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Foot Locker 2003

Northeast Region
Nov 29, 2003 at Van Cortlandt Park, New York NY

PA runners
Illness and inexperience hurt PA's best class in years on Vanny's unforgiving trails

by Don Rich, PennTrackXC

On paper, this was the best PA class in years. Three had broken a legend's CR at Belmont Plateau. One had beaten the new record holder and won a state title. Another had been this way before, going to the finals in 2002. Another had set a CR on Slippery Rock's hilly layout. And three had fared well against the Midwest's best. So what happened?

First and foremost, it was the depth of the competiton in the Northeast this year. Experienced runners, six of whom had qualified in 2002. Add to that illness that struck returning PA Finalist Ian Gottesfeld the week before the race. The bug also struck teammate Greg Williams, who had finished second in one of the hot races at Great American in September.

David Mock, who had PA's best finish of the day in 12th, was the only runner of the four we talked with who thought their lack of experience on the course wasn't a major factor. But he did admit that prior experience at Vanny could have helped him a little. A little could have been four places and a trip to San Diego. Steve Hallinan wasn't used to running in such fast crowds, and as the experienced Ian Gottesfeld stated, the course can be very discouraging if you don't meet your expectations early. And James O'Toole, who ran second for PA, had too much left. Again, because he was surprised by the end of the hills.

We tried to talk with a few of the others who were among the favorites for a spot in the top eight, and understandably not everyone was ready to talk. But Gottesfeld, Mock, O'Toole and Hallinan were. In their own words, they share their experiences. Experiences which may help future PA stars demonstrate just how good they really are.

Ian Gottesfeld, 2002 Foot Locker Finalist, 19th in 2003 @ NE FL, 3rd for PA in 16:05.2

PTXC: What effect did the cold you got early in the week have on your race?
Gottesfeld: It was more than a cold. I had a high fever through the middle of the week. It subsided Thursday. I wasn't going to run because I didn't think I could qualify. I actually didn't train Tuesday or Thursday, and ran a very painful 20 minutes on Wednesday just to have the opportunity to race if I could. I felt that I had worked hard for this, and didn't want to regret it if I was better on Saturday. I was feeling better, but I was tired. Greg (Williams - Ian's teammate), had to stay home. He hadn't run all week.

PTXC: Talk about the race.
Gottesfeld: It wasn't quick because it was windy. It wasn't that bad. But there was more depth than last year. Overall it went a little faster this year, and I was running a lot slower than last year. I started further back at the woods. I think I was 80th at the Mile, and moved up. But I was just tired the whole way.

PTXC: To qualify for Nationals, how important is the experience of racing Van Cortlandt in a Seeded race?
Gottesfeld: Van Cortlandt is a weird course. You need experience for it. You can get discouraged on that course. You can't always see where you are with the up and down and up and down. It is not like a normal course.

PTXC: Were you surprised you ran 3rd for PA in 19th?
Gottesfeld: We ran all right, but I didn't think I would beat that many of our guys. I wasn't 100%. I am in awesome shape this year, better than last. Briarwood was all base and Great American was a non-race. I would have been under 15:40 and in the race.

PTXC: What are your plans from here?
Gottesfeld: I might do the 3000 next week and get my States qualifier out of the way, then take some time off. I also may do XC Junior Nationals. I really love cross country.

David Mock, 12th in 2003 @ NE FL, 1st for PA in 15:53.2

PTXC: What was your race strategy, and did it go as you had planned?
Mock: I've never been there before, and from what people told me, I didn't want to go out too hard. They said people would die after the first mile. I wanted to go out easier and be in the top 50, and use the hills to my advantage and try to work my way up. I heard someone say I was 47th at the mile. I started to work my way up and I was passing ten kids at a time. There was a turn by a road after the two-mile mark where I could see the leaders, and I counted back, so I knew I was 12th. There was a big gap in front of and behind me.

PTXC: Having never run Van Cortlandt before, what role did experience play in your race?
Mock: If I had known the course, seen it earlier than the day before, it might have helped a little. But I made up a good plan. That was the thing to do, or it would have been Mid-East (Ohio) all over again, where I went out too fast and died. But I wish I would have been able to push and been closer to the lead pack to use my kick to be there. I did feel that in the first mile I wasn't trying.

PTXC: So overall, you were pleased?
Mock: Yes, I was pleased. I ran a pretty good race. I couldn't have done more. Another goal of the race was to be the top PA guy, and I got that, so I am pleased.

PTXC: How's the college search?
Mock: I am not getting as many calls as I thought I would. It's still the same four it has been. I have visited Bucknell and Pitt, and I'm going to visit Penn State and William & Mary. I didn't have good track times last year because I was coming off an injury.

James O'Toole, 16th in 2003 @ NE FL, 2nd for PA in 16:01.3

PTXC: What was your race plan, and how well did it go?
O'Toole: I followed it pretty well. I expected it to go out really fast, and I didn't want to kill myself before the back hills. So I went our pretty conservatively. I think I was 50th in 4:56 at the mile. And that was where I wanted to be. And I just started moving up on the hills. It was good for my confidence, because I didn't really change my pace a lot, and I was passing people. So when I did pick it up, I worked my way up throughout. But I was expecting more hills, than just the all uphill and then all downhill. Then I got on the downhill I realized there were no more hills, nothing to save it for. So I just started rolling, and I picked up five or six people in the last half mile or so. I had too much left at the end. I should have worked harder on those hills. I could see the edge of the lead pack for awhile, and I was trying to work towards it, but I didn't focus enough on it.

PTXC: What would you have done differently?
O'Toole: I guess I'd work harder on the hills, but that's difficult psychologically, because it is the only hard part of the course, and it's so far from the finish that you're sort of afraid to spend that much, when you still have a mile-and-a-half to go, but I think that's what I should have done.

PTXC: What are your plans for Track?
O'Toole: I'm going to take two weeks off. I don't think I'm going to take Indoor that seriously, just build. I think I'm going to run the mile more often. I had a good experience at AOC last summer in the DMR, running a fast 1600 split of 4:12.3. And maybe the 4x800. I will look to get into either the mile or the 3k at Penn. And at States, maybe double in the 4x800 and the mile. Ryan Rex is back with a 1:55, and we have a couple of guys right around 2:00. I think we should be able to dip under 7:50.

PTXC: Where's the college choice?
O'Toole: I'm hoping to go to Princeton at this point by early decision. And I'm also looking at Yale and Georgetown.

Steve Hallinan, 25th in 2003 @ NE FL, 5th for PA in 16:11.3

PTXC: How'd the race pan out today?
Hallinan: I accepted the fact that it wasn't my day early in the woods. My workouts leading up to the race were good. Warm-ups felt good. But in the woods, nothing was there. I was using my height on the downhills, but it seemed every time I got closer, they were opening up even more. I got out well. But my legs were starting to feel heavy on the other side of the bridge. My breathing was fine. I was right there. But it would have been better to be in front and feeling like I'm in control.

PTXC: Did your lack of experience in this specific race have anything to do with your performance?
Hallinan: I can't make excuses, but inexperience did affect me a little bit. It was weird seeing all those people at the mile. I am used to just me and a few others. I just couldn't get moving. They weren't coming back. I went through in 4:50, but it felt faster than that. I normally like to relax, but we were moving. I only ever ran the freshman race here, never the seeded. I think it's easier to set the control and then push. It is a whole other thing when you have to think what they're going to do. But I was in the top 12 at the mile, and normally when I have that second gear, it wasn't there.

PTXC: What are your indoor plans?
Hallinan: I'm going to take a week off. We'll do the DMR. One of last year's freshmen went 1:59, and we have a bunch of guys at 2-flat. We should go 7:50 Indoor for the 4x800. And in that DMR, Callanan and Thomas will battle it out in the 1200. And we always seem to have someone in school who can go 50. The DMR should be good.

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