Nov 27, 2004 at Van Cortlandt Park, New York NY
Girls- Could it
be a year of Foot Locker firsts?
No girls team has ever qualified more than two of its members for Foot Lockers in the same year. One boys team accomplished the feat, and they did it twice. Kingswood TX sent Brad and Brent Hauser, along with Lewis Jones in both 1993 and 1994. Ultimately, Brad made it three times, and Jones three. But this year, another team could accomplish the same thing. Saratoga Springs, the NY juggernaut, has the best team in the country again, and probably one of the best all-time. They have a defending regional champ in Nicole Blood, now a junior. This would be her third consecutive trip to the big meet. Blood has only lost one major meet this season, and that was at the Great American XC Festival. Aislinn Ryan of Warwick Valley NY won that day, but since then, Blood has swept the table. Barring illness or injury, those two should go one-two (with one possible 2002 returnee breaking up the pack).
The rest of the spots are open to great races by talented vets and rookies. The four other Saratoga Springs girls with the best shot are returning Finalist Lindsay Ferguson, who was 4th in 2003. She has been coming on of late, and second on the team to Blood with the exception of Federations. There are two freshmen in Saratoga's top five within striking distance of a slot on a good day. Hannah Davidson has been consistent all season. And she was just 31 seconds behind Blood at Feds on Nov 20th, and 18 seconds behind Ryan. The other frosh who was running best during the earlier part of the season was Caitlin Lane. And Senior Karyn Delay could also be in the mix on a good day. If there has been a better shot at a team sending three to San Diego, it will come from these five Saratoga girls.
But this race is loaded with returning finalists from both 2002 and 2003, with only two lost to graduation. Jackson Memorial junior Jennifer Clausen of New Jersey qualified in 2003, finishing 7th in the Northeast. She'll have to improve on her 6th place showing at NJ All-Groups to get back in the mix. She was leading coming out of 'The Bowl' but faded. At Groups the week before, she ran the same time as the other NJ favorite, Brittany Sedberry, finishing that day in 18:26. Sedberry, an Ocean City junior, cruised to the NJ All-Groups win in 18:12, and should reprise her trip to San Diego. She was 2nd in the NE in 2003. 2002 Finalist Laura Cummings of Bay Shore NY has been running very well this season. Her 6th place at Feds on 11/20 puts her in great company. And this is her last shot. She was 4th in the US in 2002. The other returning finalist from 2003 is Allison Kieffer, a West Islip NY Senior, who is not registered. She was 8th in 2003.
There could also be a first for the homeschooled contingent - two female qualifiers in the same year. Chantelle Dron of Manchester NH was a finalist in 2002, but was injured much of last year. She is back and better than ever. In fact, she could and should challenge both Blood and Ryan at the front. Dron is a senior. The other homeschool prospect is Neely Spence of Shippensburg PA. Spence has run 17:42 for 5k on the roads, and has been training and aiming for this race. The freshman ran Vanny 11/14 in a test and will have to improve on her 18:54 to have a shot. But experience means a lot at this course, and two weeks to make adjustments could make the difference for this prodigy. From Haddonfield, junior Vanessa Wright was just ten seconds behind Sedberry at NJ All-Groups. NY's Nichole Lister returns after finishing 9th in 2003. Others with a good chance are Brittany Sheffey (NY), Anna Brousell (DE), Cassie Hintz (ME), Nichole Lister (NY), and Katie DeCamino (NY). Maine's Elise Moody-Roberts is not registered, nor is NY frosh Kristen Reese. Sheffey opted out of the NY Federations race after getting 6th at States, presumably to focus on Foot Lockers. For a more complete look at others who could crack the top eight, see Steve Underwood's Northeast preview.
There is only one returning Finalist from 2003. Cory Thorne of Portsmouth NH is the New Englands champ and was 5th at NE and 17th nationally. He is also the 3rd top returnee from San Diego. Thorne has had a great season, breaking John Mortimer's course record at Derryfield Park in Manchester NH by three seconds with a 15:21. But Thorne has lost once. In three years of trying, Concord NH's Guor Majak had never beaten Thorne. At the NH Class Meet, Majak injured his knee and finished 2nd. But a week later, still with a sore knee, he ran 15:38 to end the streak. Majak isn't registered for the race, so that opens up other possibilities. And this one is wide open.
We'll start with the rest of New England, then work our way down through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Belfast Maine's Levi Miller has been having a great season. He was 2nd at New Englands to Thorne by just nine seconds. Newton North's Chris Barnicle, the Massachusetts senior, is the 2nd top returnee from the Northeast, finishing 10th in 2003. His state meet was the same day as New Englands. He notched a very quick 14:09 for the 2.9 mile course, and earlier this year, nearly broke the course record at the Manhattan Invitational, running 12:18, less than a second off Victor Gras' 2002 mark.
Two Connecticut runners could threaten the top eight. Thadelle Ward of Griswold, and Jay Koloseus of Gulliford, both juniors, were 3rd and 5th, respectively, at New Englands, Ward just two seconds behind Miller. Portland Maine's Avalew Taye was 7th at New Englands, with his freshman brother Sintayehu Taye, 8th. Londonderry NH senior Vinny Olsen was 5th at New Englands, while Rhode Island's Tom Webb of Barrington was 9th.
New Jersey has two strong contenders. Bobby Papazian of Gill St. Bernards, was 15th in 2003, and ran 15:39 at Holmdel on a wet course to win All-Groups. Also under 16 was Colts Neck sophomore Craig Forys. CBA's Chris Horel will not be running Foot Lockers to prepare for the Nike Team Nationals on December 4th. He was 5th at NJ All-Groups. None of the "five first men" of Fayetteville-Manlius will be racing Foot Lockers. As the #1 team in the nation, they are focused on the NTN race. But while they are the best team, there are several New York individuals who are among the nation's best. Walt Whitman sophomre Ryan Sheridan won Federations handily, going 15:43. Chaminade #1 Kevin McDermott took 3rd in States. North Rockland senior John Martinez, who was 2nd at Feds, should also be in the mix, along with Northport senior Kevin Tschirhart, who was 3rd at States. Tschirhart did not run Federations to concentrate on training for Foot Lockers.
Pennsylvania's class of contenders isn't as deep as the 2003 crop,
but it could present the most formidable. Running his first Northeast
Foot Locker race will be junior Craig Miller of Manheim Township.
Miller is a 4:06 miler who easily won his state meet in AAA for the
2nd consecutive year. He made the extra effort of running Van Cortlandt
Park on Nov 14th at a New York Road Runners race, and took 4th in 15:44.
Twin Brad Miller jumped right from the finish line into the pool
for the winter, and will not compete. But Miller wasn't the fastest
on race day at the PA state meet, as senior Jeff Weiss of McGuffey
near Pittsburgh, broke Miller's 2003 course record, winning AA in 15:45
on the hilly course. Senior Sam Luff of Emmaus was the only challenger
to Miller in the AAA state race. He also tested Vanny on the 14th, taking
8th in 16:06. He also ran the Mid East Regionals in Ohio. Weiss declined
that invite and trained for Foot Lockers. Making noise from Delaware
could be the state's best runner this year, Brian Sklodowsi,
a Tatnall sophomore. For a more extensive list of NE FL favorites, see