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Foot Locker Northeast
Nov. 28, 2009 at Sunken Meadows State Park, Long Island NY
CT-DE-ME-MD-MA-NH-NJ-NY-PA-RI-VT-DC & overseas military

New "big three" and Udland should lead the way
New England, Pennsylvania runners should make biggest impact

Foot Locker Northeast Boys Preview
by SteveU, Dyestat/ESPN RISE Senior Editor

Without the Rosa twins of New Jersey – ranked US#1 and #4 – at Saturday’s Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships, the 31-year-old series will deal with the most notable absence of potential national champions since the advent of NXN in 2004.  It will really be the first year that the Northeast’s best runners have not been at Foot Locker.  But that doesn’t mean that region will be without worthy championship contenders.  In fact, with the likes of Jersey’s David Oster, PA AAA champ Brad Miles, and CT Open and New England champ John Raneri, there’s talent that only needs a stage from which to shine.

The battle at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island, the temporarily home for the meet while construction is completed at Van Cortlandt Park, is just that stage.  Meet Oster, Miles, and Raneri:

Last spring, Oster was a very solid junior 3200 runner that clocked a 9:09 at the NJ MOC, but from a national perspective, the performance was kind of lost.  In fact, you can be forgiven if you’re outside of Jersey and didn’t hear of the Verona sr. until his Essex County meet, when he ripped a stunning 14:56 to take down then-defending MOC champ Tyler Udland and the record he set on the course in 2008.  Far from a one-hit wonder, Oster then won his section and group meets, and finally took 3rd at the MOC last week.  His 15:30 there was #6 best ever on Holmdel and would have been a real eye-popper in almost any other year.  Now he has the chance for, by far, the biggest win of his career.

North Penn PA is probably best known for its killer 4x800 relay teams, but in Miles they have a consistent top-level harrier who is slowly breaking into a national class level.  After taking 7th in AAA state, 6th at NXN NE, and 54th at NXN Finals last fall, and running a 4:20 1600 in the spring, the senior has really taken charge of the PA scene in 2009.  His only losses have been to the Rosas at Briarwood PA Invite and Jon Vitez in the Eastern States race.  He set a course record to win the AAA state meet and looks a very strong bet to make his first Foot Locker Finals.

A 15:08 for 4th at last spring’s Nike Outdoor 5k, plus a 9:09 3200, tabbed Raneri as someone to watch this fall and he hasn’t disappointed.  His times haven’t been spectacular, but the New Fairfield CT senior swept through his conference, division and state open titles, then won his 2nd New Englands crown (also won track 3200) with a PR 15:40 two weeks ago. 

That brings us to the only returnee from last fall’s top 12 at Vanny, Millburn NJ sr Tyler Udland.  Udland was, in fact, 2nd behind winner and eventual Finals champ Solomon Haile – a performance which very nicely followed his Meet of Champs title.  But since then, Udland hasn’t looked very much like himself.  His 3200 PR last spring was 9:07.29, three seconds slower than his soph PR, and this fall he has trailed the Rosas and Oster, among others.  He finished 8th in the NJ Meet of Champs.  All that said, he’s still a strong candidate to make the FL Northeast team and earn his 2nd San Diego ticket.

So who else beyond last year’s top returnee and the above-mentioned trio of stars should be heeded on what promises to be a cool, partly cloudy and windswept day at Sunken Meadow?

Interestingly, none of the next four from last fall’s FL NE meet appears to be poised to make an impact here.  Alex Saavedra NY (13th in ’08) was 21st in the NY state AA race and isn’t entered in either regional meet this weekend.  Brandon Freyer NY (15th) was 2nd in the NY state Class C race to Max Straneva, who went on to win Feds, but didn’t run Feds himself and is now running NXN NE.  Dave Forward NJ (16th) was 25th in the NJ MOC and, while entered here, will have to really step up to make the team.  Drew Perilli NY (18th) was 9th in both the state AA race and Feds, and is not entered in either race.

The highest finisher from the NY Feds meet entered here is Seton Plattsburgh sr Mike Champagne, who was 7th and it’s not inconceivable that the state could be without a Foot Locker Finalist.

Instead, look for the remaining six qualifiers to come from New England and Pennsylvania.  Wolcott CT sr Chris Bendtsen has improved this fall to the point of winning his CT divisional with the best time of the meet, then getting 2nd only to Raneri at the CT Open and New Englands.  After rolling through Maine a 2nd straight year, Brunswick sr Will Geoghegan took 3rd at New Englands and stands a strong chance of making San Diego.  From New Hampshire comes Portsmouth sr Eric Jenkins, who won the NH class and Meet of Champs meets, but then was just 19th at New Englands.

From PA comes Mt. Lebanon sr Rad Gunzenhauser, who shadowed Miles at the district and state meets, as well as the Carlisle Invite – taking 2 seconds and a third.  North Allegheny PA jr Ryan Gil – 3rd in state AAA, 5th at Carlisle, but who beat Miles and Gunzenhauser at district, is another key contender, as is Dallastown sr Charles Lockwood (3rd at Carlisle and 4th at AAA state). 

Class 4A state runner-up William Neal of Chesapeake is Maryland’s best hope.