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steveu's girls predictions - 2006 Foot Locker

Dec. 9, 2006 Balboa Park, San Diego

by Steve Underwood

Aurora’s Here to Win.  Period.

And that’s what the Chesapeake VA jr. is predicted to do in perhaps the best field in Foot Locker history

The atmosphere surrounding tomorrow’s Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships girls race is a little different than most years.  Maybe less like a festive cross-country meet and a little more like … a heavyweight boxing championship, maybe?  There is a seriousness, an intensity that is not always here, a little less “I just want to do as well as I can” and a little more “I’m here to win.”

Careers and legacies are on the line here.  At season’s start, another Jordan Hasay-Marie Lawrence battle seemed the most likely scenario.  Now from Virginia and Tennessee to Nebraska and Colorado, a half-dozen girls have experienced improvements so significant that suddenly in the last few weeks “best girls race ever” talk has become all the rage.

And on the course Friday, there’s Aurora Scott talking in very frank terms about expecting to win; there’s Lawrence confiding that she and her coach have a new plan to turn her string of 3 runner-up finishes into gold; and there’s Hasay.  You don’t even have to ask the defending champion how much she wants to repeat.  She’ll throw down and you better be able to match it.

Kathy Kroeger, Emily Sisson, and Kaitie Vanatta may not say it the same way, but watch their eyes on the course Saturday and feel the heat.

What's going to happen Saturday? 

So what in the name of Suzy Hamilton and Regina Jacobs is going on?  How did we get to this point and what’s going to happen Saturday?

Well, you start with the two you expected to be here, Hasay and Lawrence, and figure they’re both ready to win and want to as badly or worse than ever – the Mission Bay Prep CA soph to defend and the Reno NV sr to win in her last try.  Then you take the Franklin TN sophomore Kroeger, who was just 16th last year, but then improved so much as to dominate Great American and then run a state meet time so stupendous that the best boy in the state was less than a minute faster.

Next you mix in Ralston Valley CO soph Vanatta, who has run sub-10:20 and taken a strong state by a stranglehold with fantastic times at altitude, and you actually have her LOSE at at the Midwest regional to a Omaha NE freshman who ran a 9:46 3k as an 8th-grader and has raced 4k all year – but suddenly nearly takes down the region record.

You then make sure not to overlook the best from the Northeast region, where Shippensburg PA jr Neely Spence and Saratoga NY jr Hannah Davidson ran that course at Vanny two weeks ago about as well as it’s been run this decade.

But then you look into the boiling mix of blazing contenders and note its center, red hot but also ice cool at the same time.  Aurora Scott, the homeschooled legend from Chesapeake VA, doesn’t seem to be here to partake of the festive vibe and get all buddy-buddy with everyone else.  She’s here to do what she does – run eye-popping times and win, baby.  If it were a national track meet, the distinction wouldn’t be noticed as much.  National CC meets are a little different, but should the burning desire to win be any different?  Scott is here and she can turn the world here at Balboa upside down tomorrow.  And with the figurative weight of all the champions here, what a resounding boom that would be.

Honestly, I'm going out there to win it. -- Aurora Scott

“Rankings don't mean anything,” Scott says. “Honestly, I'm going out there to win it. I'm not thinking about anybody else. Just run my own race …”  Confidence, certitude, and centeredness, thy names are Aurora.

So what will happen in the race?  Don’t look for anyone, at least any true contender, to sprint out madly in the lead, but look for an uncommonly fast first mile, maybe sub-5:20, and the pace not to let up.  That’s what happened at McAlpine at FL South with Scott and Kroeger and it should be no different here.

Hasay, Kroeger and maybe Sisson and Vanatta should be able to deal, but the strain will start to show pretty fast among the rest.  Mel, Spence, and Davidson will have to decide if they want to hang and risk beginning to red line at 2-miles.

Jordan will likely want to make her patented mid-race move at 2 miles or so, but can she still do it if that mark is reached in 10:40-50?  With tongue out and braced hard against lip and teeth, she will try to, because that’s what she does and she knows she’s not a kicker.  But the move may not carry its typical weight and shake Kroeger and Scott.

With 800-1200 to go, Aurora will probably make her countermove and then we’ll see what Jordan’s made of and if Kroeger’s more ready to deal with her this week and on this decidedly different course.

The prediction is that they won’t be able to deal with the real deal from Chesapeake VA.  Scott will win and Hasay will be able to dig just a little deeper than Kroeger for 2nd.  They will all be under or very close to 17-flat.  Let’s call it 16:46 for Aurora.

Mel may run her best time ever here, and pass Sisson at the end, whose kick could be dissipated by the pace, but it probably won’t be enough for the top three.  Spence may reel in Vanatta and Davidson should follow.

For the rest of the top 15, the question will be who’s tough, who runs smart, and who has what it takes to win the “second race.”  Seniors Ashley Higginson NJ, Allison Eckert SD, Lauren Saylor CA, and Betsy Bies SD may have the best of those qualities, as well as jr Emily Infeld OH.

Here's my top 20:

1. Aurora Scott VA South
2. Jordan Hasay CA West
3. Kathy Kroeger TN South
4. Marie Lawrence NV West
5. Emily Sisson NE Midwest
6. Neely Spence PA Northeast
7. Kaitie Vanatta CO Midwest
8. Hannah Davidson NY Northeast
9. Ashley Higginson NJ Northeast
10. Allison Eckert SD Midwest
11. Emily Infeld OH Midwest
12. Lauren Saylor CA West
13. Betsy Bies SD Midwest
13. Jillian Rosen TX South
14. Carly Seymour PA Northeast
15. Kauren Tarver CA West
16. Cory McGee MS South
17. Alison Smith MD Northeast
18. Katelyn Bastert IL Midwest
19. Emilie Amaro FL South
20. Kristen McGlynn CO Midwest