis gets to finish her historical season off in style in San Diego, and with her impressive run on the tough Sunken Meadow layout, she could do quite well at Balboa Park.
Caroline Kellner (West Windsor-Plainsboro South NJ) was 8th in the Northeast with a time of 18:36. Caroline is also a returner as she finished 37th at Foot Locker last year as a Junior. This valuable experience should suit her well heading into her second appearance at the meet. This year she won her State Group title and finished 2nd at the NJ Meet of Champions to Holly. Caroline will get to end her final season of high school cross country in San Diego once again and should put her experience to good use to finish higher than she did last year.
Meredith Speakman (Boiling Springs PA) was 9th in the Northeast with a time of 18:37. Usually a Foot Locker finalist wins a race or two along the way, as they are typically one of the best runners in the state. Meredith did not win one during the season and finished 4th at her state meet just under a month prior to the Northeast regional. However, she had a plan, and that included keeping up her running and practicing just for the Sunken Meadow layout. It all paid off as she is headed to San Diego in her Senior year, after a remarkable transformation from a 21:00 5k runner just one year ago.
Tori Gerlach (Pennridge PA) was 10th in the Northeast with a time of 18:40. Tori was one of the top runners in PA all season, but unfortunately her state meet didn't go as planned as she finished 12th overall. Tori wasn't even going to continue her season, but eventually made the decision to race. Good thing she did, as she was able to put together a solid effort to get the last qualifying spot. Tori will get to finalize her Senior cross country season in the sunny atmosphere of San Diego.
Girls from the South:
Roper midstride on her way to victory (Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net)
Cali Roper (Willis TX) was the South champion with a time of 17:02. Cali won every race she entered this season except for the Nike South Invite, where she was 3rd behind finalist Karis Jochen. After running 2 milers all season Cali moved up in distance impressively, as she put together an impressive victory to mark her first XC national championship qualifier. Cali is certainly a favorite leading up to the big show in San Diego.
Sophie Chase (Lake Braddock VA) was the South runner-up with a time of 17:06. Sophie won all season long, capping her Junior year with a VA state title. She qualified last year as a Sophomore and ran to a 38th place finish, garnering valuable experience on the Balboa Park course. That experience, coupled with an amazing Junior year should translate to a big move up in the placings this year.
Grace Tinkey (First Presbyterian GA) was 3rd in the South with a time of 17:08. Grace qualified for Foot Locker for the 3rd straight year and had a very successful Junior year. Grace started off the year with course record performances before an injury sidelined her for a few weeks. She returned stronger than ever to win the GA state title with the fastest time in the state. Grace was 20th as a frosh and 15th as a soph, so her experience and added strength will likely lead her into a top-10 finish this year.
Megan Moye (Cosby VA) was 4th in the South with a time of 17:11. Megan won several races this fall before finishing 3rd at the VA state meet. The momentum of that success led her to a great finish at the South regional to qualify for her first Foot Locker berth. With such a close finish to some of the top girls in the country Megan should feel confident leading into the big show.
Olivia Ortiz (Lakewood Ranch FL) was 5th in the South with a time of 17:13. Olivia won most of her races this fall and capped that success with a FL state title as a Junior for her first time. Olivia turned in an amazing performance in the South regional to become one of three finalists from the state of FL.
Samantha George (Millbrook NC) was 6th in the South with a time of 17:15. Samantha had a great Senior year of cross country, winning a handful of races and also a NC state title a few weeks prior to the South regional. Samantha hung with the top group throughout the race and her reward was a berth at Foot Locker Nationals to finish off her Senior year of cross country.
Bridget Blake (Dr. Phillips FL) was 7th in the South with a time of 17:26. Bridget had a great Junior year campaign with handful of wins to her credit as she built up to a FL state championship prior to the South regional. Bridget was able to hang with a solid pack of runners to finish in the top 10 for her first berth at Foot Locker.
Alana Hadley (Ardrey Kell NC) was 8th in the South with a time of 17:27. Alana qualified for her first Foot Locker race as a frosh after a great year which saw her run some very quick times including a 36 minute 10k. Alana finished among a top group of athletes to qualify, putting herself in a great position to gain experience for the rest of her high school career.
Karis Jochen (A&M Consolidated TX) was 9th in the South with a time of 17:31. Karis got used to winning during her Junior year campaign and won a TX state title as an end result. She then placed 2nd at the NXN South regional prior to her Foot Locker qualifying attempt. Karis finished 31st at Nike Cross Nationals and then raced well enough to take on Foot Locker Nationals as well in the same year.
Lily Williams (Chiles FL) was 10th in the South with a time of 17:32. Lily won quite a few races during her Senior season before finishing 2nd at the Florida state meet to fellow finalist Olivia Ortiz by just 9 seconds. Lily qualified for her first Foot Locker race and will look forward to closing out her final cross country season with a race in San Diego.
Girls from the West:
Garcia rolling to the West victory (Photo by PhotoRun.net)
Karlie Garcia (Roseville, CA) won the West regionals with a time of 17:46 and will be making her 2nd trip to San Diego. The junior finished 3rd as a freshman at Foot Locker Regionals and 15th at Nationals but did not run the events in 2010. Garcia won most of her meets this season with the exception of the Stanford Invite and the State Meet where she took 3rd overall in both. The tiny but powerful runner is ready for Nationals and will be looking to improve on her 15th place finish from 2 years ago. Garcia's PR is 17:09 for 5K.
Kelsey Braithwaite (Perry, UT) finished 2nd behind Garcia with a time of 17:55. Braithwaite had a breakout year with a few course records to her name. Braithwaite won the Utah State Championship breaking a 12 year old state record. She also broke the course record at the region 5 championships. Her 5K PR is 17:39.
Makena Morely (Bigfork, MT) ran an 18:07 for a 3rd place finish in the West. A freshman, Morley is the Montana State Champion and is undefeated in Montana. She has a PR of 17:19 in the 5K and is looking forward to her 1st trip to San Diego.
Jordan McPhee (Normand Park, WA) finished 4th in 18:13 and is the Washington 4A State Champion. McPhee also finished 3rd in the Oregon/Washington Border Clash behind Katie Knight and Amy-Eloise Neale and is ready to take on the best at Nationals. McPhee has a PR of 17:24 for 5K.
Nikki Hiltz (Aptos, CA) was 5th in the West in 18:17. The junior won several invitationals and finished 4th at the Stanford Invitational and 5th at the California State Meet Division 3. Hiltz has a PR of 17:23 for 5K.
Sydney Segal (Beverly Hills, CA) was 6th in the West with a time of 18:32 over the very hilly course. A junior, Segal started running track last spring and cross country this season. Segal is from the very competitive Southern Section and finished 3rd in the section prelims, 2nd in the section finals and 6th in the California State Meet Division 3. Segal has a PR of 17:53 for 3.1 miles.
Clare Carroll (Folsom, CA) was 7th in the West in 18:33 and will be making her 2nd trip to Foot Locker Nationals. As a freshman Carroll finished 4th in the West Regionals and 30th at Nationals in 2010. Carroll battled injury all season but came back just in time for the Sac Joaquin Section meets finishing 3rd in the section finals. Carroll went on to claim a 7th place spot in the California State meet. Her 5K PR is 17:24.
Camille Chapus (Pacific Palisades, CA) was 8th in the West with a time of 18:34. An outstanding track runner, Chapus can now add Foot Locker Nationals to her growing resume´. Chapus finished 13th at Nike Nationals in 2010 and was the division 4 State Champion in 2009 and 2010. Chapus also won the prestigious Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile last spring in 4:42 and set a new course record at the Woodbridge invitational in September. Look to see Chapus go all out in her final prep cross country race.
Anna Maxwell (Felton, CA) finished 9th in the West in 18:38 and will be making her 2nd trip to San Diego. Maxwell finished 8th at the West regionals in 2010 and 28th at Nationals. Maxwell, a sophomore, won several invitationals this season including the "Big Dog Kamehameha" invitational in Hawaii. Maxwell also won the Stanford Invite division 4 and the division 4 sweeps race at Mt. Sac. Maxwell has a PR of 17:36 for 5K.
Emily Nist (Meridian, ID) finished 10th in the West in 18:41. Nist actually finished 11th at the West Regionals but when 5th place sophomore, Sarah Robinson, dropped out due to another commitment, Nist became the 10th runner out of the West to head to Nationals. Nist is a 3 time Idaho State Champion and won the state title this season with the fastest time of the day by 26 seconds. She was the only girl to break 19 minutes. Nist also won several invitationals this season, including the Boise City Meet and the District Meet. In 2009 Nist set a new course record at the NXN Northwest Regionals.
Girls from the Midwest:
Seidel on her way to the Midwest title (Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net)
Molly Seidel (University Lake School, WI) runs 4k all season long, but showed very little weakness in winning the Midwest Regional with a time of 17:08. Molly also boasts a 4k PR of 13:10.08. Molly was 11th last year, just 5 seconds out of a trip to San Diego to race in the national meet, but this year made sure she could end her senior season in style on the west coast.
Julia Bos (Grand Rapids Christian MI) finished 2nd to Seidel in 17:14, her fastest time of the season to date. A Junior, Julia is making the trip to San Diego for the first time and has certainly proven she belongs with her strong showing in the Midwest Regional.
Erin Finn (West Bloomfield MI) finished 3rd in 17:34 and is a veteran of the Balboa Park layout. Erin was 7th at last years national championship as a sophomore and is the top returner this year. That experience and confidence should be a strength coming into this years race as she was 4th in last year's Midwest Regional prior to her breakout national placing.
Taylor Manett (Rockford MI) was 4th in 17:35, just behind Finn at the Midwest Regional. Taylor ran a time of 17:24 at the MI state champs to finish 2nd just behind Finn. Considering Finn's pedigree in the sport Taylor should be riding a wave of confidence going into the national championship race.
Maria Hauger (Shakopee MN) was 5th in the Midwest in 17:40. Maria won the NXN Heartland Regional and went on to place 24th at NXN Nationals. This will mark her first trip to San Diego as a Junior and her experience competing at NXN the past 3 years shows that she is not a stranger to national level competition and pressure.
Sydney Scott (Denver South CO) was 6th in the Midwest with a time of 17:43. Sydney will be making her first trip out to San Diego, ending her senior year on a high note. Sydney won her state title in CO with a time of 18:52, and bounced back from a disappointing 167th placing at NXN Southwest to make her qualifying run to Foot Locker.
Nicole Mello (Hickman MO) was 7th in the Midwest with a time of 17:43. Nicole had a great race in Wisconsin as she finished just 9th in her state meet with a time of 19:41. Only a Junior, Nicole can use this years experience to make it back next year as a senior.
Alexandria Fons (Franklin WI) was 8th in the Midwest with a time of 17:43. Only a sophomore, Alexandria improved tremendously from her frosh campaign. She was 48th in the Midwest Regional last year and improved her time this year by over a minute to get her qualifying place. She also won her state title with a respectable 4k time of 13:56 and looks to have a bright future on the national XC scene.
Lindsey Burdette (Hanover-Horton MI) was 9th in the Midwest with a time of 17:43. Lindsey was also a big improver from last season, as she was 49th last year and improved by over a minute to finish in the top-10 this year. Lindsey was 4th this year in the MI state meet, 28th at the Mid-East XC Champs, but put a race together when it counted to punch her ticket to San Diego.
Kaylee Flanagan (Lake Park IL) was 10th in the Midwest with a time of 17:44. Kaylee was 3rd in her state championship, 4th at the NXN Midwest Regional, and 18th at Nike Cross Nationals in the weeks leading up to her Foot Locker berth. This will mark Kaylee's first Foot Locker experience and as a Junior she will gain valuable experience toward attempting to qualify next year.