Foot Locker Cross Country
Nov 25 - Dec 9, 2006

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2006 Foot Locker Favorites
South Boys - Pre-Season

After Top Three, Plenty of Room
For New Faces in South

Regional Top 15 - Bios

by Steve (steveu) Underwood

Some Foot Locker regions are really heavy on returning standouts. This year, the South region for boys just isn’t one of them. It’s not just the numbers, which aren’t that bad (7 of top 25). It’s the sense you get that there’s not much depth here, relatively speaking. Gone are Jack Bolas, Michael Eaton, Justin Harbor – national class runners, all.

Georgia’s Ben Hubers is really the only runner of the group who has reached that level among the current best, although you’re pretty close with Texans Colby Lowe and Duncan Phillips. That trio comprises the San Diego returnees in the group, and all three can certainly hold aspirations for top 10 this fall.

After that, it’s really up for grabs, though you’ve got two experienced, consistent, and improving performers in Jay Heller GA and Kevin Schwab OK. The final five spots are really, REALLY up in the air. A few states, like Florida and North Carolina, are down compared to some years. But descriptions like “down” and “up in the air” are only relative to what’s happened to date. The great thing is that there’s a wide-open season waiting for athletes to excel and claim spots that other years would be all but unattainable.

Ben Hubers

There’s nothing down or up in the air about Hubers, the Marietta (McEachern) GA senior. Georgia distance athletes haven’t done much in recent years on a national level, but he could change that. His state dominance last fall didn’t necessarily suggest a certain FL Finals berth, but Hubers qualified easily in 4th as a junior, then was a very respectable 18th at FL Finals, positioning himself as the #4 returnee.

Track truly established Hubers as national class, however. He had a few minor stumbles during the early part of the season, but then hit a huge 4:08.65, swept GA state with 9:05.89/4:12.97, then blasted through the 9:00 barrier with a solo 8:57.33 at the Music City Meet. All that was left was to make a good showing and contend for a medal at NON – and he did that by taking the bronze in the mile with 4:09.76. He’s the clear favorite in this region and at least a top-5 level finalist.

Colby Lowe

Colby Lowe was the only male sophomore on the course in San Diego and, if all goes well for him, the Southlake Carroll TX jr. could likely be the national favorite as a senior in 2007. For now, he can shoot for at least a top-three spot on the McAlpine Speedway, the Charlotte NC home of FL South, and improving from 29th to maybe the top 10 at least in the Finals.

Lowe will be remembered for shooting out into the early lead in San Diego, but he’s starting to temper things a bit. At Texas 5A State, he ran a smart 3200 and was rewarded with a PR 9:05.17, which is also superior to anyone in the region not named Hubers. He then shut it down to get ready for CC instead of going another month for nationals.

Duncan Phillips

When Duncan Phillips ran 4:10 as a sophomore at A&M Consolidated HS in Texas, huge things were anticipated. But his junior year had its ups and downs and injury issues. He beat Lowe by 2 seconds at TX 5A State, then had a fine race in Charlotte to make the Finals. There, however, he was just 37th. His spring was ok, as he breezed to the TX 5A 1600 win, but with back problems didn’t really progress or continue his season. Given his talent, if he can get healthy, he can be very near the top as a miler and harrier.

the others

Jay Heller, the sr. from Walton HS in Marietta GA, has developed a great rivalry with Hubers, who is basically a cross-town rival in NW suburban Atlanta. He ran well in several losses to Hubers, but beat him in the Cobb County meet 3200, 9:11.41-9:11.43, a time which would stand as his PR. In XC he had a very good race at FL South, running 13th in 15:19, making him the #4 returnee.

Some might remember Mustang OK sr Kevin Schwab from when he led the national list as a soph with a 14:45. The distance of that course was later revealed to be something short of 5k and Schwab was definitely not ready for prime time. Fast forward about 18 months to his appearance this past spring in the NON 5k. He wasn’t quite as fast, but you can be assured his 15:00.56 for 2nd behind Ben Massam NJ was accurate. With continued improvement – he was 20th last fall in Charlotte and now is the #6 returnee – he looks like a very good bet to make it to the Finals and make an impact.

After Schwab – well, your guess is as good – well, almost as good – as ours. But it seems pretty likely that the list will be highly populated by Virginians … who have some of the better returning spots and many of the best track times.

That state’s best includes both veterans, like West Springfield sr Mike Spooner, and young up-and-comers like juniors Griff Graves (Abingdon), Jason Witt (Midlothian), and soph Thomas Porter (Mountain View). Spooner has been one of the state’s best for more than a year, though he’s sometimes inconsistent. He was runner-up at 3A state, then just 39th at FL South. In track, he won the state indoor and outdoor 3200s, and was 9th at Penn 3k in 8:36.

Witt and Porter were 3rd and 8th at 3A State, with Graves winning 2A with a time in between the others. Witt and Graves didn’t run FL South, but Porter won the freshman race over AL standout Billy Matthews. In track, Graves got down to 9:13.9, the state’s best time, though he was struggling by state meet time. Porter got down to 9:19.97 to narrowly lose to Spooner at 3A state, while Witt ran 9:21.91y at Southern Track Classic.

After Spooner and Graves on the list is Vista Ridge TX sr Travis Fort, the state 3A CC champ. Fort was actually 15th in FL South as a soph, then slipped to 25th last year. He then missed track with injury problems, but if he can rebound is probably the 3rd best overall in the state of Texas.

North Carolina then clocks in with two entries. Hickory jr Ryan Hill took Fort’s 15th place spot in Charlotte last fall and he is the 5th returnee. He was also the 3A state champ and then in the spring hit a PR 9:16.50 to win Taco Bell. East Forsyth jr Dylan Ferris is more of a track specialist, but is expected to make an impact in 4A CC. He blazed 1:51.95 for 800 and 4:16.03 for 1600 this past spring.

Full of young talent is Alabama, perhaps no where more than Mountain Brook. Their talented  soph Billy Matthews claimed the 6A title there last fall as a freshman in 15:53, then went on to finish 2nd to VA’s Thomas Porter in the FL South frosh race. In track, he hit 4:21/9:24 after threatening the national mile record for his class in the winter. Meanwhile, Oak Mountain jr Taylor Crane was 4th at 6A state in cross, but then swept the distance races in 6A track with 4:16.08/9:19.80.

Brian Long, now a sr with national power St. Xavier in Louisville KY is also in this top 15. He was a fine 29th at FL South last fall and also got NTN experience. He went on to run 4:21/9:23 in track.

Don’t be surprised, though, if many of these runners beyond the top six or so are challenged or overtaken by top runners from Tennessee, Florida or other states. This is a year where the enterprising and hard-working up-and-coming runner can make it to San Diego, even without great past credentials.

Foot Locker Favorites - South Boys Top 15 - Pre-Season


Last Year: Finals/Reg. Returning Finals/Region Comments
1. Ben Hubers, 2007, McEachern HS, GA 18th/4th S 4th/1st Steady, consisent runner with good combo speed and endurance; proved mettle with 3rd at NON mile.
2. Colby Lowe, 2008, Southlake Carroll HS, TX 29th/9th S 7th/3rd 1st Jr. on list; Learning to rein in cannonshot start; definite endurance runner
3. Duncan Phillips, 2007, A&M Consolidated HS, TX 37th/5th S 8th/2nd Best as a miler - 4:10 as soph, back problems this spring; if healthy, watch out
4. Jay Heller, 2007, Walton HS, GA X/13th S X/4th Has beaten Hubers, so he knows what the big time is like; getting close
5. Kevin Schwab, 2007, Mustang HS, OK X/20th S X/6th Big times on suspect courses as soph; 15:00 at NON shows he's arrived as regional force.
6. Mike Spooner, 2007, West Springfield HS, VA X/39th S X/15th Sometimes inconsistent, but seems poised to lead VA harriers as a senior now.
7. Griff Graves, 2008, Abingdon HS, VA X/DNR S X/X Developed into one of nation's best sophomores last spring when he hit 9:13; also won 2A VA XC
8. Travis Fort, 2007, Vista Ridge HS, TX X/25th S X/7th After 15th in FL South as soph, slipped to 25th as junior; somewhat of a mystery with abbreviated track season.
9. Ryan Hill, 2008, Hickory HS, NC X/15th S X/5th Great race at FL South last fall and should be best NC runner this time around with Bolas, Roberts, etc., gone
10. Dylan Ferris, 2008, East Forsyth HS, NC X/DNC S X/X If he can turn considerable middle distance talent (1:51/4:16) into harrier success, he could make it to San Diego
11. Jason Witt, 2008, Midlothian HS, VA X/DNC S X/X Maturing leader of one of VA's top XC programs hopes for FL Finals and/or NTN bid for team.
12. Thomas Porter, 2009, Mountain View HS, VA X/1st (Fr.) X/** Won FL South freshman race with time that would have put him in top 40 in big race; one of country's best sophs
13. Billy Matthews, 2009, Mountain Brook HS, AL X/2nd (Fr.) X/** 2nd to VA's Porter in FL South after winning 6A state; then he flirted with freshman indoor mile mark.
14. Brian Long, 2007, St. Xavier HS, KY X/29th X/10th Should be the one to fill big shoes of Michael Eaton as KY's best harrier this fall.
15. Taylor Crane, 2008, Oak Mountain HS, AL X/DNC S X/X Really blossomed in spring as he took the 6A 1600 and 3200 as a sophomore

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): Clay Adams TN, Michael Anderson FL, Chris Berry TN, Zach Flowers TX, Chris Harkins TX, Sean Keveran TN, Tim Landry AL, Axel Mostrag VA, Mitchel Ownbey OK, Michael Winston GA,


1. Ben Hubers, 2007, McEachern HS, Marietta GA
2006 Track:  3rd NON 4:09.76y, 8:57.33 1st Music City, 5A State 9:05.89-1st/4:12.97-1st, 4:08.65 1st Region, 2nd Taco Bell 4:17.82y
2005 CC:  18th FL Finals 15:34, 4th FL South 14:55, 1st 5A State 15:29, 1st Jesse Owens 15:20, 1st Tenn. Classic 14:57 (3M)
2005 Track:  1st 5A State 9:21.21, 1st Cobb Champs 4:18.55
2004 CC:  22nd FLS 15:32

2. Colby Lowe, 2008, Southlake Carroll HS, Southlake, TX
2006 Track:  5A State 9:05.17-1st/4:15.32-3rd, 4:13.72 1st District, Region 9:19.39-1st/4:16.13-1st, 9:10.62 1st Jesuit-Sheaner Relays
2005 CC:  29th FL Finals 15:52, 9th FL South 15:07, 2nd 5A State 15:22, 1st Texas A&M 14:38 (3M), 1st Marcus Inv 15:17, 1st Azle Inv. 14:27 (3M)
2005 Track:  1st District 9:31.36, 3rd District 4:23.61
2004 CC:  65th FLS 15:58, 30th NTN 16:45

3. Duncan Phillips, 2007, A&M Consolidated HS, College Station TX
2006 Track:  4:13.41 1st 5A State, 4:13.49 1st Klein Relays, 2nd Region 4:17.90, 1:52.61 1st Kingwood TrueTeam, 9th Boston In 4:13.19yi
2005 CC:  37th FL Finals 16:18, 5th FL South 14:59, 1st 5A State 15:20, 1st Humble Inv. 15:13, 1st Region 15:29, 4th A&M Inv. 15:07 (3M)
2005 Track:  2nd 5A State 4:10.96, 7th Texas Relays 9:21.47
2004 CC:  DNC FLS

4. Jay Heller, 2007, Walton HS, Marietta, GA
2006 Track:  9:11.41 1st Cobb Co., 5A State 4:13.10-2nd/9:15.99-2nd, 1st Mobile 9:14.25,
2005 CC:  13th FL South 15:19, 2nd 5A State 15:52,

5. Kevin Schwab, 2007, Mustang, OK
2006 Track:  2nd NON 5k 15:00.56, 3rd GSW 9:31.93(A), 2nd TX Relays 9:20.68,
2005 CC:  20th FL South 15:28, 1st 5A State 15:46, 1st OK/ARK All-Star 15:22,

6. Mike Spooner, 2007, West Springfield HS, VA
2006 Track:  3A State 5th-4:19.42/1st-9:19.80, 9th Penn 3k 8:36.87, 4:17.10y 4th Sou. Trk Classic, 9:20.62i 1st State Ind,
2005 CC:  39th FL South 15:45, 2nd 3A State 15:26,

7. Griff Graves, 2008, Abingdon HS, VA
2006 Track:  2A State 3rd-4:29.38/2nd-9:30.69, 7th Prospect IL meet 9:13.9, 2nd Mobile 9:22.53, SouTrkClassic 4:23.88y-7th/9:35.92-8th, Mtn Brook 1st-9:18.30/3rd-4:18.87,
2005 CC:  DNR FL South, 1st 2A State 15:52,

8. Travis Fort, 2007, Vista Ridge H.S., Cedar Park, TX
2006 Track:  No times found
2005 CC:  25th FL South, 15:32, 1st 4A State 15:43, 3rd McNeil Inv. 15:44, 1st Klein 15:52
2005 Track: 4:24 1600
2004 CC:  15th FLS 15:27

9. Ryan Hill, 2008, Hickory, NC
2006 Track:  9:16.50 1st Taco Bell, 3A State 9:40.34-1st/4:25.27-2nd,
2005 CC:  15th FL South 15:24, 1st 3A State 16:20,

10. Dylan Ferris, 2008, East Forsyth HS, NC
2006 Track:  4A State 1st-1:51.95/3rd-4:16.13, Taco Bell 1st-4:17.81y/1st-1:55.77,
2005 CC:  DNR FL South,

11. Jason Witt, 2008, Midlothian HS, VA
2006 Track:  3A State 8th-9:33.55, 14th Penn 3k 8:47.71, 2nd SouTrkClassic 9:21.91y, 4:24.44 Region,
2005 CC:  DNR FL South, 3rd 3A State 15:40,

12. Thomas Porter, 2009, Mountain View HS, VA
2006 Track:  2nd 3A State 9:19.97, 2nd District 4:23.24
2005 CC:  1st (freshman race) FL South 15:43, 8th 3A State 15:57,

13. Bill Matthews, 2009, Mountain Brook HS, AL
2006 Track:  6A State 5th-4:21.64, 3rd-9:34.69, Mtn. Brook Inv. 6th-4:21.27/2nd-9:24.10,
2005 CC:  2nd (freshman race) FL South 15:56, 1st 6A State 15:53, 13th GA ROC 15:50,

14. Brian Long, 2007, St. Xavier HS, Louisville, KY
2006 Track:  State 2nd-4:21.51/10:03.61-10th, Region 2nd-4:28.61/1st-9:23.28
2005 CC:  29th FL South 15:36, 48th NTN 17:34, 8th 3A State 16:31,

15. Taylor Crane, 2008, Oak Mountain HS, AL
2006 Track:  6A State 1st-4:16.08/1st-9:19.80,
2005 CC:  DNR FL South, 4th 6A State 16:10,


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