Foot Locker Cross Country
Nov 25 - Dec 9, 2006

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steveu's 2006 Foot Locker Favorites
Midwest Girls - Pre-Season

Dakota Dreaming: Runners from SD, ND
could take four of top six places

Regional Top 15 - Bios

by Steve (steveu) Underwood

Given that Foot Locker divides the country into just four regions, there are some kind of mind-bending distances between the geographic extremes they encompass. For example, think West Texas to West Virginia in the South. Here, in the Midwest, you can consider it covering the eastern edge of Ohio, to the western edge of Colorado – a good day’s drive, for sure.

In any case, in the Midwest, the national qualifiers most often have come from the areas closest to Kenosha, though one can hardly be surprised about the presence of Colorado standouts, given the state’s rep as a running mecca since Frank Shorter and Co. “discovered” it in the 70s.

But what about, say, the Dakotas, North and South? Now there are two states not commonly associated with the peak of distance running success. Well, until recently, that is. Now what if the idea was presented that four of the top six qualifying girls from the region to San Diego could be from North and South Dakota?

That might get your attention.

Well, it could happen. South Dakota distance dynasties have developed at Yankton and Sioux Falls Roosevelt the past four years, under the leadership of coaches Dan Fitzsimmons and Kristi Rieger, respectively. Meanwhile, the Anderson sisters of Leeds, North Dakota, have given their state a national presence previously rare.

Yankton and Sioux Falls Roosevelt lead the NTN Heartland rankings, and three national-class runners are a big reason why: That would be twin sisters and seniors Allison and Krista Eckert of SFR and senior Betsy Bies of Yankton.

Eckert twins

Allison Eckert was the undisputed leader this past spring in track, sweeping the 800, 1600, and 3200 in the 2A state meet, beating Bies and her sister twice each, running 2:11/4:58/10:45. When she wanted a fast deuce, she ripped a solo 10:19.74 that ranked second in the nation at the time.

Krista Eckert didn’t put up a fast deuce, but did run in the 4:55/2:12 range. She was the team leader as Allison recovered from a car accident early last fall. But Allison would later qualify for FL Finals, getting 6th in Kenosha while Krista had an off day and was 26th.

Both are vastly experienced now, as they led their team to an NTN bid as sophomores. Allison also edged out her sister for a San Diego spot that November, but Krista paced the team at NTN with her 10th place. Allison was 22nd, then 32nd in her two FL Finals appearances. This is their chance to do it all again, and do it well this fall.

Betsy Bies

But what about Bies, you say? Well, Betsy certainly ruled the state last fall (and is in blazing shape again, according to reports). She won everything in SD, beating the Eckerts by 30 seconds at state, and leading Foot Locker MW until Keara Sammons CO passed her at the end for victory. In this she was a great successor to 05 grad Ramsey Kavan, who began the string of success in 2003.

Bies, however, went on for the difficult FL MW/NTN/FL Finals triple. In the crazy mud of Portland, she was absolutely super, defeating California star Annie St. Geme for the victory, making it two straight for Yankton runners as Kavan had won in 04. She then came back the next week in San Diego for a very solid 10th.

In track, however, Bies’ times were not up to the level of the Eckerts. Nor were they in 2005, in fact. But if the current Betsy Bies more closely represents her Fall 2005 self, well, it will take at least the Spring 2006 Allison Eckert to beat her. In that case both, and maybe Krista, too, could be in the top 5 or so at Nationals – pending, of course, how their teams’ NTN bids turn out and how the potential back-to-back races unfold.

Lindsay Anderson

Meanwhile, Lindsay Anderson is going for her 2nd straight trip to San Diego. Last year she was 7th at FL Midwest and 25th in the finals. This came following a huge 3rd in the big Roy Griak meet which no doubt gave her confidence she could run with the big girls in the big meets. Her now-graduated sister Krista was also a national class runner, setting state records that Lindsay has been chasing.

Katie Vanatta

So can anyone break up the Divas of the Dakotas? A Colorado sophomore who just might be as talented as any distance runner in the country could be the one. Katie Vanatta from little Ralston Valley. During a striking, but limited freshman campaign, she was spoken of in the same tones of prodigies like Melody Fairchild as she won her division of the state meet by over a minute. But in an admirable show of restraint, her season was shut down before FL Midwest. She dominated CO again this spring, then made her first national-level splash at Golden West. The result: a 10:16.18 3200 that ranked in the top five in the country.

Cassandra Schenck

Then there’s Cassandra Schenck, 12th in Kenosha last year and #5 returnee, who shares a similar scenario to what Bies did last year. For two years, Schenck was a dutiful #2 behind standout Bridget Franek at Mantua Crestwood HS in Ohio, who was one of the country’s very best. Now she has a chance to lead her squad as a senior and perhaps rise to Franek’s level or beyond. Her final races as a junior were promising, including a 10:36.65y at NON for 10th.

the others

After the first six, it’s definitely a chore to compare and contrast the credentials of the next 10-20 girls who are in good position to make a San Diego bid. You have to start with Alexandra Banfich of Culver Academy IN, who was 8th (4th returnee) and 35th last year. With 3200 times in the 10:40s and 50s, her overall resume is not quite as strong as those ahead of her, but this clearly seems to be someone who is more successful over hill and dale and the longer distances.

It doesn’t always work out like this, but the next three spots go to the 7-8-9 returnees from Kenosha last year, Cleveland (OH) Beaumont jr Emily Infeld, Platte Canyon CO sr Kristen McGlynn, and Monroe Jefferson MI sr Rebekah Smeltzer. Infeld probably has the best speed of any contender, being a 2:10/4:51 talent, but has that cross-country strength, as well. She was a second ahead of McGlynn, who is more of an endurance athlete. McGlynn’s winning time in the small 3A class last year was the 3rd best overall. She also scored a double at the Great Southwest meet at altitude.

Smeltzer actually qualified for FL Finals as a soph, taking 9th in Kenosha and 20th in San Diego. Last fall, as a junior, she missed the summer training from injury, but ran 8 seconds faster at FL Midwest, only to finish 18th. She’s actually part of a tight Michigan pack that’s tough to sort out. Smeltzer and Bloomfield Hills Lahser jr. Erin LaFave were almost inseparable at the end of last fall, with Smeltzer winning almost a photo finish at D2 state, and just one place ahead of LaFave at FL MW. The gap widened during track as Smeltzer ran 10:42.

There’s also Newaygo MI sr Mikal Beckman, 13th (#6 returning finisher) at Kenosha in her first year of the sport. But her times didn’t measure up in track, so it’s hard to see if she can return to this level. Rockford MI jr Katie Haines (21st/11th returnee) is in a similar boat.

Last year, Minnesota had three qualifiers in Bria Wetsch, Elizabeth Yetzer, and Hanna Grinaker. There isn’t that level of performer currently, but Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd MN sr Nikki Swenson is leading the effort to keep the Gopher State represented in San Diego (as well as become the entrant with the longest high school name in history). She was 40th in Kenosha last year after finishing runner-up to Wetsch at state. In track, though, she zipped to a 2:12/4:53 double at state.

The next two spots go to Illinois state winners from last year, Carthage sr Katelyn Bastert (A) and Oak Lawn jr Lauren Haberkorn (AA). Bastert didn’t have a good day in Kenosha last fall after her state win, finishing 75th. She mostly had a good track season, winning state in 10:56, but suffering her first loss in IL in the 1600. That she’s serious about a strong final campaign is illustrated in her commitment to run at Great American as an individual. Haberkorn was somewhat better at FL MW, 39th, and ran a very solid 10:47 this spring.

Overland Park jr. Laura Roxberg, who has dominated Kansas, and Iowa City, IA sr. Sarah Wickman are the next two. Roxberg should move up from 27th at Kenosha after a good track season. Wickman led her state last fall, then was a very good 22nd at FL MW. She has been recovering from injury that hampered her track season. Fellow Iowan Stephanie Mundt was solid in Iowa last fall in the top five, but broke out with a 9:50 3k at her state meet.

If Stephanie King KS and Brittani Johnson MO can step up like they did in Kenosha last fall, while some of their rivals faltered, they could be the ones earning the last San Diego tickets.

Two other interesting story lines in the region: Emily Sisson, who ran the amazing 9:46 in the college 3k at Kansas Relays as an 8th-grader is now expected to be running prep cross races … Stephanie Morgan, expected to be the leading returnee as a soph for national power Clarkston MI, is now at Barnesville OH after her father took a job back in the state the family originally moved to Michigan from 3 years ago.

Foot Locker Favorites - Midwest Girls Top 15 - Pre-Season


Last Year: Finals/Reg. Returning Finals/Region Comments
1. Allison Eckert, 2007, Sioux Falls Roosevelt HS, SD 32nd/6th MW 15th/2nd Combines fine spring (10:19 & 10:25y at NON top non-senior) and both NTN and FL experience.
2. Katie Vanatta, 2009, Ralston Valley HS, CO X/DNC MW X/X Great but out-of-spotlight freshman campaign until 10:16 at Golden West; Now she looks to handle next step.
3. Betsy Bies, 2007, Yankton HS, SD 10th/2nd MW 6th/1st Had an outstanding fall with NTN and FL success, but did not progress in track this past spring.
4. Cassandra Schenck, 2007, Mantua Crestwood HS, OH X/12th MW X/5th With teammate Bridget Franek graduated, senior could be state's best; made fine progress in spring.
5. Krista Eckert, 2007, Sioux Falls Roosevelt HS, SD X/26th MW X/15th Wasn't quite at twin sister's level for much of XC and track, but that could change with a good summer.
6. Lindsay Anderson, 2008, Leeds HS, ND 25th/7th MW 12th/3rd Griak helped propell her to great season in XC last fall; NON showing was disappointment, though.
7. Alexandra Banfich, 2008, Culver Acad., IN 35th/8th MW 16th/4th More of a harrier, but was IN's finest in track. Strength might help her move up.
8. Emily Infeld, 2008, Cleve. Hts. Beaumont HS, OH X/14th MW X/7th Known most for tough middle distance racing, OH jr is solid over hill and dale, too.
9. Kristen McGlynn, 2007, Platte Canyon HS, CO X/15th MW X/8th After great FL MW race, competed mostly in-state in track (altitude) plus Great SW double.
10. Rebekah Smeltzer, 2007, Monroe Jefferson HS, MI X/18th MW X/9th 2004 Qualifier lost summer training in 05, but nearly got back (actually faster); should be set after great spring.
11. Nikki Swenson, 2007, LPV/Dawson-Boyd HS, MN X/40th MW X/24th Top returnee from MN after great class of 06; has both good speed and endurance.
12. Lauren Haberkorn, 2008, Chicago Marist HS, IL X/39th MW X/23rd 2A State race was breakout last fall; backed up pretty well with 10:47 in track
13. Katelyn Bastert, 2007, Carthage HS, IL X/75th MW X/49th IL 1A champ had disappointment in Kenosha, then suffered first career loss in track. Now racing out of state for 1st time.
14. Laura Roxberg, 2008, Overland Park, KS X/27th MW X/16th Great Kenosha race last fall; doesn't have quite the track PRs of others in 2nd group
15. Sarah Wickman, 2007, Iowa City HS, IA X/22nd MW X/12th Super FL MW race to end jr. season, but injuries slowed progress in track; has long road back.

Honorable Mention (15, in alpha order):  Mikal Beckman MI, Kelly Bogard WI, Katie Dyson MN, Leigh Ann Ganzer CO, Katie Haines MI, Brittani Johnson MO, Stephanie King KS, Erin LaFave MI, Stephanie Morgan OH, Stephanie Mundt IA, Ellie Rastall CO, Brooklyne Ridder OH, Emily Sisson NB, Marissa Treece MI, Michelle Volz MN


1. Allison Eckert, 2007, Sioux Falls Roosevelt HS, Sioux Falls SD
2006 Track:  10:19.74 1st Wood Relays, 6th NON 10:25.90y, 2A State 10:45.10-1st/4:58.56-1st/2:11.24-1st
2005 CC:  32nd FL Finals 18:29, 6th FL Midwest 17:42, 2nd State 15:05 (4k), 15th Griak 19:17, 2nd Conference 14:33
2005 Track:  4:54.98 1st Yankton LC, 2nd Golden West 10:27.13
2004 CC:  22nd FLN 18:35, 7th FLMW 18:17, 13th NTN 19:07

2. Katie Vanatta, 2009, Ralston Valley HS, CO
2006 Track:  1st Golden West 10:16.18, 4A State 4:56.08-1st/10:40.66-1st
2005 CC:  DNC FL Midwest, 1st 4A State 18:08, 1st Martin Inv. 17:49

3. Betsy Bies, 2007, Yankton HS, Yankton SD
2006 Track:  2A State 5:03.03-4th/11:05.24-3rd (also 10:47/4:59)
2005 CC:  10th FL Finals 17:50, 2nd FL Midwest 17:29, 1st NTN 19:24, 1st USATF Dakotas 16:59, 1st State 14:36, 1st Yankton Tri-Meet 13:31, 1st Yankton 13:44, 1st Kobernick 14:12
2005 Track:  2nd State 10:45.59, 2nd Sioux City 10:10.73 (3k), 2nd Acola Relays 4:58.5
2004 CC:  15th FLMW 18:38, 15th NTN 19:08

4. Cassandra Schenck, 2007, Mantua Crestwood HS, OH
2006 Track:  NON 10:36.65y-10th/4:56.72y-10th (4th Sect. 2), 2nd Penn 3k 9:45.59, D2 State 4:57.76-2nd/10:50.45-2nd,
2005 CC:  12th FL Midwest 18:06, 3rd 2A State 18:46

5. Krista Eckert, 2007, Sioux Falls Roosevelt HS, SD
2006 Track:  2A State 4:58.75-2nd/2:16.04-3rd, 1st Howard Wood 4:55.45,
2005 CC:  26th FL Midwest 18:26, 3rd 2A State 15:09 (4k)
2004 CC: 10th NTN 18:55, 13th FL Midwest 18:33,

6. Lindsay Anderson, 2008, Leeds HS, Leeds ND
2006 Track:  28th (14th Sect. 3) NON 11:14.18y, State 5:04.55-1st/11:14.36-1st,
2005 CC:  25th FL Finals 18:15, 7th FL Midwest 17:44, 1st State Cl. A 15:02 (4k), 1st Mandan 14:33 (4k), 3rd Griak 18:10
2005 Track:  4:57.64y NON
2004 CC:  DNC FLMW

7. Alexandra Banfich, 2008, Culver Academy HS, Plymouth IN
2006 Track:  16th (3rd Sect. 2) NON 10:49.76y, USATF 4:35.96 1500-10th/18:27.75 5k-5th, State 10:47.20-1st/4:58.03-2nd,
2005 CC:  35th FL Finals 18:38, 8th FL Midwest 17:47, 1st State 14:05 (4k), 1st Centerville (OH) Stampede 18:10, 1st Region 14:17 (4k), 1st Semi-state 14:29
2005 Track:  4th State 5:02.52, 3rd State 10:56.99
2004 CC:  30th FLMW 19:08

8. Emily Infeld, 2008, Cleveland Hts. Beaumont, OH
2006 Track:  D1 State 2:10.28-1st/4:51.82-2nd,
2005 CC:  14th FL Midwest 18:10, 2nd D2 State 18:10

9. Kristen McGlynn, 2007, Platte Canyon HS, CO
2006 Track:  3A State 1st 5:05.3/1st-11:17.95, Great SW 1st-1500 4:45.33/1st-3k 11:04.17 (altitude)
2005 CC:  15th FL Midwest 18:11, 1st 3A State 18:32

10. Rebekah Smeltzer, 2007, Monroe Jefferson HS, MI
2006 Track:  D2 State 1st-10:42.86/1st-4:57.10,
2005 CC:  18th FL Midwest 18:13, 1st D2 State 17:44,
2004 CC:  9th FL Midwest 18:21, 20th FL Finals 18:33

11. Nikki Swenson, 2007, Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd HS, MN
2006 Track:  1A State 2nd-4:53.67/1st-2:12.08, 2nd Howard Wood 4:56.13,
2005 CC:  40th FL Midwest 18:42, 2nd 1A State 14:16

12. Lauren Haberkorn, 2008, Chicago Marist HS, IL
2006 Track:  2nd 2A State 10:47.18,
2005 CC:  1st 2A State 16:51, 39th FL Midwest 18:41,

13. Katelyn Bastert, 2007, Carthage HS, IL
2006 Track:  1A State 1st-10:56.78/2nd-5:03.45
2005 CC:  75th FL Midwest 19:17, 1st 1A State 16:51

14. Laura Roxberg, 2008, Overland Park HS, KS
2006 Track:  6A State 1st-2:18.12/1st-5:11.65, Kansas Relays 1st-4:59.46/1st-2:12.32,
2005 CC:  27th FL Midwest 18:27, 1st 6A 14:51 (4k)

15. Sarah Wickman, 2007, Iowa City HS, IA
2006 Track:  (mostly injured) State 4:53-1500/10:41-3k
2005 CC:  22nd FL Midwest 18:17, 1st 4A State 14.41 (4k)


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