Jordan in Rarified Air
by Steve (steveu) Underwood, with “Hill” reports and interviews from Kirsten O’Hara
Things looked like they might have been tough for mega-talented Mission Valley Prep CA fr. Jordan Hasay a little more than a mile into the 27th Foot Locker National Finals in San Diego Saturday.
For probably the first time in her short prep career, she was surrounded by a phalanx of other competitors nearly halfway through a race and defending national champ Aislinn Ryan, the Warwick Valley NY sr., had been hammering the pace at the front. Heck, a week earlier at FL West she had really had competition for the first time this year and that had ended quite well. But this was the national finals and she had been a bundle of nerves two nights earlier. Could she take the heat?
The answer was a resounding “yes.” After a staggering final mile that no one could answer, Hasay had shown the rest of the country what California has seen all year: When “Air Jordan” is in full flight, she’s unstoppable. She became just the second freshman to triumph in the 27 history of the Finals and her 17:05 was the fastest on the San Diego course since Julia Stamps’ 16:41 in 1994. The only other 9th-grader to be crowned champion was Erin Davis of Saratoga NY in 1993.
Hasay was followed by Reno NV jr. Marie Lawrence (17:19), who developed an even bigger margin over ahead of third. That spot went to Ryan (17:34), who had been overtaken by Mt. Spokane WA sr. Megan O’Reilly (17:36) before returning the favor, and Serrano CA soph. Kauren Tarver (17:40).
“As soon as the race starts, I can tell if I’m going to have a good race,” said Hasay. She did and she did. So dominant was she on the last hill that she accidentally said “what hill?” when asked about how she approached it. Moments later she admitted there were times in the final mile she was concerned she was going to overtake the lead cart. But it all reflected a well-measured race plan. Having clearly learned from a crash and burn at Stanford earlier this year, she said “If I go out faster than 5:20, I die.” She didn’t and she didn’t.
The biggest obstacle for Hasay was to overcome Ryan. Bidding to add her name to the list of those who have won here twice, the New York Federation winner put her foot on the accelerator from nearly the start. Amazingly, she couldn’t pull away from the eager field by more than a few seconds at any one point. She led through the mile in 5:18, with Mantua Crestwood OH sr. Bridget Franek, Tarver, and Westfield TX jr. Nicole Jones leading a stream of others in 5:20. Corona del Mar CA sr. Annie St. Geme, coming off NTN, and Detroit Lakes MN sr. Hanna Grinaker were also close by.
But most of those followers fell back and were replaced by Lawrence and Hasay. Eventually, O’Reilly made it a foursome. First time up the hill, Ryan was up and over, continuing to try and pull away from the pack and establish herself. Lawrence, O’Reilly, St Geme, Hasay were in close pursuit. Hasay was gapped somewhat going down the hill, but then she made it up on the flat.
Just past the two-mile mark (11:03), however, Hasay started to push it and, very quickly, it was all over. The other contenders were depleted from the energy they’d spent to that point and she seemed amazingly fresh. With splits that were about 5:21 (off the lead) -5:42 (equal lead) – 5:26, it wasn’t so much how blazing the last mile was, but that she could really race it while the initial pace had forced the others into near-survival mode.
The pinnacle of Hasay’s performance was probably the second time up the hill: She charged up looking easy, but really pushing it – well out in front of Lawrence. So moved was veteran track journalist and announcer Doug Speck that he exclaimed, “Look at her motor up the hill!”
Meanwhile, Lawrence then came up with a gap on Ryan. Lawrence looked very good and Ryan looked like she was working a bit. O’Reilly was close behind at this point and St. Geme was falling back somewhat. On the backside, Hasay was charging well ahead of Lawrence, who looked good. Ryan and O’Reilly were working it going down as well. St Geme started to establish herself from the pack of girls she ran up the hill with.
Lawrence would pull well away from the others to become the first three-time runner-up in meet history, beating the girl she was second to last year. Apparently, at least on this day, the silver was enough for “Mel,” even if it was for the third time. “I felt good and ran the best that I could today,” she said, “but the last 800 was tough. I had to give it all I had. I just figured that it was Jordan’s day today. She’s an amazing runner and she deserves it.”
In addition, a gracious Ryan didn’t really have any second thoughts about the way she took off at the start. “I knew I didn’t want to have anything left at the end or any regrets,” she said. “I felt awesome at the start and when I feel that good I don’t want to deny it.
“I look up to Marie,” she added. “She deserves an award for doing what she’s done three years a in a row. And for Jordan to run like that her freshman year is awesome.”
In another corner of the bullpen, O’Reilly was shaking her head at the race’s intensity and the performances of her competitors. “That was hard, really hard,” she said. “I was pretty comfortable at the mile, but it seemed like they kept going faster and faster. Jordan’s great, just really focused.
“I wanted to get third so bad. I wanted to pass Aislinn back, but when we were going up the hill the last time, I was like, ‘Oh crap, I’m spent.’”
Still, the smiling senior was very happy with how she placed and the whole fall. “Just to have this good of a season this year is amazing. Coach (Sean Linder) said the season is like a big cake and this is the icing.”
By moving up from 16th last year for her fifth, Tarver gave the West a 1-2-4-5 finish. Then St. Geme ran out of gas before the finish, losing several places but getting through a courageous final 50 meters for 13th to complete the West victory. They ruled with with 22 points, followed by the Midwest (56), South (63), and Northeast (66).
The Midwest team can thank the Minnesota girls for most of its success. As she did in the region meet, Grinaker had a breakthrough race, taking 7th in 17:46, while Holy Family Catholic sr. Bria Wetsch ran solidly for 8th in the same time. Like St. Geme, Lakeville North sr. Elizabeth Yetzer collapsed at the end, but gutted it across for 14th in 17:56. Region champ Keara Sammons, however, was never able to unleash her killer finish and wound up 17th.
“The first loop I was very comfortable,” said Grinaker. “Then I got a cramp in my side that slowed me up somewhat. I’m not one to make excuses, though. I’m very happy with how I did. This weekend has been something I’ll never forget. It’s been awesome.”
Along with Ryan’s aggressive attempt to keep her title, the Northeast got a virtuoso performance from Southern Regional NJ jr. Danielle Tauro, who moved up smartly to get sixth at the end (17:41)..
Scoring Teams and Points:
1. West 25 (1 2 4 5 13)
2. Midwest 56 (7 8 10 14 17)
3. South 63 (9 11 12 15 16)
4. Northeast 66 (3 6 18 19 20)
1 Jordan Hasay (9) West Mission College Prep Arroyo Grade CA 17:05
2 Marie Lawrence (11) West Reno H.S. Reno NV 17:19
3 Aislinn Ryan (12) Northeast Warwick Valley H.S. Bellvale NY 17:34
4 Megan O'Reilly (12) West Mt. Spokane H.S. Colbert WA 17:36
5 Kauren Tarver (10) West Serrano H.S. Wrightwood CA 17:40
6 Danielle Tauro (11) Northeast Southern Regional H.S. Manakhawkin NJ 17:41
7 Hanna Grinaker (12) Midwest Detroit Lakes H.S. Detroit Lakes MN 17:46
8 Bria Wetsch (12) Midwest Holy Family Catholic H.S. Chaska MN 17:46
9 Aurora Scott (10) South Oaktree Academy Portsmouth VA 17:49
10 Betsy Bies (11) Midwest Yankton H.S. Yankton SD 17:50
11 Catherine White (11) South Northside H.S. Roanoke VA 17:53
12 Brooke Upshaw (12) South Southlake Carroll Senior H.S. Southlake TX 17:54
13 Anne St. Geme (12) West Corona Del Mar H.S. Newport Beach CA 17:54
14 Elizabeth Yetzer (12) Midwest Lakeville North H.S. Lakeville MN 17:56
15 Emily Reese (10) South Chamblee H.S. Dunwoody GA 17:57
16 Kathy Kroeger (9) South Independence H.S. Franklin TN 17:57
17 Keara Sammons (12) Midwest Smoky Hill H.S. Aurora CO 17:58
18 Bridget Franek (12) Midwest Crestwood H.S. Hiram OH 18:00
19 Elisabeth Deir (11) Northeast Honeoye Falls Lima H.S. Lima NY 18:00
20 Alexandra Kosinski (11) West Oak Ridge H.S. El Dorado Hills CA 18:07
21 Liz Costello (12) Northeast Conestoga H.S. Wayne PA 18:09
22 Lindsey Ferguson (12) Northeast Saratoga Springs H.S. Greenfield Center NY 18:10
23 Miranda Walker (12) South Southlake Carroll Senior H.S. Southlake TX 18:12
24 Cystal Reed (12) West Fountain Valley H.S. Fountain Valley CA 18:14
25 Lindsay Anderson (10) Midwest Leeds H.S. Leeds ND 18:15
26 Kari Hardt (12) West Queen Creek H.S. Queen Creek AZ 18:19
27 Nicole Jones (11) South Westfield H.S. Houston TX 18:20
28 Nicole Blood (12) Northeast Saratoga Springs H.S. Gansevoort NY 18:21
29 Christy Adamyk (11) West Glendora H.S. Claremont CA 18:22
30 Bona Jones (12) South Estero H.S. Fort Myers FL 18:24
31 Caitlin Lane (10) Northeast Saratoga Springs H.S. Ganesvoort NY 18:27
32 Allison Eckert (11) Midwest Sioux Falls Roosevelt H.S. Sioux Falls SD 18:29
33 Merideth Snow (12) Midwest Eureka H.S. Wildwood MO 18:33
34 Kelly Parrish (12) South Ocala Vanguard H.S. Ocala FL 18:35
35 Alexandra Banfich (10) Midwest Culver Girls Academy Plymouth IN 18:38
36 Hannah Davidson (10) Northeast Saratoga Springs H.S. Saratoga Springs NY 18:40
37 Briana Jackucewicz (9) Northeast Colts Neck H.S. Farmingdale NJ 18:46
38 Shelby Greany (9) Northeast Suffern H.S. Suffern NY 18:58
39 Cassie Ricks (12) West Freemont H.S. West Haven UT 19:12
40 Kate Niehaus (12) South Spring Valley H.S. Columbia SC