|From the Midwest ... by SteveU|
Naperville XC Club
A moment that looked like and might have been disastrous wound being a pivot of sorts, a pivot on which the season of Neuqua Valley IL (running here as Naperville) turned to a new level. James Riddle, the team’s 3rd man, had finally rejoined the team at the Illinois State Meet, his first race back from a stress fracture that had laid him up most of the season. He had no problem with his injury during the race, but his body for some reason wasn’t ready to handle the effort and he “ran out of sugar.”
“I guess I went into a hypoglycemic state,” he recalled. “I crawled in the last 300 meters.”
He was just 86th, but his effort was inspirin; from that point on, it’s been more. He’s was back into Naperville XC’s top 3 at NTN Midwest, placing 13th in 15:48, as the club rolled to a national berth. Then at Foot Locker Midwest, he and teammate Danny Pawola ran together to 31st and 33rd in 15:50 and 15:52.
The team knows that standout Chris Derrick, who set records at the IL state meet and on the NTN MW course before cruising in 2nd at FL MW, will lead them at or near the very top. But they also know that it’s a team effort that will get them a team title.
“Our key is that we just do the same thing every race,” said Riddle. “We don’t back down no matter who or where it is. We’ve developed an inner confidence that if we do what we’re supposed to do, things will fall into place.
Their school team has gotten better each of the last four years with a group that now includes five seniors and went from 10th to 9th to 1st in the state. “We’ve always known this would be a special year with the people we had,” said Riddle.
Elmhurst XC Club
It was clear from the skits Thursday night that one tradition has continued to live on, and will probably always live on. You heard it when a certain Illinois team took the stage in a “performance” that was short and to the point. There have been slight variations each year, but it basically always comes out the same.
“We’re (Elmhurst/Kroy) and we’re here to run.”
End of “skit.”
That typifies the approach the Elmhurst TC (York HS, which has also gone by the Kroy club name) has taken since NTN I, where Sean McNamara and the Dettmans led the club to the inaugural title.
“This is a business trip,” said club coach/parent Scott Stein as the team relaxed at the Tiger Woods Center Friday.
Senior Tom Achtien added to the approach the team takes: “It’s just like any other race; it’s just a different course and different competition.” That’s not to say the team doesn’t have fun or socialize a bit with other teams; it’s just a controlled approach and a mindset.
Meanwhile, with Achtien’s individual success, including 2nd at 3A state behind Chris Derrick, he was considering adding Foot Locker Midwest to a schedule that already included the NTN meets. But his shin was bothering him a bit and he knew the team needed him fresh here. He opted out … and opted in to being full strength here.
From the Southeast ... By Brett Honeycutt
OAK RIDGE XC CLUB (boys attend Oak Ridge High, TN; won Tennessee AAA title; won Southeast regional; Automatic bid to nationals)
Oak Ridge XC Club's Chris Cole suffered a preseason injury to his arch and has never worked his way back to No. 1 where he was last year for the team. It hasn't slowed Oak Ridge XC down, though. They came through to win the NTN Southeast Region last weekend in Alabama.
"The fact we can do that without Chris Cole...is amazing," said Allen Etheridge, who coached Oak Ridge, TN this season.
"Our No. 1 Maclean (O'Donnell) is a solid No. 1 and is one of the top runners coming in" to this weekend's meet.
--- The kids aren't the only ones who were wide-eyed when they stepped on Nike's campus and were overwhelmed with all the gifts (shoes, uniforms, etc.)
"I'm taking this all in and I'm calm," Etheridge said. "But inside I'm giddy."
--- Despite Oak Ridge XC Club's first appearance, it's not the kids who are nervous.
"I'm more nervous than they are," Etheridge said. "This is a really loose group."
--- You won't hear Oak Ridge saying they are just happy to be here at NTN.
"I want to get something out of it," Etheridge said. "I don't think Nike invited us out here just because they love us. They invited us to compete. We're here to compete and they're very fit. They've tried to figure out where we are place-wise. We're here to gun after it. We're not just here to play."
SUWANEE XC CLUB (girls attend Collins Hill High in Georgia; won fifth consecutive Georgia 5A state title; won Southeast Regional; Automatic bid to nationals.)
Losing your No. 1 and No. 2 runner wouldn't give too many teams confidence coming into next season, especially when those top two went to run at Division I schools Columbia (Jackie Drouin) and Vanderbilt (Erin Guglielmo)
But it didn't diminish they hopes of Suwanee XC Club, which ran as Collins Hill, GA during the season. They added a transfer from Ohio (Amanda Winslow), had a huge improvement by Nicky Akande and had several freshman/JV runners from last year perform at a high level this year.
"Just from all the work we put in over the summer, we knew what we were all capable of doing if we really worked," Winslow said. "Whey you take away the top two, you realize what you have left."
Winslow, who has run No. 1 for the team, transferred from a small school in Ohio in the spring and finished second in the 1,600 at the Georgia state championships; Akande, running at No. 2 this season, dropped six minutes off her time and has consistenly run in the 18's this season; Freshman Sydney Williams was 12th in the 800 at the USATF JO nationals last year and has run No. 5 all year; Briana Crawford ran JV last year and has run a solid No. 3/4 this season and junior Allison McGinty, who was No. 5 for the team last year, has been running 3/4 this season.
"I guess you can say we're confident," said Jeffrey Hoffman, Suwanee's assistant coach. "Andrew Hudson has been coaching (this team) for 10 years and he just had a strong feeling about this team. I mean, the way they ran over the summer and trained" really showed him.
That feeling was confirmed at Great American in mid October when the girls, who ran for Collins Hill during the season, finished second after being ranked ninth in the Southeast. It was their only loss this season.
--- The NTN course, with its five camel-back hills, standing pools of water from rain, and ankle to shin-deep mud on various parts of the course, doesn't concern Suwanee, which views itself as a strength running type of team.
"They're not as great on the speed courses," Hoffman said. "We love hills...We're all excited as a team, parents, coaching staff. We think it's very good for us."
--- It's a common thing to be awestruck once you step foot on Nike's campus for the first time and are given all the goodies (shoes, uniforms, etc.).
"It's just crazy," Winslow said. "It doesn't even seem real yet...because it's just exciting to come race, but everything else here makes it even better."
WILMINGTON XC CLUB (girls attend Tatnall School in Delaware and won a fourth straight state title; second at the Southeast Regional; automatic bid to nationals).
--- Amazing stat: Only 130 girls are in the high school at Tatnall. There are senior classes that have 3, 4 or 5 times that amount in some schools.
--- Amazing stat II: 16 girls run cross country, meaning more than 10 percent of the girls at the school run.
"We try to make the most out of a little bit," Wilmington XC coach Patrick Castagno said.
--- Wilmington XC didn't press the panic button in September after finishing sixth at the Maymont Invitational in Virginia. It would have been easy to do that, considering five Southeast ranked teams and five Southeast Bubble teams competed.
After last year, he said they learned to push back the peak so it wasn't a surprise to him that the team didn't perform well then.
"September is too early." Castagno said. "If you want to run well in December, and you're doing well then, you can't do that."
Said No. 1 runner Juliet Bottorff: "We knew we weren't going to be ready in the fall. We train for the end of the season."
--- The gratitude is evident at something like this event, where Nike makes everyone feel important and gives so much to the kids. Castagno expressed as much after arriving on Thursday.
"This is the greatest, most unbelievable experience they're ever going to have in running," Castagno said. "As a coaching staff and as a parent group, we're extremely thankful to Nike. This elevates the sport to a level I can't imagine. For it to be available to these kids..."
--- Not happy just to be here is a sentiment by some, especially Wilmington XC, Castagno and No. 1 runner Juliet Bottorff especially after experiencing everything last year.
"Last year, we tried to be here for the race, but you're here for four days. You're treated like royalty. They personalize everything," Bottorff said.
Castagno added that Bottorff told the local paper in Delaware that "Last year was about the experience and this year is about the race."
--- It's easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of being on Nike's campus, the way they treat everyone and forget your here to run in a national championship race.
Having been here last year, Wilmington XC was able to somewhat prepare themselves and other teammates who didn't get to experience it last year.
"Our team is almost all new," Bottorff said. "More than half...haven't seen this. We've told them all 100 times so they know what to expect, but they sort of have to experience it on their own."
Said Castagno: "When you come here for the first time, you don't know what the day brings. This year, we have four girls returning. This year, I don't feel some of the anxiety we had last year coming in to this year, so I hope it won't give us the deer-in-the-headlights affect."
--- Despite this being the second consecutive year at NTN, Castagno still emphasized to his team not to take this for granted.
"We told them before we left, you are part of an elite few in the country who get to do this and don't take it for granted," Everything you do, enjoy every part of it."
CAUTION XC (girls attend Mountain Brook in Alabama where they won fifth consecutive Alabama 6A title and 11th in 15 years; SE region finish 3rd; at-large bid to nationals)
--- Don't be surprised to see Caution XC, which has athletes who attend Mountain Brook, AL, surprise some after finishing third in its regional and getting an at-large bid.
Catherine Diethelm, who had run No. 2/3 for the team this season, ran the regional one day after being cleared by doctors. She had worn a boot on her foot for 3 weeks to help with a badly sprained ankle (she had biked and ran on a treadmill in place of not being able to run). She's been running a week now, everyone is healthy and Caution XC looks to be back on track. (athletes on the team, that ran for Mountain Brook during the season, dominanted Alabama and the Southeast Region most of the last part of the season, winning the Alabama 6A title for the 11th time in 15 years despite missing No. 1 Madeline Morgan and Diethelm at the state meet).
--- Want the definition of team? There's many examples this week, I'm sure, but look at the dedication of Caution XC. Leslie Boozer plays varsity basketball for her high school, so to keep her from having to run by herself, Caution XC ran together at 6 a.m. to accomodate her playing schedule.
"I was amazed they were willing to do that," said Caution coach John Morgan.
--- Want to see technology at its best? When Caution XC learned they were one of the four at-large teams, it didn't take long for the team to know.
"Once I got home (from church), there were six messages," said Caution coach John Morgan, who said runners text messaged and emailed each other almost immediately when they heard they were selected. "I didn't deliver the news to anyone who didn't know."
"We basically waited around with our fingers crossed. I think the girls as a team were more optimistic than the parents."
--- Mud. Rain. Hills. Not exactly something that gets a team excited - usually. Caution XC Club doesn't seem like your usual team. As they were coming off the course after Friday morning's course run, they all said in unison "Love it! Love mud!" when asked what they thought of the course.
One reason the rain and mud doesn't concern the team is that it reminds them of a course they ran a few years ago in Baton Rouge, LA. Five of the current team members ran that course, which was muddy and where water came up to their ankles.
"That's been one of our all-time favorites" No. 1 runner Madeline Morgan said of the Baton Rouge course. "We came down here and it's looking kind of similar. We're all excited about the fun stuff."
By fun stuff, she meant the 5 camel back hills (which grew from 4 to 5 this year), the mud and water on the course. Now that's seeing the glass half full.
--- Part 2 of the glass is half full...When No. 2/3 runner Marie Demedicus was asked about the rain, she said it was a postiive: "This whole season, down south there's been a drought. So, we haven't had the chance to run in the rain."
--- In describing the atmosphere, like so many other runners, it was overwhelming for Medeline Morgan. "It's awesome. It's going to be one of the best experiences. It's finally here."
From the South ... By John Sullivan
THE WOODLANDS XC CLUB (attend The Woodlands HS, TX)
This is The Woodlands 3rd trip to NTN, with a best finish of 7th in the inaugural 2004 event. The Woodlands lost 5 from last year’s NTN squad and had only #5 and #7 coming back, but quickly reloaded from its deep stable. It’s also helpful that their 2nd team ran in the NTN Open race in 2006, gaining course and conditions experience which should pay off this week for the 3 returnees from that race.
The Woodlands jr Reed Connor led the way during the school season, but fell from dehydration during the home stretch at State. Connor literally crawled across the finish line as the 5th man (34th), just in time to secure a 14th state team title. He then skipped the NTN South Region meet the following week and cheered his clubmates on to victory. Connor is healthy and raring to go, recently cruising a 9:27 tune-up on the track.
ROGERS XC CLUB (attend Rogers HS, AR)
Rogers is the first team from Arkansas to qualify for NTN. That comes as no surprise, as Coach Carlton Efurd led his boys team to its 15th state title this season, scoring 16 points.
Rogers finished 3rd at NTN South and then waited anxiously for the following week’s at-large selections. Coach Efurd was in church last Sunday when his phone rang, and he hurriedly raced out to grab the call and hear the outcome. Moments later, the concerned musical director followed him out, worried that there had been a death in the family or some other bad news!
CARROLL XC CLUB BOYS (attend Southlake Carroll HS, TX)
The Carroll XC Club is making its 3rd appearance in Portland, including an 11th place finish last year. Along with its girls’ team, this club has earned 7 out of a possible 8 spots at NTN - a testament to the brilliance of school coach Robert Ondrasek.
Carroll is led by undefeated sr Colby Lowe and jr C.J. Brown. During the school season, they finished 1-2 in every meet and then 1-3 at the Texas state meet. They’re now in the middle of a NTN South-Foot Locker South-Nike Team Nationals-Foot Locker stretch over four consecutive weeks, with a 1-2 at NTN South and 1-3 at Foot Locker South under their belts. They love to go out hard and will be a major force near the front.
NTN veterans may recall the first year’s skits. The award-winning “act” had a club talking about their plans for the post-race dance, and featured two freshman boys demonstrating the slow-dance technique they hoped to utilize with the ladies. It got big laughs, if you can visualize a 6-ft tall guy clutching and slowly revolving with a much shorter 5-footer. Well, that team was Carroll, and the short-one was Colby Lowe, now all grown up (though still no giant) and a 3-time Foot Locker finalist (the 20th boy to achieve this feat). The team dusted off the act again this year, with Lowe declaring to younger teammates, “Hey, I had to do it as a freshman. Now it’s your turn!” Maybe it’ll work some magic, as he finished 30th at NTN that year.
CARROLL XC CLUB GIRLS (attend Southlake Carroll HS, TX)
The Carroll girls have competed in every Nike Team Nationals, one of only three squads (2 girls and 1 boys) that can make that claim. Having placed 8th-3rd-3rd, they’ve established themselves among the super-elite programs in the country, and not just within the South region.
Carroll’s #1, 5 and 7 from the 2006 race are back. Junior Tara Upshaw (6th last year and 23rd as a freshman) again leads the charge, including a win at NTN South. A gutsy competitor, she enjoys the course. “I don’t mind the mud and cold at all. It would be nice if the weather was good, but we’ll just ignore that and run the best we can.” Upshaw watched the first year (as an 8th grader) as sister Brooke, a 2-time Foot Locker finalist, finished 11th, and then joined her in 2005 with Brooke placing 4th.
The team uses the Paavo training method, which called for 10x400 on the track at the Nike campus today (Friday) for sr Taylor Stephens. “My training is going well now that I’ve overcome some injuries, and I ran the 400s in 81-85, with a 600-meter or so jog to get my heart rate down.”
KELLER XC Club (attend Keller HS, TX)
This is the first NTN trip for the Keller XC Club. Their school is located just 4 miles from Southlake Carroll, and the schools faced off several times during the scholastic season, including District and Region (with Keller getting the nod), and State where Southlake Carroll captured gold with Keller 4th. The clubs went on to place 1-2 at NTN South, with Carroll on top by 5 points.
Keller sr Laleh Mojtabaeezamani (pronounced like it’s spelled, with a “Moe” at the beginning) has been the team leader, and finished 4th at NTN South. “This is a cool experience, meeting other runners and getting our running gear. The course looks great - not too hilly and the hay bales not too difficult. It will be a good challenge with the mud and water.” The team has seen the prior Carroll results and has high aspirations of their own. “A key will be if we get out fast. We usually get out too slow, but that won’t work on this course against this field.”
From the Southwest ... by Sal Gonzales
Los Alamos XC Club
Last year, there was a month in between the New Mexico state championship and the Nike Team Nationals. This season athletes had to run big races back to back (State and NTN Regionals) and then use the next two weeks to retool for the National Race. During the week of the Regional Meet, the coaches lowered the team mileage to 60 percent of the maximum and then bumped it up to about 75 percent of max for the week after.
This week, the team basically mirrored the week’s workouts from the state championship and sharpened their legs with a short fartlek run on Thanksgiving Day, 4x100m on Saturday and 5x600m on Tuesday. All of the boys are healthy and, as Rob and Kathy state, “We couldn’t ask for our guys to be a better place both physically and mentally. There is no lack of motivation or focus.” This team is more than just happy to be here.
As veterans of Nike Team Nationals, the Los Alamos XC Club is ready for the weather and the mud. Rob and Kathy believe in the idea that the tough conditions of Los Alamos (+7200 ft in elevation and much tougher weather than most of New Mexico) have prepared their boys for the Portland muck. They believe that by training “over hilly terrain day in and day out, and by the nature of our surroundings, we’re a strength team.” Their strength will be tested by slushy, wet conditions of Portland Meadows.
Albuquerque XC Club
All American Harrier Ben Johnson is calmly confident about his opportunity to “duke it out with the best of the guys and see why I fall at the end of the race … and hopefully I will literally fall at the end of the race.”
He believes the key to his individual success this weekend is to, “not doubt myself.” He jokingly added, “What do you have to lose is just your reputation and what does that really matter at all.” Johnson later explained that he races hard to please his teammates and coaches and doesn’t care about rankings at all. About running his final high school cross country race on Saturday he wants “to be a man Saturday and I want to hurt really bad. Whether I feel good or feel bad, I want to hurt really bad.”
Johnson is one of a handful of athletes who decided to forgo an opportunity to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals and chase down NTN dreams instead, but he doesn’t regret not going to Foot Locker and he reiterated that he will “go out and run hard for my team.”
Ryan Clark is the only member of the squad who didn’t run last year. His teammates have advised him not to get too psyched out and to run his race. “Training with Anthony (Lauriello) and Niel (Longenbauch) every morning out there” has made the difference, Clark said. He moved up from the JV last year,which was his first year of running. This talented freshman has been a solid contributor to the Red Army’s success all season. Not bad for a kid who didn’t run a step before his freshman year.
Anthony Lauriello still claims, “Bacon Fat is the best part of bacon.”
Davis XC Club
The girls from Davis arrived with a spirit of excitement that is the poster of the spirit of the weekend. They were like kids in a candy store inside the Tiger Woods Center receiving their uniforms, eating snacks and taking an impromptu picture with Dathan Ritzenhein.
The girls from Davis are now healthy for the first time since the Bob Firman Inviational. They finally have Katie Swanson running again. She is not “100%” but she is training again. At Bob Firman, she was the team’s #3 and finished only 30 seconds behind Candace Eddy. She ran her first race back at the Tempe Regional, but now she is ready to put together a complete race. If she can factor into the team’s scoring 5 she will provide a boost to an already talented group.
As for the weather and conditions in Portland, the girls that run for Davis XC may be the team from the southwest best able to cope with the conditions. As Coach Tally states, “These girls love the mud and the harsh weather.” He even joked that, “I just hope that my girls don't stop in the middle of a mud puddle and start a mud fight with each other. They have a tendency to do that on training runs. I have finished a few training runs with them with mud in my hair, ear, mouth, and other places. Lovely.”
These girls are made for the course at Portland Meadows and the Nike Team Nationals. They may not be able to run with their trademark old English “D” on the front of their jerseys this weekend but you can bet that they will be “D-termined” to prove that they belong.
Fort Collins XC Club
Coach Chris Suppes is not a stranger to NTN. In 2005, he coached the Fort Collins boys’ team that earned a trip to the Championship race. His memories from that year have led him to have some interesting views about the course and his girls’ chances on the course. “The start was covered in water, ankle deep,” he recalled. “It was so muddy that even ½-inch spikes didn’t matter. My kids had a tougher time pulling their feet out of the mud then they did finding traction.”
Coach Suppes is also wary about putting spikes on his girls. “We wore spikes at the state meet in 2006 when we had the worst race of the year, and I know that some of the girls will be thinking that they lost because of the spikes.”
Suppes is constantly worried about the state of his girls’ emotions prior to a race and he feels that he found the winning mental strategy in Tempe when he let go of the reigns and allowed the girls to have a little fun. “There was no pressure at Tempe. We had a great time and I didn’t even give the girls a curfew.”
That move worried him the night of the race but when he saw how calm and collected his girls were at the starting line he knew that he had made the right decision. He now has to find that touch again in Portland as his girls have ascended to the #3 ranking in the latest Harrier Poll. If his girls hold true to form, most of them are probably oblivious to its significance. If Suppes can keep the atmosphere light, the Fort Collins girls could be a contender for a spot on the podium.
From the Northwest ... by Dave Devine
Greater Portland XC
When Taylor Morgan and his Greater Portland XC (Central Catholic OR) teammates went out for the now-customary Thursday jog around the Nike campus which has become part of the NTN weekend tradition, he may have been the only high school runner at the meet who could point to an office window on one of the campus buildings and say, “That’s where I worked.”
Morgan, a senior with aspirations to become a mechanical engineer, spent this past summer interning with Nike in the Mia Hamm Building. He said it was a dream job and one he’d love to return to after college. The busy schedule meant he wasn’t able to make all of the team’s practices during the summer, but teammates occasionally met him out at the sprawling Nike campus for training runs. That familiarity, and the fact that several members of the team had raced across the campus barkchip trails during the annual Nike BorderClash meet, meant the allure of the campus run lacked some of the novelty it held for teams from farther afield. Nonetheless, the Greater Portland guys were thrilled to have qualified for NTN and, led by state 6A runner-up Morgan, hope to situate themselves as hometown heroes in Saturday’s race.
As the girls of Portland XC (Jesuit OR) have prepared for their latest foray into the Nike Team Nationals, they’ve benefited from a liberal watering policy on their own school grounds and copious recent rains. “The grass looks green out there,” Coach Tom Rothenberger said of the Jesuit High lawns and fields, “but it’s a total bog.” Cognizant of the fact that conditions at Portland Meadows racetrack tend to be equally boglike this time of year, the locals have been practicing intently on their inundated campus for the past two weeks, preparing to maintain a championship pace and locate each other on a packed and muddy course.
Besides confidence gained from simulating course conditions, Coach Rothenberger believes another asset his team will carry into Saturday’s race in a sharper focus from finishing second at the NTN Northwest Regional meet to a Rose City XC (St. Mary’s Academy OR) team they’d beaten handily a week earlier at the Oregon state 6A meet. “I think it might have helped,” Rothenberger said of his previously NW#1-ranked team. “If they listened to what I’m always saying, they shouldn’t have been surprised that we were beaten. I tell them it can happen at any time with talented teams in cross country, but I still think [finishing second] gave them a different focus [for NTN]…they’re feeling ready.”
North Central XC
Several runners from North Central XC of Spokane WA were also familiar with Nike World Headquarters from their experience at the annual Nike BorderClash race featuring the top state finishers from Oregon and Washington. They’d toured the campus, poked around some buildings and covered much of the sprawling grounds during the winding 4400 meter race. Still, none of that prepared them for bumping into Nike elite athlete Alan Webb in the locker room of the Tiger Woods Center as they prepared to head out for their Thursday jog around the campus.
“I saw him and I didn’t know what to say,” NC #2 man Leon Dean related later.
“He could barely talk,” teammate Steve Hicks said, giving Dean a good-natured jab. “He was like, ‘Uh…hi…Alan Webb.’”
North Central, with four runners at 4:21 or better returning from last year’s track team, has some impressive milers of their own, and has used that depth and speed to assert themselves as the best boy’s team in the Northwest this autumn. While none of the NC harriers appear to hold the 3:53 speed Webb displayed in high school, they may not need it Saturday. With conditions expected to be muddy, and a wintry mix predicted from the skies, the day might favor strength over speed. But NC excels in that department as well. Fed a steady diet of long runs on soft trails this summer and fall, they’ll be ready to challenge some of the top teams from around the country, and uphold the tradition of strong NTN finishes from Spokane squads.
Rose City XC
Like fellow Oregonians Portand XC (Jesuit) and Greater Portland XC (Central Catholic), the girls of Rose City XC (who competed for St. Mary’s Academy during the regular season) didn’t have far to travel to compete in the Nike Team Nationals. All of them live within a short drive of the major staging areas for the event—the Embassy Suites hotel and Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, and Portland Meadows racetrack in North Portland. That didn’t stop their coaches from arranging for a special mode of transportation for the team on Thursday. Since Rose City XC was one of a handful of clubs which didn’t have to fly into Portland for the weekend, they were instead picked up in a stretch limousine and ferried to their weekend accommodations at the Embassy Suites in style.
It’s a trip that mirrors their own arrival onto the elite high school level. By incorporating new strength and stretching drills, working with a mental confidence trainer and engaging in intentional team-building efforts, the girls of Rose City XC have transformed themselves from a very good team in the state of Oregon to a squad with the potential to make an impact on the national scene this weekend. They’d been making waves in that direction all season, but formally announced their presence with a narrow defeat of season-long NW#1-ranked Portland XC (Jesuit) at the Northwest Regional meet. Now they’ll see if they can carry that momentum into Saturday’s championship race.
From the New York Girls ... By Dan Doherty
Coach Bill Aris of defending NTN Girls Champion Manlius (Fayetteville Manlius HS) summed up his team’s role as this year’s favorite best when he reminded us of the fact, “Who would have picked us to win last year?!?”
After their long day of traveling, he mentioned that his team was excited, yet still very business like. “This is what we have been waiting for all year,” he said. The defending champs will be running with four returnees from last year, Courtney Chapman, MacKenzie Carter, Kathryn Buchan and Molly Malone. Their job is to keep the three new girls, Kristen Buchan, Jocelyn Richards and Hannah Luber excited, but to keep them focused on what their season has been all about.
Linda Kranick, coach of perennial power Kinetic (Saratoga Springs HS) commented on how her team was trying to get back into their normal groove after traveling all day Wednesday.
Their atypical long day concluded with a stop for pizza at 4 a.m. New York time. The next two days will be used to refocus and to get back into their normal pre-race routine.
Although Kinetic was not at the meet last year, they still return with three runners who competed in the 2005 meet. It will be up to Hannan Davidson, Cassie Goutos and Brianne Bellon to show this very young team how to stay focused leading up to Saturday’s race.
Talking to Burnt Hills Coach Shaun Zepf, it was hard to tell who was more excited about the whole first day experience, him or his young runners – and young is the correct word, when you consider that this team features two freshman and one eighth grader on their squad for Saturday.
Yet it was coach Zepf who seemed to be the most in awe when arriving at the Tiger Woods Center on Thursday. As the team was departing to go on their run around the Nike Campus it was the coach who had to be reminded to bring his camera to get a long awaited shot of the “track in the woods” that he had heard so much about.
When asked if his girls were excited after spending their first hour or so at the Nike Campus, Coach Rich Furst of Warwick paused and then said, “Too excited!!” But who could blame the whole Warwick girls contingent? Coach Furst paused and then told of the whole ordeal that his team had gone through during the last week. He explained how his number four runner, Kim Naples, had sprained her foot in a freak accident at practice about a week and a half before Regionals and how it just didn’t seem to be getting any better.
Then when she still hadn’t returned to practice only three days before the Regional, he decided to call the other girls together and informed them how they were not going to run at Bowdoin Park, but would instead give their two top runners, Tori Pennings and Lillian Greibesland a shot at making the Footlocker Finals. As this group of girls sat stunned at the news, Naples came jogging out of the school and said she was ready to give it try. She practiced a little over the next few days and went to the line on Saturday at Bowdoin.
The rest is history, as Warwick edged out East Aurora for fourth by a single point and kept their hopes alive for an at large berth. Then they got the call on Sunday that they were in. “It has been an emotional week for all of us,” Furst exclaimed as he watched his girls go out the door to tour the Nike campus. Hopefully we can all calm down and get ready for business on Saturday.
From the New York Boys ... by Tom Cuffe
LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER: BROTHERHOOD, PASSION AND LOVE EQUALS CROSS-COUNTRY SUCCESS
In the Bay Hill Room at the Tiger Woods Center, located on the Campus of the Nike World Headquarters, dreams do become reality. Just ask the Clifton Park Track Club, whose athletes competed this past year for Shenendehowa High School and captured the NTN NY Regional title as well as the NY Federation Championship this past cross-country season. Or ask the Warwick contingent, whose young men trained and raced under the banner of Warwick Valley High School and won their share of team crowns this past XC season. Ask them what it means to travel across the entire country to attend AND participate in the United States only true National High School Championship in ANY sport – the Nike Team Nationals, the absolute pinnacle of high school racing.
Ask Warwick senior Dan Prial what it means and he will tell you that he loves his teammates in training and in racing. Dan will tell you that when the gun goes off it is much more important to perform for your teammates than for yourself. Dan spoke passionately about the brotherhood that is Warwick cross-country and the fact that love factors into the success formula which is part and parcel of the identity of this great program. Team means everything at Warwick; it is instilled every single day by legendary coach Tim St. Lawrence, who in his 36 years has won 25 Sectional titles and four NYS Championships.
St. Lawrence spoke adoringly of his love for his team and his coaches, but most of all his love for his runners. One can feel the enthusiasm and pure energy that comes out of St. Lawrence, and his co-coach Mike Potter, as the speak about want qualifying for this event means to them and to the Warwick program. Potter ran for the “Purple Wave” during his high school days and won two state titles with his beloved coach. So profound was the experience of donning the purple and white, and racing with his Warwick brothers, that Potter has returned to his community and to his team to teach and to coach.
The feeling is mutual thank you when you travel to upstate NY and see what the Clifton Park program has accomplished over the years. Ask junior Mike Danaher what the green and white of his home high school means to him and he’ll tell you, “it means everything. The team is why we compete, the team is why we are so close, we are all like brothers, we are that close.” Coach Mark Thompson is a blessed man and he knows the brotherhood, passion and love that equals cross-country success will keep us together.