27th Foot Locker
cross country championships

the national individual championship
for US high school cross country runners.

South region
Nov 26, 2005 McAlpine Park, Charlotte NC

the story

McAlpine Speedway

Nichole Jones and Michael Eaton blaze paths to San Diego

By Ben Ackerly
DyeStat Southeast Regional Editor

CHARLOTTE, NC, Nov. 26 – Track gets going early in this part of the country. Saturday, on a crisp and clear morning at McAlpine Park, in the Foot Locker South Regional, it started at 10 a.m.

Nichole Jones, a junior from Houston and a cross-country novice, used her superior track speed to break away from a lead group of 10 that held together well past the 2-mile mark, winning by 5 seconds at 17:10, the fastest performance on the 5K layout at McAlpine in 21 years. Soon after, Michael Eaton, a senior from Bowling Green, Kentucky, took a very different approach on the way to a 5-second win of his own, at 16:46, equaling the No. 4 all-time mark.

Both will be leading contingents to San Diego that seem ready to run fast.


In the girls race in particular the pace was especially quick. Jones and the next nine finishers behind her dipped under the winning mark of 17:25 posted by Jenny Barringer last year – and Barringer’s 2004 mark was the fastest since 1997.

Early pace-setting duties were shared by a large group of frontrunners, 2004 Foot Locker finalist Aurora Scott of Virginia prominent among them. After a first mile of just over 5:15, Scott and fellow Virginian Catherine White led the leaders into the one portion of the course – a relatively short but steep climb and descent followed by another shorter climb and descent – that does not resemble an outdoor track. Meanwhile, pre-race favorite Ashley Brasovan remained bottled up in traffic as the 10 Foot Locker Finals berths raced away up front.

Scott and White emerged from the woods still in front, Jones and seven others right with them: 2004 Foot Locker finalists Kate Niehaus (SC) and Kelly Parrish, Kathy Kroeger (TN), Bona Jones (FL), Corey McGee (MS), Emily Reese (GA) and Miranda Walker (TX). Behind them the field was stringing out. The race was on.

Scott hit the 2-mile mark at just under 11:10 but soon yielded the lead to the indomitable Niehaus, vying for her fourth Foot Locker Finals berth.

Entering the back loop the lead pack remained 10 tight. 2004 Foot Locker Finalist Brooke Upshaw of Texas was about 15 meters back in 11 th.

Jones, biding her time on the shoulder of whoever was leading throughout the race, jumped Niehaus on the final lap around the lake and almost immediately opened up a 10-meter gap, a lead she would more than double by the finish.

“I was just hoping for the top 10,” Jones said, “but I surprised myself. I was surprised by how good I felt, and I just went for it.”

Niehaus had just enough to hold off Scott at the line (both were clocked at 17:15). Kroeger, the Tennessee freshman coming off a dominating win in the state meet, was 4 th at 17:16. Bona Jones was 5 th at 17:17, a 60 second improvement on her time here a year ago. White, winner of last year’s freshman/sophomore race at 18:33, held on for 6 th at 17:19. McGee, also at 17:19, Parrish (17:19), Reese (17:22) and Walker (17:23) rounded out the top 10. (McGee was subsequently disqualified for being an 8 th-grader, moving Upshaw, who crossed the line 11 th at 17:26, up to 10 th).

In the 26-year history of the meet here, only Virginia’s Erin Keough, who went 16:45 in 1984, and Texan Kathleen Smith, at 16:56 a year ealier, have run faster than Jones’ winning mark of 17:10. Walker’s 17:23 would have won every year but four. Last year, in very similar conditions, 10 runners dipped under 18:00. Saturday, the number was 25.

As for Brasovan, the diminutive freshman who had been so unbeatable this fall, inexperience may have finally caught up with her. “I just got boxed in,” she said. “I wasn’t ready for everyone going out like that, and then there were just too many people in front of me. It’s really hard to pass people on that little path.”

Brasovan, who was near 50 th at the mile, finished 17 th at 17:46.


Eaton, a 2004 Foot Locker finalist, wasn’t about to make the same mistake. And with all the burners on the starting line next to him, Eaton had no intention of letting anyone sit on him either.

“I decided it was best to go with how I like to run – go out hard and hold them off,” said Eaton, who finished 8 th here last year at 15:06.

“I’ve never been a fan of holding back and kicking at the end, because I don’t really have a kick. I’d rather go out hard and try to wear them down.”

Wear them down he did. By the mile mark, which he hit at about 4:30, he held a lead of more than 25 meters on a field that included fellow 2004 finalists Jack Bolas (NC), Justin Harbor (FL) and Sandy Roberts (NC), all of whom seemed perfectly content to bide their time farther back. Eaton hit 2 miles at just over 9:20 and had doubled his lead.

“Today my whole idea was that if I run by [spectators] and can still hear them cheering for someone else then they’re too close and I need to keep going,” Eaton said. “I didn’t want to have to worry about having to out-sprint somebody.”

Pained of expression but comfortable of lead, Eaton sailed home in 14:46. Daniel Gerber of Texas, closing well over the final mile, was 2 nd at 14:51, followed by Bolas at 14:54.

“The goal was to advance,” said Bolas, who will lead his Chapel Hill team at Nike Team Nationals next weekend. ( Chapel Hill #2 Ryan Workman finished 14 th at 15:23.)

Ben Hubers of Georgia, 22 nd last year at 15:32, finished 4 th on Saturday at 14:55, and Duncan Phillips of Texas also dipped under 15:00, clocking 14:59 in 5th. Brad Siragusa of Virginia (15:00), Harbor (15:01), Roberts (15:02) Colby Lowe of Texas (15:07) and Rob Sorrell of Tennessee (15:08) rounded out the top 10.


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