Southwest Region Kiwanis Park, Tempe AZ November 17, 2007
Southwest Regional Preview By Salomon Gonzales, DyeStat Southwest Region Editor
The desert of Arizona is the perfect scene for the hot and heavy action of the Southwest Regional. Dozens of quality teams are descending onto Tempe for the “Shootout of the Season.” Our season started with dozens of questions and after a dozen weeks of competition we are left with still more questions. Most of the best teams will find their answers this weekend but until then let’s ask away.
Who are the Favorites?
With a trip to Portland on the line every team will be running for the top two spots to ensure their place on the starting ling at Portland Meadows. Throughout the season a handful of teams have proven their mettle on the turf, sand and hills of the southwest. The girl’s race contains a true, clear cut favorite in Dakota Ridge RC. These girls finished off their season with a dominating performance at the 5A Colorado State Championship where they placed 4 girls in the top 10 and scored a miniscule 28 points. The girls from this club are led by three strong front runners (Kaitie Vanatta, Alexa and Natosha Rogers). Alexa was the 5A individual state champion and Vanetta finished 4th at Footlocker Finals a year ago. Dakota Ridge RC looks so strong that many teams may feel that they are running for second place.
On the boys side the New Mexico State Championships have led to an interesting race at the top. Prior to state the Albuquerque Academy TC looked like the run-away favorites but now the Los Alamos XC Club looks like the HOT team on the rise. With that in mind no one should underestimate the boys that run on the Wheat Ridge RC. They were able to walk away from the Colorado State Championships with the gold trophy. On paper it looks like a three horse race but their will be a handful of teams who believe that they are #1.
I’m looking for an upset; who should I bet on?
The boys on the Mingus TC are a good bet. They have a solid top 5 and they will be the fan favorites as they are the best team from Arizona. If their #1 (Tm Freriks) can run with or ahead of the #1 for Wheat Ridge RC this group will be in the hunt.
In the girls race an interesting bet could be placed on Greeley West HS. Their top runner (Kendra Gerk) ran wounded at the 4A Colorado State Meet but she has had 3 weeks to heal up. During the season I was impressed with their attitude and the position of their top 4. If they could get a big performance from their #5 (Hilary Hurst) they could surprise.
Red or Green? New Mexico's perennial question
This is a question of momentum vs. redemption. Throughout the high school season the boys from Los Alamos have come in second to the boys from Academy 4 times. That result switched at the New Mexico State Meet and now we are left with the question of who really is the best team from New Mexico. The boys that run for Los Alamos XC Club may have hit their high a week ago and will now have to pull it together a for one more week. But this squad has the experience; as they attended NTN last fall and will not be caught in the headlights at Tempe. The boys that run for the Albuquerque Academy TC will be hungry to prove what the Red Army is made of. The stress of being ranked #1 may have caught up to them last week but they are now in the roll that they love the most; the role of the “UNDERDOG.” Look for this squad to come out fighting for every place.
How will “lay-offs” affect teams?
The teams from Utah will have the most time off between races. Their Championship was held on October 17 giving them exactly 1 month off. The Colorado State Meet was held on October 27 giving those teams about 3 weeks between races. The teams from Arizona and Nevada had one week off between championships and the teams from New Mexico raced last week. The teams from Utah seem to have the toughest task. Coaches will have to come up with some interesting training and motivation considering that they set up their season to peak at the state meet. If their runners participate in winter sports they have spent a month sharing time with running. The teams from Arizona and Nevada may have the most ideal situation. One week gives them the opportunity to distance themselves from their state meet (for good or bad reasons) and now focus on the Regional race without having to find a way to “peak twice.” But with most coaches having had individual participants in Footlocker Regional races I don’t doubt their ability to get their runners ready to race again.
Who is the top Individual in the Boys Championship race?
Three nationally ranked runners will be at the front of the pack in the boy’s race: Ben Johnson, Luke Puskedra and Jim Walmsley. BenJo has won every race this year and his season was highlighted with his faster-than-Adam-Goucher performance at the Liberty Bell and his record setting performance at Los Alamos. Puskedra was also undefeated and has yet to face any serious challenge. He set records and annihilated the fields at both the Utah state meet and the Bob Firman Invitational in Idaho. Walmsley has risen from the pack to be a serious contender for a spot on the west squad at Footlocker Finals. He ran the fastest time of the day at Mt. SAC readying himself for the battle he will have in the first month of December.
Can anyone run with the Bishton Twins?
Probably not. Nastia and Nadya Bishton have destroyed every field they have run in. Their most impressive performances came at Stanford Invitational and the Arizona State Meet. At Stanford they ran the fastest time of the day and at the Arizona State meet they defeated Footlocker Finalist Jessica Tonn by over 30 seconds.