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the story

A Battle for the Ages:
Moore Nips Lockhart, Leads Midwest

By Stephen (steveu) Underwood

The fans and followers of national prep CC figured this year's Foot Locker Championships boys race would be a good battle with several potential winners, but could anyone have anticipated the closest race for that gender in the meet's 23-year history?

But that's what happened Saturday. And in the end, Tim Moore of Novi, Mich. had that little bit extra to edge Virginia's Bobby Lockhart, 14:50.4-14:51.5. The closest previous gap was two seconds in 1996, when Abdirizak Mohamud edged Sharif Karie. It was a titanic duel that featured numerous lead changes throughout the final mile-plus as the two regional champs challenged each other.

But the tough battle at the front was hardly limited to Moore and Lockhart, as six runners broke 15 (also Chris Solinsky, Nurani Sheikh, Tim Ross and Milos Mitric) and five more 15:10. The hard-charging Solinsky moved smartly throughout the race and finished third in 14:52.9, just 1.4 back of Lockhart. And, with fine races from Ross (5th), Sam Romanoski (14th) and a spiked Allen Bader (15th), the Midwest wrapped up the team title over the South, 38-42.

Moore is (Just a Bit) Better

Moore gave his home state its third individual title in a row and fifth overall. Only California has more. Moore also justified his status as the highest returning finisher (8th) from 2000. The performance capped off a great year that saw him emerge not only from the considerable shadow of fellow Michigander Dathan Ritzenhein, but also teammate Chris Toloff (now at Michigan State), who was basically the Novi leader last fall before a late-season injury.

Neither Moore or Lockhart are top kickers, but Moore dug deep to find a little more. "I just tried to sprint as hard as I could," he said, "and it worked out for me. I had a feeling it would come down to this. It was tough and Bobby gave me a great race."

The essence of the battle was that of two strength runners who didn't want to rely on their kicks, yet also didn't want to make a hasty move. The result was a lot of surging that didn't break anyone, but still served to up the ante. "I tried a couple of times, but I figured I would not have the strength to break away," Moore said.

"I felt really good and strong the whole way," said Lockhart, who in defeat still had one of the very best races of his career. "I wasn't going to let him go. I thought I'd have a little more at the end, but he just had a little bit better kick."

"The heat got to me," he added. "But Tim had a really good race."

Moore also had a perspective and attitude that served him best. "I made my moves when I felt comfortable and I wanted to be flexible," he said. "The big deal was staying relaxed and concentrating."

The Way It Was

West stars Billy Nelson and Yong-Sung Leal ensured an honest pace from the start, along with Scott Fuqua from the South (who later faded to last due to a recurring back injury). By the mile, Nef Araia held the lead, but Lockhart, Moore, Bobby Curtis, and most of the other principals were there in 4:40, with others close behind.

There were still plenty of contenders at 2M (9:31), but the big two and the tough-fighting Mitric from North Carolina were heading things up. Sheikh and Ross were close behind, while eventual third-place finisher Solinsky was in 9th, but close to the pack.

Moore and Lockhart then began their exchange of small, but indecisive surges over the last several hundred meters, neither willing to make a commitment until the final stretch. Solinsky moved up and tucked in just behind the leaders, while Mitric fell back a bit. In the final stretch, Sheikh came up for fourth (14:56.5) behind Solinsky, followed by Ross (14:57.9), Mitric (14:59.2), Leal (15:03.8), Northeast champ Peter Meindl (15:04.1), Nelson (15:06.7), Jesse Fayant (15:07.5) and Fleet Hower (15:09.0) to round out a very close top eleven.

Curtis was a surprise on the other end of the spectrum, taking just 21st. He said after making a strong move to the lead pack from a mile to 1.5 miles in, he started getting passed and was helpless to do anything about it. "It was really disappointing," he said.

Leal and others spoke of how intense it was out there. "I just wanted to go out strong and hold it as long as I could. There were a lot of scary moments out there; every minute, really."

Said Nelson, probably speaking for many, "I wanted to go out fast. I didn't want it to come down to the last half-mile, because I don't have much of a kick."

Team Pride

With the dynamic 1-3-5 finish of Moore, Solinsky and Ross, the Midwest won an exciting team race over the South. The effort was also epitomized by Bader, who endured some nasty, deep spike wounds at the mile mark that forced him to limp - but limp in a strong 15th.

"It was very hard," said Solinsky. "But I'm very happy. My goal was the top 5." Ross added that after being sick at FL Midwest (he was just 6th after actually running faster than Moore in a different class in their Michigan state meets), "I finally got to run my race."

The South took third with 52, while the Northeast had 87.

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