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2008 Foot Locker - the 30th
Boys Championship
12/13/08 at Balboa Park, San Diego CA

Results - Race Video: Pt 1 - Pt 2 - Pt 3 - Webcast Replay
- Solomon Haile - Trevor Dunbar - Chris Schwartz - Zach Torres - Dan Reeks (Haile's coach)
Donna on the Side with the boys  Action pixRace Flow Page - Race Flow album (44 pix) - Race Finish (all runners)

No challenge again
Solomon Haile of Maryland finishes
unbeaten season with a dominating win

By Rich Gonzalez, DyeStat/ESPN RISE

(SAN DIEGO, Ca.) – For months, Solomon Haile was a youngster without peer, a runner without a challenge. On Saturday, nothing changed.

In a commanding performance seemingly with energy stores still in reserve, the Maryland prep distance phenom dominated the middle stages of Saturday’s 5,000-meter challenge, then pranced home to convincingly win the 30th Annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships boys race at Balboa Park’s Morley Field.

The subject of message board chatter of age controversies in midseason – only to have the Maryland state association deem him of proper age and eligible to compete in high school athletics – the Ethiopian native proved too smooth and too strong for the competition to win without pressing in the final stages.

Haile capped an unblemished senior season by touring the hilly, double-loop challenge in 15 minutes, 15 seconds – far from the course record or even the all-time Top 20 list – but seven full ticks ahead of runner-up Trevor Dunbar of Alaska, who continually battled Haile over the middle mile to remain in the title hunt but had no answer for Haile’s surge just past 3000 meters.

By the latter stages, Haile was unpressed while thoroughly impressing.

“I was pleased and satisfied just to win,” said Haile. “I felt good and strong in the end, but there were many good runners I had to be prepared for. It feels amazing to win this meet because it brings together thebest of the best and it is an honor to win.”

photo by John Dye
 Colorado’s Evan Appel established a brisk tempo right from the sound of the cannon, gapping his chief early rivals – Haile and Minnesota’s Jakub Zivec – by two strides while reaching the 800-meter mark in 2:14. By the first kilometer, however, the pack reeled in Appel, with Californian Chris Schwartz briefly setting the pace for a group that swelled to eight runners by that point, with Haile appearing to be most relaxed within the group.

Soon after, Appel’s dogged determination saw him reclaim a scant lead with Schwartz also contending for the pacesetting role. It was Schwartz and Appel continuing to set the pace at the mile, crossing in a 4:47 clip. While the pace was far from breakneck with as many as 25 individuals within four seconds of the lead, the first climb of the course’s steep hill still awaited. Along the descent of Upas Hill, Dunbar forged to the front, catching Haile with a snappier turnover to counter his rival’s galloping prod.

Re-crossing the heart of Spectator Alley, Haile began to seize control for good as the leaders – now including Zivec and Virginia surprise Thomas Porter along with Dunbar – began to gap the masses. By the two-mile mark, reached by Haile in 9:47 – all chief pursuers began to weary, with the Alaskan clearly the most stubborn and most determined to keep Haile in sight.

recrossing Spectator Alley

1000 meters
photos by John Dye

“I always felt I had a chance,” said Dunbar afterward, also admitting he set no lofty goals nor mapped out a detailed race plan coming in, allowing him to race freely and instinctively. “He made a big move before two miles, but even then I always felt I could go with him and have a shot at the end.”

However, Haile truly appeared well within himself over the final mile, content to find a steady new tempo and throwing an occasional rearward glance to size up any threats. Essentially unchallenged down the stretch, Haile cruised to the win while several times appearing content with the inevitable outcome, rather than pressing ahead for the all-time list.

“There was no real time goal,” said Haile, the Manhattan Invitational course record holder in New York in October, who later admitted he did consider sub-15:00 as a realistic outcome and was surprised at the 15:15. “I was more concerned with winning the race, wanting to be sure I was ready because there were many excellent runners here. I was happy just to win because I had not lost all year, so there was some pressure there.”

Dunbar was especially impressive once the race opened up, authoritatively shifting gears on the downhill segments and surging well on certain flat portions to position himself for a high finish.

Porter is biggest surprise

    The biggest surprise performance was turned in by Virginia’s Thomas Porter, who rolled into the lead pack just before two miles and then out-dueled Indiana’s Drew Shields (15:27) and Minnesotan Zivec to snag third in 15:26, an outstanding feat considering he placed 40th – dead last – here a year ago. (right, Porter and Zivec climb the hill in the third mile - photo by John Nepolitan)

    Zivec, who placed second at last weekend’s Nike Cross Nationals in Portland but suffered an ankle injury as a result, battled through pain here to take fifth in 15:29. Zivec’s sole goals minutes before the race were “to start” and “to finish.” His right ankle heavily bandaged, the powerfully striding native of the Czech Republic – he returns to his country next month – lumbered home with a gutty showing. Appel, the early leader, persisted to remain among the top half dozen runners, eventually securing sixth in 15:36.

    Chris Schwartz, (left, photo by John Dye) the West Region champion who headlined five California male qualifiers here, was the top Golden Stater, taking 8th in 15:41, a vast improvement from his 37th-place showing of a year ago.

    “My goal was Top 10, top Californian, and to go after it and take some chances,” said Schwartz, who led briefly on three occasions in the first half of the race.

Another big surprise among the top 10 finishers was New York senior Joe Whelan, who took ninth in 15:44, leading a swath of eight finishers crossing the line within five seconds.

``I knew that I was capable of finishing in the top 10,’’ said Whelan, third in the Northeast Regional. ``I think a lot of guys peaked at the regional where I just ran to qualify. I peaked for today and ran just the way I was planning.’’

Whelan (right, photo by John Nepolitan) was in 18th place before he went up the huge hill the second time with a little more than six-tenths of a mile remaining.

``Going up hills is one of my biggest strengths and I knew I could pass a lot of guys,’’ he said. ``I just kept hammering by guys and brought it as strong as I could. This is the perfect way to end my season.”

Seniors dominate again

In keeping with the pattern from last year’s race, 20 of the first 23 male finishers were seniors. The only exceptions were Indiana frosh Zeinaselassie from the Midwest (left, photo by John Dye) and juniors Brian Shrader of Arizona (11th in 15:45) and Shane Moskowitz of Washington (14th in 15:47) from the West. Zeinaselassie’s seventh-place finish was the best ever by a male frosh in the 30-year history of the meet.

In fact, four of the top five non-seniors hailed from the West Region, including Arizona’s Steve Magnuson and Idaho’s Cody Helbling.

Magnuson took 24th in 15:59 and Helbling was 25th in 16:00. The top five finishers earned Foot Locker First-Team All-American status, the next five secured Second-Team accolades, while the next five garnered Third-Team honors.

For the second consecutive year, a Neuqua Valley HS (IL) athlete earned All-America honors, with senior Danny Pawola capturing the distinction via a 13th-place showing in 15:46. Pawola, who agreed his two best showings came in the final two races on the calendar, topped Steve Sulkin (York HS, Elmhurst, IL) for top honors from the talent rich state. In 2007, Neuqua Valley’s Chris Derrick (now an All-American frosh at Stanford), placed second at this meet.

Several elite runners arrived here with considerable momentum and lofty aspirations, but – as is common at pressure chamber meets of this caliber – a few scenarios failed to follow script.

     New Jersey’s Tyler Udland harbored high hopes of being in the top 15 and earning an All-American spot, but the NJ state champion and runner-up at the Northeast Regional instead struggled to a 34th place finish in the 40-runner field in 16:18.

``I kind of knew right off the line that it wasn’t going to a good day,’’ said Udland, a junior. ``About 400 meters into the race my arms were so sore and I just felt tired. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but you can’t be at your best in every race you run. I don’t think running so hard at the state meet and then at the regional took anything out of me. I just didn’t have a good day. But the good thing is that I’m a junior and I’ll be very motivated to come back here next year and finish much higher.’’

Race Recap by Mike Kennedy

800—Evan Appel of Dakota Ridge (Littleton, Co.) took the early lead, passing the half-mile in 2:14, with Solomon Haile of Shorewood (Silver Spring, Md.), Chris Schwartz of Foothill (Bakersfield, Ca.) and Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak (Ak.) close behind.  

Mile and Up the Hill (first time)—Appel continued to lead at 4:45, but Jakub Zivec of Grand Rapids (Mn.) and the Czech Republic, Thomas Porter of Mountain View (Fredericksburg, Va.), Haile, Schwartz and Dunbar were not far behind.

Downhill to Mile and One-Half—Haile effortlessly took over from Dunbar with Porter and Zivec trailing the top two.

Two Miles—Haile opened up a 15 meter lead, passing in 9:47, with Porter and Zivec second and third.

Two Miles to Three Miles—Haile continued to open up a lead to 60 meters with Dunbar comfortably in second, Porter in third and Zivec in fourth. Drew Shield of Fishers (In.) was fifth and Appel was sixth. 

The Finish—Haile won as he pleased in 15:15, with Dunbar an easy second in 15:22. With less than 150 meters remaining, it was Zivec, Porter and Shields, but Porter got up for third in 15:26. Shields was fourth in 15:27 and Zivec in fifth in 15:29.


Scoring Teams and Points:
1. Midwest 32 (4  5  6  7  10  13  15)
2. West 51 (2  8  11  14  16  22  23)
3. South 71 (3  12  17  19  20  21  26)
4. Northeast 77 (1  9  18  24  25  27  28)

1  Solomon Haile (12)            Northeast Sherwood H.S.                      Silver Spring          MD 15:15
2  Trevor Dunbar (12)            West      Kodiak H.S.                        Kodiak                 AK 15:22
3  Thomas Porter (12)            South     Mountain View H.S.                 Fredericksburg         VA 15:26
4  Drew Shields (12)             Midwest   Fishers H.S.                       Fishers                IN 15:27
5  Jakub Zivec (12)              Midwest   Grand Rapids H.S.                  Grand Rapids           MN 15:29
6  Evan Appel (12)               Midwest   Dakota Ridge H.S.                  Littleton              CO 15:36
7  Futsum Zeinasellassie (9)     Midwest   North Central H.S.                 Indianapolis           IN 15:40
8  Chris Schwartz (12)           West      Foothill H.S.                      Bakersfield            CA 15:41
9  Joe Whelan (12)               Northeast Hamburg H.S.                       Hamburg                NY 15:44
10 Joseph DeMoor (12)            Midwest   Buena Vista H.S.                   Buena Vista            CO 15:44
11 Brian Shrader (11)            West      Sinagua H.S.                       Flagstaff              AZ 15:45
12 Leoule Degfae (12)            South     Thomas Edison H.S.                 Alexandria             VA 15:46
13 Danny Pawola (12)             Midwest   Neuqua Valley H.S.                 Naperville             IL 15:46
14 Shane Moskowitz (11)          West      Central Kitsap H.S.                Bremerton              WA 15:47
15 Dylan Sorensen (12)           Midwest   Zionsville H.S.                    Zionsville             IN 15:48
Zachary Torres (12)           West      Crescenta Valley H.S.              La Crescenta           CA 15:48
17 Andrew Berberick (12)         Midwest   J.K. Mullen H.S.                   Littleton              CO 15:54
18 CJ Brown (12)                 South     Carroll Senior H.S.                Southlake              TX 15:54
19 Michael Moverman (12)         Northeast Oliver Ames H.S.                   North Easton           MA 15:54
20 Kyle Satterwhite (12)         South     Western Albemarle H.S.             Charlottesville        VA 15:55
21 Matt Sonnenfeldt (12)         South     Knoxville West H.S.                Knoxville              TN 15:56
22 Bill Matthews (12)            South     Baylor School                      Birmingham             AL 15:56
23 Steve Sulkin (12)             Midwest   York H.S.                          Elmhurst               IL 15:58
24 Steve Magnuson (11)           West      Ironwood Ridge H.S.                Oro Valley             AZ 15:59
25 Cody Helbling (11)            West      Lake City H.S.                     Coeur d'Alene          ID 16:00
26 James Cameron (12)            West      Mission Viejo H.S.                 Rancho Santa Margarita CA 16:00
27 George Galasso (12)           Northeast Holmdel H.S.                       Holmdel                NJ 16:01
28 Andrew Springer (12)          Northeast Westerly H.S.                      Westerly               RI 16:01
29 Clint McKelvey (11)           South     Maryville H.S.                     Maryville              TN 16:04
30 Philip Wood (12)              Northeast The Pennington School              Yardley                PA 16:04
31 Ben Furcht (12)               Northeast Lower Merion H.S.                  Haverford              PA 16:07
32 Phil Galebach (12)            Northeast Medford H.S.                       Medford                MA 16:11
33 Chase Rathke (12)             South     Seven Lakes H.S.                   Katy                   TX 16:17
34 Tyler Udland (11)             Northeast Millburn H.S.                      Short Hills            NJ 16:18
35 Joseph Manilafasha (12)       Midwest   Denver North H.S.                  Denver                 CO 16:19
36 Evan Hibbs (12)               South     Georgetown H.S.                    Georgetown             TX 16:25
37 Wyatt Landrum (12)            West      Liberty Union H.S.                 Oakley                 CA 16:27
38 Karreem Tyre Johnson (12)     West      Palma H.S.                         Gonzales               CA 16:44
39 Alex Ott (12)                 South     Turner Ashby H.S.                  Weyers Cave            VA 17:30
40 Brett Johnson (12)            Northeast Ocean City H.S.                    Ocean City             NJ 18:41