Foot Locker Cross Country
Nov 25 - Dec 9, 2006

a DyeStat featured meet

Foot Locker finals index -

Gallery of Finalists - South boys

text by Steve Underwood, photos by PhotoRun

(Explanation of Win/Place/Show section:  As an extra feature, the “Win/Place/Show” section predicts where each finalist can reasonably aspire to finish, with “Win” meaning going for victory, “Place” meaning top 5 or 10, and “Show” meaning top 15-20.  Although only half of the runners will finish in the top 20, it is reasonable to say that’s what each athlete hopes to do, at the very least (no one “wants” to finish in the bottom half), and can do if they have a great day.

1. Ryan Hill
Hickory NC - Hickory HS

Overview:  The highlight of Ryan’s year was obviously the FL South win.  There are some who will say that one or more of the other favorites that day was not going all out or what-have-you, but 14:46 is a very solid time, even on that course.  His Wendy’s win over Griff Graves was also huge.  It’s kind of a stumper why they were in the “3A” race instead of the “Invitational” race there, but Hill’s 14:55 was easily the best of the day there.  The relatively pedestrian 16:00 he won 3A state with, just the 3rd best time of the day there, was obviously not indicative of his abilities.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  1st FL South 14:46, 1st 3A state 16:00, 1st Wendy’s Inv. 14:55, 1st United Way Unifour 15:17, 1st Eye Opener 15:46
2006 Track:  9:16.50 1st Taco Bell, 3A State 9:40.34-1st/4:25.27-2nd,
2005 CC:  15th FL South 15:24, 1st 3A State 16:20,

Win/Place/Show:  WIN – Two different ways Ryan could approach this race come to mind.  Being a regional champ, and with no megastars or really obvious favorites in the field this year, he could get right up there and go for the win.  Or, being a junior, he could run a reasonably conservative race, make sure he finishes strong and doesn’t bonk, and set himself up to be a true favorite next year.  His strategy at FL South leads one to believe he won’t start out crazy fast early, which is a good thing in either case.

2. Ben Hubers
2007, Marietta GA - McEachern HS

Overview:  Ben’s track performances last spring made it clear he would be rated as one of the nation’s top five coming into the season and his decisive triumph at Great American confirmed that he was in the ultra elite.  After he blazed through the rest of the season, his state meet showdown with Girma Mecheso was a disaster, with Ben losing by more than 40 seconds and running slower than last year.  But the contention that he was somewhat sick that meet was confirmed at FL South as he beat Mecheso and was 2nd only to Hill with a solid time.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  2nd FL South 14:51, 2nd 5A state 15:44, 1st Great American 15:38, 1st Jesse Owens 14:58. 1st Clara Bowl 15:43, 1st Region 5AAAAA 15:40
2006 Track:  3rd NON 4:09.76y, 8:57.33 1st Music City, 5A State 9:05.89-1st/4:12.97-1st, 4:08.65 1st Region, 2nd Taco Bell 4:17.82y
2005 CC:  18th FL Finals 15:34, 4th FL South 14:55, 1st 5A State 15:29, 1st Jesse Owens 15:20, 1st Tenn. Classic 14:57 (3M)
2005 Track:  1st 5A State 9:21.21, 1st Cobb Champs 4:18.55
2004 CC:  22nd FLS 15:32

Win/Place/Show:  WIN – With the state meet disaster deep in the rear view mirror, there’s no reason why Ben shouldn’t go for the win.  That doesn’t mean go out and try and run everyone into the ground, but a smart race that puts him in position to use his 4:09 mile speed.  With a good day, he has a good chance to win or at least place very high.

3. Griff Graves
2008, Abingdon VA - Abingdon HS

Overview:  Griff, with a cool name, great bloodlines, and with a strong racing history in AL, VA, and IL (where his dad starred as a prep), has carved out a unique niche on the prep scene.  He’s obviously a very good runner, too, winning his state meet in VA.  As a jr., he’s also been a frequent runner-up and had some disappointing races here and there.  It looked like he had a good chance to make the South team, but not many were expecting top three.  With his best race of his career, Griff may have jumped to the next level of elite racing.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  3rd FL South 14:55, 1st 2A state 15:55, 2nd Wendy’s Inv 15:03, 2nd Peoria Notre Dame 14:41 (3M), 1st Highlands Dist. 15:15 (3M), 2nd Maymont 15:46,
2006 Track:  2A State 3rd-4:29.38/2nd-9:30.69, 7th Prospect IL meet 9:13.9, 2nd Mobile 9:22.53, SouTrkClassic 4:23.88y-7th/9:35.92-8th, Mtn Brook 1st-9:18.30/3rd-4:18.87,
2005 CC:  DNR FL South, 1st 2A State 15:52,

Win/Place/Show:  PLACE/SHOW – If Griff is feeling good and runs a solid, smart race all the way, it’s not out of the question that he could be top ten.  But 15th-20th is probably more realistic for him as a junior.  Obviously, he will have a chance to be one of the nation’s best, if not the best, next year.

4. Girma Mecheso
2008 (SR eligility), Lawrenceville GA - Berkmar HS

Overview:  Girma has truly been one of the biggest newcomers, if not THE biggest, on the prep scene this year.  Because they didn’t meet during the regular season, the state meet showdown between Girma and Ben Hubers was one of the most anticipated in the country.  Ben was sick and had an off day, but Girma’s 15:01 on a tough, slow course was probably as good as any in the nation all year.  Georgians in attendance that day knew they had seen something really special.  He tried to blow the field away at McAlpine, however, and did not get the same results.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  4th FL South 14:57, 1st 5A state 15:01, 1st Furman 15:52, 1st Alexander/Asics 15:17, 1st Coach Wood Invite 15:28, 1st Region 8-5A 15:01, 1st Gwinnett Co. 15:00
2005 Track:  3rd 5A state 9:28.17

Win/Place/Show:  WIN – It has been reported that Girma will be a bit too old next fall as a senior to return to the prep scene, so he might as well go for it this weekend.  His talent should be right there with anyone.  It looks like he may have been a bit impulsive at FL South, so he may want to temper his mid-race moves until a bit later.  This field may be too good to run away from mid-race.

5. Mike Spooner
2007, Springfield VA - West Springfield HS

Overview:  Mike has put it together this fall for a great senior campaign, going unbeaten among Virginians all season long and decisively winning state.  His only loss before FL South was to fellow FL Finalist Emil Heineking in the latter’s home state.  There’s a sense that he didn’t go quite all out in FL South- though he ran well and deep-sixed memories of a disappointment there last year – and should have another level left in San Diego.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  5th FL South 15:06, 1st 3A state 15:53, 1st Maymont 15:35, 2nd Spartan Boardman 16:01, 1st Patriot Dist. 14:57 (3M), 1st Northern Reg. 15:01 (3M),
2006 Track:  3A State 5th-4:19.42/1st-9:19.80, 9th Penn 3k 8:36.87, 4:17.10y 4th Sou. Trk Classic, 9:20.62i 1st State Ind,
2005 CC:  39th FL South 15:45, 2nd 3A State 15:26,

Win/Place/Show:  PLACE/SHOW – In the last race of his sr year, and being the leader of the 3-man VA contingent at Balboa, Spooner will want to close out his career with a bang.  Contending for the win would be a tall order, though, and a too-fast start could be debilitating.  A smart race and great effort might get him in the top ten.

6. Duncan Phillips
2007, College Station TX - A&M Consolidated HS

Overview:  Phillips has had ongoing struggles with injuries, including back and hamstring problems, but has hung in there to be consistently the #2 runner in Texas.  His 6th at FL South was a typically solid effort.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  6th FL South 15:09, 2nd 5A state 15:15, 2nd Nike South 15:20, 1st Klein 15:29, 2nd Texas A&M 16:04, 4th Chile Pepper 15:12, 1st Montgomery 15:09 (3M), 1st Region II 14:44 (3M)
2006 Track:  4:13.41 1st 5A State, 4:13.49 1st Klein Relays, 2nd Region 4:17.90, 1:52.61 1st Kingwood TrueTeam, 9th Boston In 4:13.19yi
2005 CC:  37th FL Finals 16:18, 5th FL South 14:59, 1st 5A State 15:20, 1st Humble Inv. 15:13, 1st Region 15:29, 4th A&M Inv. 15:07 (3M)
2005 Track:  2nd 5A State 4:10.96, 7th Texas Relays 9:21.47
2004 CC:  DNC FLS

Win/Place/Show:  SHOW – Phillips would no doubt dearly like to erase the memory of finishing near the back here last year.  He certainly has the talent for at least top 20.  If he was 15th-20th, and had decent position and health this week at the end to use his miler’s speed, it will give him a nice boost into the spring track season.  With his 4:10 (soph!)/1:52 speed, he can outkick almost anyone when he’s healthy.

7. Colby Lowe
2008, Southlake TX - Carroll HS

Overview:  Colby has had the great junior campaign that his 9:05 as a soph indicated he was capable of.  He cruised through the season in Texas, winning everything and improving his times on most courses.  His race at FL South certainly made it appear he was just running to qualify with Phillips, with his team having made NTN for another tough race the next week.  He ran very solid there, taking 4th.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  4th NTN 16:43, 7th FL South 15:09, 1st 5A state 15:05, 1st Nike South 15:13, 1st Texas A&M 15:50, 1st Marcus I 15:14, 1st Region I 15:04 (3M)
2006 Track:  5A State 9:05.17-1st/4:15.32-3rd, 4:13.72 1st District, Region 9:19.39-1st/4:16.13-1st, 9:10.62 1st Jesuit-Sheaner Relays
2005 CC:  29th FL Finals 15:52, 9th FL South 15:07, 2nd 5A State 15:22, 1st Texas A&M 14:38 (3M), 1st Marcus Inv 15:17, 1st Azle Inv. 14:27 (3M)
2005 Track:  1st District 9:31.36, 3rd District 4:23.61
2004 CC:  65th FLS 15:58, 30th NTN 16:45

Win/Place/Show:  PLACE/SHOW – Colby will find, like others this year and before him, that the FL region-NTN-FL Finals triple is a brutal one.  Not as impulsive a starter as he was last year when he burst into the lead here as a soph, he needs to run smart and realize it will be tough to have the best race of his life here.  Still, he should improve a lot on his 29th here last year.  Getting 15th is very realistic, and maybe higher.

8. Michael Anderson
2007, Williston FL - P.K. Yonge HS

Overview:  Anderson was certainly something of a surprise getting in for the FL South team, though he had run well at McAlpine in the past, winning soph boys two years ago and taking 37th last year.  But the best thing Anderson did was save his best races for the end of the season, as he has continued to improve.  Besides his win at 1A state (best time overall), he ran in the FACA meet the next week and kicked it up to a 15:23 and another nice win.  That gave him the big ‘Mo” he needed to run great and qualify.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  8th FL South 15:12, 1st 1A state 15:42, 1st FACA 15:23, 8th Invite 15:48, 1st Gator Inv. 15:40
2005 Track:  1A/2A state 4:26.35-3rd/9:47.91-1st, 3rd Holy Trinity 9:28.80
2005 CC:  37th FL South 15:42, 1st 1A state 15:53, 6th 15:42

Win/Place/Show:  SHOW – As much as Anderson has progressed late this fall, taking 15th-20th would be a good goal for him.

9. Luke Lovelace
2008, Chapin SC - Chapin HS

Overview:  Lovelace – who had a good season in SC, but really gave no indication he was ready for this – has qualified with a stunning effort.  Being just a junior, big things could be ahead for him.  His best experience before FL South was probably the early-season Eye-Opener, where he was 3rd to Hill and Jay Heller GA.  Last year, he was the 3rd sophomore behind Lowe and Hill.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  9th FL South 15:13, 1st 3A state (2nd overall), 1st Gilbert Meet 15:16, 1st Disney World Classic 15:56, 3rd Eye Opener 16:13,
2006 Track:  3A state 2nd-9:45.85/1st-4:20.60, State Qualifier 1st 9:41.12/1st-4:28.06
2005 CC:  40th FL South, 2nd 3A state 16:16

Win/Place/Show:  SHOW – Like most runners in his spot – a lower qualifier in his junior year – top 15-20 is a solid goal.  He will have to have a very good day to do it.

10. Thomas Porter
2009, Fredericksburg VA - Mountain View HS

Overview:  With just a super freshman year in both XC and track, Porter was looked at as an outside shot to qualify this fall.  He started slow, having gotten a late start in training, but at season’s end he was 3rd in 3A state and has kept getting better.  Even with the strong finish, his FL South performance was a thrilling surprise.  He is the only soph in the field and will be joined by two other Virginians.

Leading Stats
2006 CC:  10th FL South 15:13, 3rd 3A state 16:08, 1st Commonwealth Dist. 16:08, 1st NW Region 16:14, 1st Smoothie King 16:47, 5th Great Meadows 16:25, 4th Oatlands 16:28,
2006 Track:  2nd 3A State 9:19.97, 2nd District 4:23.24
2005 CC:  1st (freshman race) FL South 15:43, 8th 3A State 15:57,

Win/Place/Show:  SHOW – Porter will be in a tough race that definitely favors the experience of upper classmen.  But he will have lots of support from his VA teammates and he can shoot for the top half if he runs smart and keeps Spooner and Graves in sight.



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