US News
Cross Country
West Region
12/7/02 at Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut CA

West Region Preview
Jespersen-Rupp-Nelson III and Zoe the Zephyr

by John Dye

WALNUT CA 12/6/02 -- Legitimate national championship contenders will abound in the Foot Locker West region championships here tomorrow at Mount San Antonio College's legendary torture test of dusty plains, concrete air strips, and energy-sapping slopes (Poop Out Hill, the switchbacks, and Reservoir Hill). The meet is full of fascinating story lines.

See Foot Locker Favorites for stats on all the top contenders | Are mountain states hurt by long layoff?

Lauren Jespersen
Galen Rupp
Tim Nelson

Zoe Nelson

Jespersen-Rupp III
Jespersen-Nelson III

Klamath Falls OR sr Lauren Jespersen is the pivot man in the third round of huge individual matchups with Portland OR jr Galen Rupp and Redding CA sr Tim Nelson. All three have geared their seasons toward the Foot Locker national finals in San Diego December 14, and all three believe they can win it.

Jespersen faced the other two twice this season. He lost to Rupp by inches in the greatest cross country state final Oregon has ever seen, but he beat Rupp 2 weeks later at the Washington-Oregon BorderClash.

Jespersen beat Nelson in two early meets with course records each time -- September 7 at the Premier West Invitational at Yreka CA, and September 28 at Stanford, where it was so close that both were given the same course record time.

Nelson has a bit of home course advantage, although he lives 575 miles away in Redding. Mt. SAC was the site of his biggest win, a powerful run in the Mt. SAC Invitational October 26 in the third fastest time ever run on that course. Nelson won California small school Division 5 last Saturday in a leisurely 15:39.

1 a : a breeze from the west b : a gentle breeze
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Just when West region girls were getting content with not having to worry about Amber Trotter's killer pace, they have an improved Zoe (the Zephyr) Nelson to contend with. A sensation as a freshman last year (Montana state champion and Foot Locker finalist), Zoe is even better the second time around. She is undefeated and untested, she is 30-40 seconds faster than last year on the same courses, and she broke the record on every course she set foot on. She has the three fastest 3-mile times in the country: 16:43 on her home course, 16:46 in the Helena Preview at 4400 feet altitude on a cold, windy day, and 16:50 in the state meet, where she cranked a Trotter-esque 5:17 mile and won by 78 seconds even though she developed a side ache in the third mile and slowed down. And lest anyone think she got stale in the 7 weeks since the Montana state meet, Zoe ran a 17:11 5k time trial November 19 at altitude in a freezing wind (see sidebar).

Sometimes Zoe Nelson is a fierce breeze, not a gentle breeze.

California Cruising

Mike Kennedy predicts eight Californians to qualify for national finals, and he might be right. The trick is deciding which eight. After the Mt. SAC champions (Tim Nelson and Laguna Creek jr Rachel Bryan), there has been a big pack of contenders without a leader. The state meet last week sorted things out a bit. Rio Mesa sr Phillip Reid and Granite Bay jr Caitlin Chock were the fastest of the day and may have joined Nelson and Bryan as likely qualifiers for the national finals.

Not to Be Overlooked

  • Utah champion Amber Harper, a finalist last year, who gave Nicole Blood a long fight at the Great American.
  • Other California division winners -- San Lorenzo Valley jr Alex Dunn, Etiwanda sr Mike Poe, Presentation jr Melissa Grelli
  • California state meet runners up -- Woodbridge jr Michael Haddan, 3rd fastest of the day; Arroyo sr Yong-Sung Leal, rounding into shape again after long injury layoff following the World Cross Country championships last March.; and Sultana jr Kelsey Delagardelle.
  • San Francisco sr Teresa McWalters, who will try to join Chantelle Dron of New Hampshire as home schooled runners in the finals.
  • Murrieta Valley jr Liza Pasciuto, a finalist as a freshman 2 years ago.
  • Washington champion Carl Moe, who split Jespersen and Rupp at BorderClash in his only loss of the season.
  • The annual surprise -- a runner who wins at home and tests national calibre competition for the first time at Foot Locker. The Jones boys are good candidates -- Wyoming champion Andrew, unbeaten this season, and Utah champion Tony, who also won the Las Vegas Invitational against regional competition.


Long Layoff after State Meet:
Advantage or Disadvantage?

There is a big discrepancy among the West region states on the timing of the Foot Locker regional in relation to their state meets. California had its state meet last Saturday, whereas the mountain states had their championships more than a month earlier (Montana Oct 19, Utah Oct 23).

This creates arguments over which states benefit. We asked Paul Jorgensen, head coach of Flathead High School, Kalispell MT, to comment. Jorgensen has had huge success at the West region recently. Two years ago, his boys ran 1-3-19 (Seth Watkins, David Vidal and Kurt Michels), and last year freshman Zoe Nelson was 7th and qualified for the national finals.

Here are Coach J's comments:

"When I first started going to Footlocker in the mid 80's I felt that states that have 6-7 weeks between their state meet and the regional footlocker race were at a disadvantage. Over the years I have changed my mind to a certain degree. In the last four or five years the better Flathead kids have done very well at Footlocker. Brett Winegar qualified for Nationals in 1998 and in 2000 Watkins placed 1st, Vidal 3rd and Michels 19th. Of course Zoe and Heidi Lane (CMR) both qualified last year.

"I am beginning to think that not having having a lot of meets is an advantage. We are able to train hard through each week without having to worry about tapering for meets every weekend. I did feel that we needed a tune up for Footlocker this year so we ran all the kids in a time trial. We ran the time trial on November 19 on our home course and Zoe ran a 17:11 in temperatures below 30 degrees with windy conditions. This indicates that Zoe is in great shape and most of my girls ran pretty well also. Some of my boys did not run well but I concluded that they did not take the trial seriously enough.

"My philosophy in preparing kids for XC meets is to try and simulate race situations. In preparing for the tough Mt. SAC course we spend quite a bit of time training for the first half of the race. I feel the first part of the race is the most critical part. Many runners go out too fast in the first mile, which is flat and then die on the hills. We run mile repeats where the kids go out fast for 800 meters and then charge up a hill that is about 800 meters long. We run a lot of fartlek, hills and tempo runs. After the Montana State Meet we take a week of active rest and then jump right into some very tough practices. I encourage our kids to hit their maximum mileage several weeks before Footlocker and then begin to taper and sharpen with speed.

"Zoe runs with the boys in all of our practices. She is usually one of my leaders in most of the practices. If my better boys slack off she is not shy about running ahead of them. She knows what she needs to do and nothing stands in her way. Zoe has been running about 50 miles a week but has dropped her mileage the last two weeks in preparation for Western Regional.

"We are bringing 18 kids and about 18 coaches and parents to Foot Locker."




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