The Internet Home of Track & Field

USATF Cross Country
Junior Nationals

Mission Bay Park, San Diego CA -- Saturday, February 16th, 2008

DyeStat on site with John Nepolitan

Return to San Diego brings Redemption for Five Qualifiers

The women's race at 2k, with Emily Reese on the left and Jordan Hasay, center. Photo John Nepolitan
By SteveU

Five special prep harriers, who were looking to make some waves last Saturday, had past thoughts and memories of San Diego which they were not particularly fond of – at least when it came to racing.

Jordan Hasay and German Fernandez had each expected to win when they raced there this past December, at the Foot Locker Finals at Balboa Park. In fact, Jordan had designs on winning that race each of the last two years, since she won it as a freshman in 2005. But neither was able to do so. Kevin Williams had hopes of at least placing in the top 10, and justifiably so. He was 26th.

Meanwhile, Emily Reese and Ben Johnson weren’t even here in December; their memories of Balboa were more distant. Emily had made it to Foot Locker Finals as a soph in 2005, but didn’t qualify the last two seasons from FL South. BenJo was the highest returning FL Finals and NTN finisher coming into 2007, but forced to choose this time between the meets, he naturally picked his team.

Now when this quintet toed the line Saturday, it wasn’t exactly Foot Locker Redux. Different event, different month, different distance – even a different park. Each had their own goals, but each also had a common motivation: To prove that they were better than the performance they closed 2007 with would indicate.

Obviously, they all had tremendous success. At last Saturday’s USATF Cross Country Championships, in the Junior races, Hasay and Fernandez each once again showed winning form. Hasay used a long drive to the finish while Fernandez triumphed with a strong finishing kick. Joining them on the respective US World Championship teams were Reese (3rd women), Williams and Johnson (5th and 6th, men).

Most importantly, all left Mission Bay Park with a renewed sense of satisfaction, having showed the running world, and validated again to themselves, what they were capable of.

Jordan Hasay - German Fernandez - Emily Reese - Kevin Williams - Ben Johnson

Jordan’s Journey hits another peak

Jordan Hasay has had her ups and downs in high school championship events, but put her on the line in a USATF meet and she’s money.

No one was going to deny Jordan last June when she ran away to her incredible Junior 1500 win in Indianapolis – perhaps the signature moment of her career, outside of her 2005 Foot Locker win – and the same has been true the last two years in the USATF Jr. XC meets. Last February, after her 10th at Foot Locker as a soph, Jordan came into Boulder for the meet she’d pointed to all along and dominated the field. This time, knowing that type of strategy had not worked at 2007 Foot Locker, she ran a relaxed first 4k and turned on the jets in the final loop for an easy win.

“It feels good to defend a (national) XC title for the first time!” she said later. “I definitely felt more relaxed and controlled while running in the pack Saturday than being out in the lead. I felt that I had a lot left for the last 1k, and it ended up working out, and I was able to pull away from Alex. I really enjoyed the grass course and the crowd was great.”

Jordan has no problem acknowledging that her somewhat impulsive burst away from the field early at Foot Locker last fall was a mistake. “It would have been much better to stay in the pack and have a big finish (as I did Saturday),” she said. “So, because of that mistake, the strategy Saturday was to stay with the pack until 1k or ½-k to go.”

Jordan begins to pull away with 2k to go. Photo John Nepolitan
As Jordan has grown as a runner, she’s become more reflective and she explained how a combination of factors – such as recovery from an injury she’s had since Foot Locker and the overall rest she had before each race – figured in to the different outcomes.

I think a major difference between this race and Foot Locker was that Saturday I was more rested and ready to go,” she said. “It’s very difficult for us CA kids to run 3 weekends in a row and to peak for the last race. I wanted to run the fastest time in the state, so I had to run hard at the state meet. Then I took it easy at the regional, but any race still takes a toll on you. So, I think that by the time Foot Locker comes around, mentally and physically, it’s a little bit draining. It’s hard to face all of those great girls, the best in the nation, after running two hard races already.”

Jordan’s coach, Dr. Armando Siqueiros, agreed. “Jordan is just not strong enough to run three hard 5Ks in a row (on successive weekends). Now I know many people will say she did it as a freshman. But she ran "the perfect race" at Foot Locker her freshman year. Her main competition her freshman year, Mel Lawrence, had battled her the weekend before at Mt. SAC and was probably a little jaded, too. I do believe Christine Babcock when she says she's tired at the end of the California season and therefore doesn't race these post season races (no recovery between weekends). I believe at this level those three 5Ks are like three 10Ks for open athletes. I don't know of any athlete that wants to run three hard 10Ks in a row.”

While she was rested for this big race, there was another factor kept Jordan’s expectations, and probably her tension level, at a modest level. She and Coach Mando weren’t completely aware of what was going on with her foot before Foot Locker, but tests after the meet revealed it to be Metatarsalgia, a swelling on the bottom of the foot around the second metatarsal.

“I could not run for two weeks (after Foot Locker), but we were very glad that it was not a stress fracture,” said Jordan. “Coach Mando wanted to be very cautious coming back into things, so when I started running again, it was only for short periods on the grass. After I started running again, then I started to have some pain in my second toe, which we think was a little bit of tendonitis resulting from the first injury. So slowly that got better and I was able to run pain free on the grass.

“As far as training has been going, I haven’t been doing anything special,” she continued. “Mostly I’ve been running on the grass to take care of my foot. Our main workout has been a 3-mile tempo run on the grass. We’ve also been doing some hill repeats. Mainly, this period in my training is my base for track season.”

Coach Mando concurred. “Her training this past winter has been steady. Nothing spectacular. I try to keep it pretty simple. We have modified some things slightly to help keep her foot healthy.”

Despite the modest intensity in running, Jordan has combined that with swimming and other training to get in frighteningly good shape. ““Going into the race Saturday, I did not feel like I was in any better shape than I was at Foot Locker. However, we do feel like I am in better shape than I was last year at this time … Last weekend I ran a 3-second PR in the 3k (9:23.90 in a mixed race outdoors). The point of that race was mainly to test my foot and my fitness. We were actually expecting me to run around 9:15 or so, but my splits ended up being very uneven.”

After the World Youth 1500 last summer. More Team USA berths appear to be in Jordan's future.
Photo Joy Kamani.

Yes, reportedly, Jordan went out in 32 for the first 200 of that race. But still … 9:15??? Gulp. Yeah, um, that’s flying.

In any case, the Mission College Prep jr flew away from the competition the last 2k. Coach Mando agreed with his athlete that the race plan was better executed that her last San Diego outing. “I also feel Jordan was able to focus better on this weekend's race,” he said. “As Jordan reached the end of the high school season, I feel she was trying to accomplish too much. She was trying to put up a time Christine Babcock couldn't beat at the state. She was trying to run a fantastic time at the Western Region race. Those goals drained her.

“She got a little over excited at Foot Locker and went a little too fast in the beginning,” he added, noting he was still pleased the way Jordan fought back for third at the end.

But the still-young-but-veteran racer has proven she’s nothing if not a fighter and, like the old saying goes, maybe adversity really does make you stronger. Each time it has appeared Jordan has suffered a setback, she comes back in the next big race better than ever. Now, with the temperance owed to the foot situation, Team Hasay will add speedwork to the equation as the track season dawns. Jordan and Coach Mando confirmed that Jordan won’t be going to Scotland.

Arcadia, however, looms large. Last spring, when Jordan and her family nixed the Kenyan World Cross trip, she responded with a string of sub-10:10s 3200/2Ms that was unprecedented. Then at Arcadia, Jordan’s nerves rose a bit and she couldn’t quite make the leap into sub-10 territory. But her 4:16.98 1500 at USATFs would seem to indicate she has the ability to at least approach the HSR (9:48.59). If she gets some strong competition, which could come in the form of none other than Foot Locker Champ Ashley Brasovan (the Floridian is currently expected to come West for the meet), fans could really see some performances for the ages.

“I think the girl is on a mission in track this spring,” said one observer.

Don’t doubt it. If one of Jordan’s strengths is coming back from adversity, though, maybe her ascension will continue to be like has been so far – a process with ups and downs. But coach and athlete seem to be in it for the long haul. Mando has worked with the athlete for what seems like quite a few years now, and as much as said that their collaboration is a work in progress. “I think as I learn her better (and she understands more of what I am trying to do), she will "peak" even better. These things take time.”

And, contrary to what has been the case with some young phenoms of the past, time seems to be on Jordan’s side.

German Fernandez - Emily Reese - Kevin Williams - Ben Johnson (more to come)

The men's race at 3700m. Kevin Williams, German Fernandez and Ben Johnson are visible 2nd, 3rd and 4th from right. Photo John Nepolitan

US Home Page