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presented by


and quotes

By Stephen (steveu) Underwood


• -- You can talk about Amber Trotter setting a course record yesterday, a meet record or having the second-largest winning margin in Foot Locker championship history. But how about the fastest time on any legit 5k course ever? A hard-to-answer question, to be sure. But can anyone remember a time faster than 16:24? One man, whose memory has to be as good as anyone’s, couldn’t think of any yesterday as he was writing his stories. That would be Marc Bloom… 

• -- When Amber accepted her first-place trophy at the awards dinner, she showed a little emotion as she thanked everyone who supported her through a “very rough year,” alluding to her battle against anorexia, which she has been very public about. Earlier in the afternoon, she admitted dealing with the disease is “still a struggle,” but agreed that being real with it every day with the people she lives and works with is a great safeguard against relapse. “It has taken a personal commitment and desire.”

When presented with the idea that she is in for some big PRs in track, especially given that she hasn’t competed since her sophomore year on the oval, she reflected on an event from last spring. “I went on the track and ran two miles as hard as I could,” she said. “I ran 11:40 … and that ended up being a turning point (in realizing she had to do something about her eating disorder). … This fall has been so meaningful after missing track.”

• -- Great coach-athlete relationships are often a key to elite success, especially with stars from smaller programs where there’s not a lot of example at the state level. A great example is North Carolina’s Laura Stanley and her coach at Carolina Day School, Bob Walters. “The splits I ran today (5:27-11:09) were just what he wanted,” said Stanley, who had top 5 as a goal and hit just that. “He knows me so well. I knew that if I trusted my training, my body could do it.” 

• -- The youngest, smallest and maybe most universally beloved of all the girls’ entrants, Zoe Nelson of Montana, seemed not unhappy at all after finishing 20th. After all, she still ran a solid 18-flat on the humid morning. “I had a little sideache that was painful … and I’m sure not used to the heat,” she said. “But it was such a good experience and I am so happy I got to come. Not many girls get to run here as freshmen.”

• -- You can’t say New York’s Tracey Brauksieck doesn’t take her racing seriously. She lamented the fact after the race that she had “only” an hour and 15 minutes to warm up. “I normally do an hour-and-a-half warmup,” she said. 

• -- Montana’s Heidi Lane was one of many who really appreciated the presence of the Nike world-class athletes at the meet. The team captain of her West squad was none other than Regina Jacobs. “She really made sure she talked with all of us,” she said.

• -- Rockford, Mich.’s Nikki Bohnsack kept her school’s FL Finals tradition alive; they’ve had qualifiers for four straight years now, including Jason Hartmann, Dathan Ritzenhein, Kalin Toedebusch and Linsey Blaisdell. But Saturday wasn’t quite super for the super sophomore. “The first mile is always comfortable for me, but I could not get in my comfort zone.” You could also count Bohnsack among someone who wouldn’t mind if the Finals were moved, oh, say 1000 miles north. “I love running in the winter,” she said.

• -- For those who sometimes talk about girls’ distance running as a sport of young prodigies, Saturday showed that upper-class experience makes a difference. No less than 21 of the top 24 girls Saturday were seniors.

• -- Only twice, in 1981 and 1982, has the third-place finisher been faster than Natasha Roetter’s 17:05.

• -- Amazing, but true: Without a 2001 track season, Trotter’s track PRs date back to when she was a sophomore. They would be 5:10 for the 1600 and 10:50 for the 3200. Those marks were routinely smashed for her splits this fall in 5k races. 


• -- Tim Moore may seem like the most laid-back of runners, but Novi, Mich. (and that’s pronounced No-Vie, not No-Vee) head coach Robert Smith saw a certain something in his star Friday that told him he was ready. “When he has confidence, it shows in his eyes and his face,” he said. “It’s like a glow … A lot of kids when you ask them how they’re feeling, even if they feel good, they kind of hedge. But Tim said the other day, ‘Coach, I really feel good.’”

• -- And Coach Smith on Moore’s effort Saturday: “He really ran a very smart race. He didn’t get too excited at the beginning, but he kept it fast. And the other guys … they really ran his race.”

• -- Runner-up Bobby Lockhart from Virginia took a loooong time in the medical tent before coming out to meet with the media and others. No, he wasn’t injured or in extreme distress, but just exhausted from the heat and his effort – and disappointed. Still, he ran one of the best races of his career. And if you’re wondering what’s next for the John Handley senior, it’s going to be a shot at the World CC junior team. A shot at a fast 5k at a meet like Penn is another possibility.

• -- When people talk about an athlete’s “size,” they are usually talking about football or basketball players. But overheard more than once yesterday were track experts marveling at junior Chris Solinsky’s size. Clearly, yesterday’s third-place finisher has used his power and strength to great advantage and has a great chance to be the nation’s dominant runner next fall.

• -- A great motivator for Solinsky: “My coach kept hollering at me. He’s great; no matter where I was on the course, I could hear him.”

• -- The team title was, of course, a great source of pride for the Midwest boys. In fact, few scenes after the race were happier than when Moore, Solinsky, Tim Ross and the rest discovered they had outscored the West, 38-42. “I was really happy to do my part,” said Ross, who surprised a lot of people by taking 5th after being just 6th in the Midwest. “Most of us were talking about trying to finish in the top three.” The Midwest won by taking three of the top five spots.

• -- On the other hand, the South boys didn’t quite perform as they wanted as a group. The favorite of many to take the title, they were still a solid third with 52 points. “We wanted to run a little better,” admitted Fleet Hower of Virginia. Hower had a pretty good performance himself, however, taking 11th after finishing 6th in the South. “I got outkicked (for 10th) at the end,” he said, “but I ran pretty even splits and my goal was to get in the top 15, so I’m pretty happy.”

• -- West region winner Nurani Sheikh was one of the biggest surprises coming into Orlando, but he certainly confirmed his talent in 4th. Did he ever feel he could win? “With 800 to go, I felt it was OK for me to move and win,” he said. “But everybody was running their hardest. With 400 meters to go, I was still in 6th, but in the last 150 I pushed my hardest.”

• -- Indeed, unlike last year when Ritzenhein, Alan Webb and Ryan Hall were prohibitive favorites, there were many who felt they could win or finish in the top three Saturday – which made for a wild, hard-paced race of attrition. New York’s Peter Meindl epitomized such aspirations and the pain of not quite making it. “The race unfolded the way I wanted it to,” said the Northeast champ after taking 8th. “With 700 to go, I thought I might be able to do it. I had moved into third for a little bit … but then at the end, I just died. I had no kick at all.”

• -- Was there anyone that the guys had more fun with than Yugoslavian exchange student Milos Mitric of the South team? A highlight of the post-race photo session was the diminutive North Carolina star being paraded on the shoulders of a more “brawny” teammate. Language barriers often lead people to assume that there’s a lack of intelligence among our friends with limited command of English. But the way Milos winked at us and clapped our shoulders when he talked with us let us know there was no lack of understanding whatsoever.

• -- Race officials made sure during the introductions Saturday morning that Pennsylvania qualifier Andy Weilacher — third in the NE region but unable to compete after a Nov. 29 auto accident — was recognized. Weilacher’s assigned race number of 63 went unused as alternate Brendan Sullivan was assigned No. 69.

• -- Moore’s time was the 8th fastest winning time in the history of the race. Only four times has there been a second-place time faster than Lockhart’s and only twice a third-place time better than Solinsky’s. Only three times have there been more runners under 15 than there were Saturday. And, finally, only in 1982 and 1985 was there a faster 10th-place time than Jesse Fayant’s 15:07.5. So … this race was deeeep. 

• -- No one who competed at least at a Foot Locker region last year came further than Sam Romanoski of Illinois: From 115th in the Midwest to 14th in the nation.

Foot Locker National Finals


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