1999 Foot Locker
Preview by Pearl Watts
from a Northern Virginia perspective (Pearl writes for the Journal
newspapers in Northern Virginia)
The Northern Region will be sending its lowest number of Foot Locker
National Cross Country Championship qualifiers in years with just two runners
making the grade this year. However, the duo of Alan Webb of South Lakes and
Lake Braddock's Erin Swain are expected to do quite well at the National
Finals to be held at the Shades of Green Oak Trail Course in Orlando, Florida
Webb, the South Lakes junior who is undefeated this cross country season
and last suffered a racing setback when he finished second in the mile run at
the National Scholastic Championships last June in Raleigh but came away with
the sophomore class record of 4 minutes, 6.94 seconds, is certainly one of
the co-favorites on the boys side along with seniors Josh Rohatinsky of
Provo, Utah and Ian Dobson from Klamath Falls, Oregon and junior Dathan
Ritzenhein of Rockford, Michigan.
Webb, whose most recent victory came two weekends ago at the Foot Locker
South Regional where he broke the meet and course record first established in
1982 of 14:57 with his time of 14:52 for the 5,000 meter course looks primed
and ready for the national meet according to South Lakes coach Scott Raczko.
"In the past couple of weeks Alan has looked very sharp, is mechanically
sound and is feeling fresh. He's going into the race wanting to win. Even if
he doesn't win, the base he has established during cross country has set him
up for a great track season. If he runs at his best he will do very well,"
Among Webb's chief challengers will be Rohatinsky, Dobson and Ritzenhien,
the only three returnees from last year's nationals race but all of whom
placed in the top ten at last year's meet.
Rohatinsky finished fifth last year in 15:36 over the 5,000 meter course
with graduated Jorge Torres of Wheeling, Illinois winning in 15:16 for the
meet record in the second year of the race on the Oak Trails layout.
Rohatinsky took the West Regional last week on the tough Mt.Sac, California
course in 15:37 and has a best of 8:55.69 for the 3,200 run on the track from
Dobson posted some major victories this season and was the runnerup to
Rohatinsky at the West Regional in 15:45 and claimed seventh at Foot Locker
Nationals last year in 15:46. Ritzenhein is also one of the top runners to
watch in Saturday's 10:40 a.m. race having won the Midwest Regional in 14:55
and placing ninth at nationals last year in 15:46 and with a best in the
3,200 run of 8:58.65.
Others to watch include Northeast Region champ Dan Coval of Pennsylvania;
California's Augie Escobar, who was fourth in the West Region and has run
8:56.23 for 3,200 meters; Don Sage of Illinois (3rd, Midwest) who has a mile
best of 4:09.64; South runnerup Ricky Brookshire of North Carolina with a
mile p.r. of 4:11.28 and Bobby Lockhart from Handley High in Winchester,
Va., the lone sophomore qualifier in the elite 32 runner field.
Erin Swain, the Lake Braddock senior and South Region champion, is not
to contend for the title but will look to help better that region's
performance from last year in which the top finisher was Robinson graduate
Liz Awtrey in 21st at 18:54.69.
Lake Braddock coach Marshall Windsor said, "a nice goal for Erin would
to be able to finish in the top fifteen (3rd team All American) and be able
to go up on the stage at the awards ceremony in recognition of that. Her game
plan all year has been to not go out overly fast and then move up in the
middle stages of the race and she shouldn't stray from that since it has been
successful all season. If the lead group goes out very fast in 5:10 to 5:15
for the first mile, Erin needs to stay within herself and not panic but
settle in a little under 5:30. Then she needs to start moving up on the pack
and may get some of the runners who went out hard to also start coming back
to her. Top fifteen is certainly a possibility with anything around the top
ten icing on the cake."
The girls race, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. on the relatively flat but
not overly fast course with small sidehills and a number of not so gradual
turns has six runners back from last year's race led by Felicia Gulliford of
Gallup, New Mexico. Gulliford was this year's West runnerup who easily won
the Great American Festival in Charlotte in late September and is the top
returnee at this year's race after finishing fourth as a freshman last year
at nationals in 17:48.
Also returning from the Midwest are Illinois seniors Katherine Hartmann
(5th; 18:03) and three time qualifier Rebecca Mitchell (9th; 18:21), New
York's Jillian Mastroianni (14th; 18:27), Hilary White of Texas (26th; 19:14)
and Abby Miller of Henderson, Nevada who was third as a freshman in 1996 and
placed tenth last year in 18:23.
Others to watch include West Region winner Alicia Craig of Gillette,
Wyoming; Alejandra Barrientos of Felton, California who ranked third in the
nation in the mile run last year at 4:45.02; sophomore Melissa Donais of
Massacusetts who was the Northeast Region champ and from the Midwest, their
region champ Victoria Jackson of Forest Park, Illinois with track bests of
10:44.91 for 3,200 meters and 17:59.47 for 5,000 meters.