Before we get to far into the heart of the blog, the Cross Country championship season so far in 2009, I would like to make a special mention/congratulations to the first American to win the New York City Marathon in 27 years, Meb Keflezighi. Meb dropped a quality field one by one en route to a 2:09.15 win over Robert Cheruiyot. An American had not won New York since Alberto Salazar won in 1982 and this was a major accomplishment in what has been a banner year for American long distance running.
High School action was in full swing the past couple weeks. In Illinois, Loyola served notice to the US that it was for real when it beat York at the Niles West sectional. Loyola's Nico Composto defeated the York duo of Andrew Smith and Jack Driggs for the individual win. Down in Lockport, Neuqua Valley and Lukas Verzbicas cruised to easy wins. Loyola jumped to the top of the National rankings and headed down to Peoria as the favorite and the title of US#1. Not so fast,while the individual race was a foregone conclusion, the team race was a fierce battle. When the announcement came out, Neuqua Valley (99) had toppled the favorites as they defeated Loyola (111) and York (118) for the State title. Verzbicas easily defeated the field with a 21 second win over York's Smith and Driggs. Verzbicas ran on record pace through 2 miles before a sore Achilles slowed him in the final mile. Many were disappointed he didn't break the long standing course record, but his time of 14:07 still ranks him in the all-time top 10 on the course and he has a couple more years to go after it.
Down in Texas, things got rolling quickly. In Region 1, Craig Lutz (Lewisville Marcus) ran away with the title at Mae Simmons Park in a time of 14:37. Lutz now joins Colby Lowe and Bobby Aguirre as the only runners under 14:40 on the course. El Paso dominated the 4A ranks as Jefferson, Austin and Horizon swept the State berths in the Boys division while taking 7 of the top 10 individual spots. In 3a, Clint took the girls title, while 5a didn't fare as well. The Eastwood girls were 5th in a highly competitive team race and with the bulk of the girls back next year they should make another serious run at the State meet.
Region 2 served as a preview to what was to come as The Woodlands boys defeated Cedar Park and Klein Oak for the team title with Parker Stinson (CP) taking individual honors. The girls titles went to The Woodlands College Park and Sarah Andrews (The Woodlands High).
This past weekend the Texas State meet certainly didn't disappoint. Lutz ran away from the field, and a very good field at that, for a 14:45 to 15:08 win over Mark Pinales (Round Rock Stony Point). Parker Stinson won the bronze with a time of 15:11. The Woodlands boys picked up right where they left off when Dan Green retired and handed the program to son Juris, they won. The Woodlands outdistanced Region II foes Klein Oak and Cedar Park for the win. The interesting story was 4a winner Boerne Champion who easily won 4a (30-120 over El Paso Jefferson) and would have beaten The Woodlands based on an integrated race. This showdown looms big as Nike South approaches.
Sarah Andrews (The Woodlands) won the girls title over Rachel Johnson of Plano while Humble Kingwood won the team title over The Woodlands College Park and Southlake Carroll. In the 3a race, the Clint girls missed a medal by the narrowest of margins as 1 point separated the 2,3 and 4 teams. So close.
The post-season has started in the Midwest and what a race at Nike Midwest! York, who after finishing 3rd at the IL state meet stepped up big to win the Nike Midwest title over Neuqua Valley. Loyola, as recently as 2 weeks ago was ranked #1 in the US, was left out. Loyola's chances of an at-large bid however, should be very favorable when considering their 3 wins over York this season. York will be running in their 6th consecutive National meet , the only program to have qualified for every Nike Cross Nationals final. They won in 04 and were runner-ups in 05 and 08. Neuqua Valley won the title in 07 as Illinois has been extremely competitive at this meet.
Lukas Verzbicas and Futsum Zeinasellassie (IN-Footlocker top 10 as a Frosh last year) sat out this race to concentrate on Footlocker Midwest leaving Zach Wills of Ohio to claim an easy win. On the girls side , Magnificat OH edged Illinois State Champs Palatine for the win while individual honors went to Ohio's Hannah Neczypor.
Many great races still lie ahead as we head to Footlocker Regionals and Nike Cross Nationals. I hope to see many of the top stars tangle one on one. Chesley Sveinsson has been resting and training and should be raring to go at the post-season meets.
El Paso is starting to see a resurgence as a cross country power (mostly in 4a vs 5a) as El Paso Jefferson is now the #6 ranked team in the South rankings. Isaac Spencer (Austin) won the 1-4a regional meet and was 7th at the State meet. Jefferson is coached by former El Paso prep star Alfredo Trejo who was top 20 at Footlocker (then Kinney) in 1980.
On the NCAA side of things, Stanford is still the favorite as they cruised to conference and regional wins both times led by individual winner Chris Derrick. Oklahoma State should contend still as German Fernandez seems to round into shape after an early season injury. They ran regional as a team tempo run with all the team coming across together. Colby Lowe is still the key I think as he needs to step up from last years performance. If he does they will be right there in contention with Stanford.
Washington remain the favorite on the women's side with Jenny Barringer (CO) being an overwhelming favorite to win the individual title. Look for prized frosh Jordan Hasay (Oregon) and Allie McLaughlin (Colorado) to have breakthrough races in Terre Haute.
I hope to attend some of the bigger meets coming up here in the next couple weeks and will be sure to blog on them and hopefully share some pics.