The meet that serves as the unofficial national high-school cross-country championship race for individual boys and girls was held in San Diego’s Balboa Park today. It’s an exclusive event, to be sure: Entrants qualify by placing in the top 10 in one of four regional meets–Northeast (Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, NY), South (McIntyre Park, Charlotte), Midwest (UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI) and West (Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA).
What this means is that a top athlete can have a slight off day owing to a cold or other seemingly trifling factors and not make it to the big show. It would be nice if they would take, say, 25 from each region to make it an even 100 in the championship races, but Foot Locker would have to pony up that much more dough to put kids up for the weekend, etc. (If it were a sport other than cross-country it would happen anyway.)
The favorite in the boys’ race was Soloman Haile of Silver Spring, Maryland (the hometown of my first college girlfriend; that can’t be a coincidence) and he didn’t disappoint, opening up a big gap on the rugged 5K course to win by seven seconds in 15:22.
Similarly, the overwhelming girls’ favorite, Stanford-bound Jordan Hasay of Arroyo Grande, Calif., came from behind in the final 100 meters to derail last year’s winner, Ashley Brasovan of Wellington, Fla., 17:22 to 17:25. I used to watch Ashley when I was living in Palm Beach County and, despite having watched countless fast runners over the years, was always astounded to see someone who stands maybe 4′ 10″ and weighs only slightly less than a helium balloon skitter and skim across the turf as though the ground wasn’t even there at all.
Photos courtesy of John Dye, dyestat.com
Because I haven’t been following prep cross as closely this fall as I normally do, I wasn’t aware that a local kid had qualified for the race. Kyle Satterwhite of Western Albemarle High in Charlottesville placed 20th in 15:55. Two Virginians finished in front of him–Thomas Porter of Mountain View High and Fredericksburg (3rd in 15:26) and Leoule Degfae of Thomas Edison High and Alexandia (12th in 15:46). Only Colorado matched Virginia in placing three in the top 20.
A freshman from Indianapolis named Futsum Zeinasellassie finished seventh, an unlikely feat for a 9th-grade male (the field consisted of 33 seniors, 6 juniors, no sophomores, and Futsum. Evidently he emigrated from Eritrea before his 8th-grade year and didn’t start running until he came to the U.S.