Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lukas going for the double

This weekend is Part 1 of what Lukas Verzbicas hopes to be a legendary double. Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland will probably be his toughest race, ever.
The path started at State, which was covered in my last blog. He then went to NXN MidWest in Terre Haute, IN and came away with both a convincing win and a course record. His time of 14:53.1 beat Chris Derrick's old mark that was set before the addition of the hay bales. Jack Driggs closed strong to beat Zach Wills of Ohio for second. More importantly, Driggs led York to the team title over Columbus North (IN). York is now 7 for 7 in qualifying for NXN, the only team to go each and every year. Quite the legacy.
The next step for Lukas was FootLocker Midwest in Kenosha WI. I made the trip to watch this race as I wanted to be there for this stacked field. Also on the starting line were Driggs and Wills, along with IN star Futsum Zeinasellassie, OH star Michael Brajdic and Tony Smorgiewicz of South Dakota, the NXN Heartland winner.
Lukas went for it from the gun. I was at the start then made my way to the mile marker area. (Start below, Lukas at the mile after that, he was all alone)

Lukas had gapped the field by the mile mark. Close to the 2 mile mark they announced his split at 9:20. The announcer noted at 2.5 that Futsum had closed some ground. Coming in to the homestretch Lukas looked back, saw Futsum and came in strong. It is worth noting that he certainly didn't appear to be straining to much at the end. It may have been the closest that ANYONE has ever been to him in XC.
What has he done so far in his journey to the double to indicate he can pull it off? Plenty. Let's start with Sectionals. At Lockport he set a course record taking down Chris Derrick's old mark. State, he recorded the #3 time in IL history, only the legendary Craig Virgin and Derrick have run faster. NXN MW in Terre Haute? Course Record, taking down Derrick's once more. FLMW? The # 2 time in meet history. Only Dathan Ritzenhein has run faster. Lukas's 14:44 on that freezing day was quicker than Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Jorge Torres, Todd Williams, Bob Kennedy and a host of other future stars and Olympians. His performances so far indicate he can do it. He seems to have not gone all out in any race other than IL State. He will be challenged for sure, no one will win NXN in easy fashion. Not with this cast. Let's start with defending champ Craig Lutz of Texas who I am sure has no intention of surrendering his title. The CA duo of Ammar Moussa and Elias Gedyon are improved over last year. Zach Wills has a history of performing well in Portland. Lastly, the NJ stars. Jim Rosa, Jeremy Elkaim and Edward Cheserak all will be gunning for the title. Now, I know that Rosa is 2 and 0 against Cheserak, but this runner scares me the most of any of the challengers. I think over time he will become an incredible runner and Futsum will still have much to deal with in him next year. If Lukas gets by this crew his only challenge in San Diego will be to not let down against a fresh Futsum who is only running Footlocker. The best doubles so far have been by Chris Derrick (1st NXN, 2nd FL), Craig Lutz (1st NXN, 4th FL) and Colby Lowe (2nd NXN, 4th FL). It is a tough run. It is a lot of hard racing. I'm going to go out saying I think he can do it. We'll see. He stated here in the interview below that he wouldn't be doing it if  he didn't have the highest of expectations. Good luck to him.

No comments: