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Preview: NXN Boy's Championship

Preview: NXN Boy's Championship

It's championship season, baby! All eyes turn towards Portland Meadows in Portland, OR for the 9th Nike Cross Country National Championships. The boy's race has a lot of similar story lines from last year with some minor differences. Since this is the ninth running of NXN, we'll predict the top nine individual and team finishes.

Boy's Teams

Just like last year, this one is almost too close to call. One thing we can guarantee is that it'll be a tough battle between the defending champions US#1 Christian Brothers Academy and US#2 Southlake Carroll. One thing we can't be sure of is North Central HS, but then again, we love surprises.

1. Christian Brothers Academy

They've run too many team records this season to not be number one. They set new team averages at the Great American XC Festival (15:24.04) and the Manhattan Invitational (12:44.6) just to name a few. Even when they rested their top five runners, CBA managed to win their 18th NJ state title with their jayvee team.

Back in September, we profiled CBA and touched on the possibility of them making NXN history this year. No boy's team had ever successfully defended their NXN team title.

A few months later, it seems like a very real scenario.

While they've looked good on paper all season long, you're only as a good as your last race. For CBA, their last race at the NXN Northeast Regional wasn't too hot.

While they did win, it wasn't in the traditional CBA "I will crush you" way. Actually, at about halfway through the race, they weren't even winning - they were in third.

Even when they finished, something was awry. Their usual minimal spread between their scorers was a gaping 47-seconds. Chock it up to a bad race

If they can make the proper adjustments, they'll be hard to beat.

NXN NE Regional Championships

Name Class Place Time
Jack Boyle SR 3 15:57.5
Billy Bragg SR 8 16:14.6
Mike McClemens JR 10 16:18.8
Tom Rooney JR 19 16:34.3
Josh Kruppa SO 33 16:44.6
Fran Bogan JR 64 17:14.2
Drew Reda JR 84 17:21.1

2. Southlake Carroll

They enter NXN ranked what they narrowly finished last year. The trio of Joe Sansone, Nate Sullivan, and Connor Hendrickson will be right up front, but they'll have to close that door on the tail end if they want to make the jump to first.

The Dragons looked great at the NXN South Regional Championship, but with a much deeper field at NXN, how will they fair?

Oh hey, Leo.
Photo: Carroll Cross Country

NXN South Regional Championship
Name Place Time
Joe Sansone 2 15:12.8
Nate Sullivan 3 15:18.1
Connor Hendrickson 4 15:18.2
Trevor Gilley 8 15:31.7
Eli Canal 32 16:10.2
Alec Garner 35 16:11.8
Chase Wichman 94 16:40.1

3. North Central

When we talked to the North Central boys back in October, it looked like they were going to make a definitive run for the title. Now in December, they still have a shot, but it's a bit more questionable.

The big difference between then and now is Taylor (Kai) Wilmot. He lead North Central at the 44th Richland Invitational, but has been out with a tendon injury since then. He didn't run their NXN Regional Championship, which means they're either saving him for the big show or will have to carry on without him.

If he's remotely ready to roll, North Central has a shot.

NXN Northwest Regional Championship
Name Class Place Time
Tanner Anderson 15 3 15:48.9
Keith Williams 13 4 15:53.1
Oliver Reed 14 13 16:13.1
Austen Frostad 13 17 16:16.6
Isaac Kitzan 13 21 16:21.6
Nik Taylor 13 28 16:30.9
Sam Holland 13 41 16:43.5

4. American Fork

Even back in September, the boy's from Utah were ready to go. 

Now that Brayden McLelland is healthy, American Fork is a viable threat. They crushed their intrastate rival Davis HS 36 points to 163 at the NXN Southwest Regional.

American Fork also has a solid history of running well at NXN. They finished 8th in 2008, 8th in 2009, and 6th in 2011.

NXN Southwest Regional Championship
Name Class Place Time
Mclelland, Brayden SR 4 15:03.61
Mcmillan, Connor JR 5 15:09.31
Green, Tyson SR 6 15:11.49
Jacklin, Zac SO 9 15:21.82
Thompson, Caleb JR 12 15:25.54
Herzog, Spencer JR 35 15:42.89
Bell, Tyler JR 55 15:59.61

5. Arcadia

These guys stormed onto the national scene in 2010 and haven't left since (we're not counting the open race, which they ran in 2006 and 2008). In the last two years, the California Kids have won (2010) and taken fourth (2011) at NXN.

Similar to American Fork, they're trouncing their in-state competition. Arcadia won the merged California State XC Championships with 56 points over second place California's score of 139.

The team is young, but not totally inexperienced. Estevan De La Rosa and Mitchell Pratt are the only two who return from the 2011 NXN team and will hopefully provide some advice for the squad that consists of one freshmen, five juniors, and one senior.

Somehow we think that they'll be back next year with a little more knowledge.

California State Cross Country Championships
Name Class Place Time
Estevan De La Rosa JR 2 15:04.9
Mitchell Pratt SR 3 15:06.0
Phillip Rocha FR 20 15:26.8
Josue Gonzalez JR 55 15:39.6
Mahmoud Moussa JR 59 15:41.9
Jarrick Wenslow JR 104 15:56.2
Bryan Ngo JR 148 16:04.7

6. York

One of the greatest high school teams in America returns to their ninth consecutive NXN championship. Their consistency isn't just great - they are consistently great as well. Lead by senior Scott Milling, their team spread at the Illinois State Meet was 44-seconds and then lowered to 43-seconds at the NXN Midwest championship.

NXN Midwest Regional Championship
Name Place Time
Scott Milling 9 15:45.1
Alex Mimlitz 26 16:03.9
Kyle Mattes 32 16:05.8
Alex Bashqawi 42 16:14.5
Jack Libert 78 16:28.8
Chris May 111 16:39.2
Matt Plowman 215 17:08.9

7. Cardinal O'Hara

First they were down and now they're up. They built off their disappointing second place finish at the Pennsylvania State Meet to come back and win the NXN Northeast Regional over rivals West Chester Henderson (see below).

They also have a solid trio consisting of Dan Savage, Kevin James, and Ernie Pitone. When they beat WCH, they had a 17-second spread from their #1 to #5 man. In a field as deep as NXN, they're going to have to maintain that gap if they want to run to their goals.

NXN NE Regional Championship
Name Class Place Time
Dan Savage SR 11 16:21.0
Kevin James SO 12 16:22.1
Ernie Pitone SR 14 16:28.1
Jim Belfatto JR 26 16:37.9
Chris Pastore SR 27 16:38.1
Matt Hayes SR 77 17:18.7
Christian Donnelly JR 176 18:18.4

8. Fayetteville-Manlius

The "Stotans" from New York also got some revenge over their intrastate rivals Saratoga High School at the NXN NY Regional Championship. Nick Ryan will assuredly score some low points for FM, but then it's up to the rest of the sophomore/senior squad to close the door. Sophomore Byrce Millar should be one to watch for the next few years.

NXN NY Regional Championship
Name Class Place Time
Nick Ryan SR 1 15:27.0
Bryce Millar SO 6 16:08.9
Connor Farrell SR 17 16:38.1
Colin Fitzgibbons SR 28 16:47.1
Adam Hunt SO 34 16:54.2
Charlie Beeler SR 59 17:23.4
Riley Hughes SO 80 17:41.0

9. West Chester Henderson

They've had some exhilarating moments in the last few weeks. Winning the state title on a sixth man tiebreaker and then getting an at-large bid for NXN is sure to pump up a team. Even though they didn't get an auto spot at the NXN Northeast, they are probably the most well-deserved auto-bid.

They're ranked ninth because after juniors Tony Russell and Reiny Barchet, the Warrior Track Club is going to be a bit behind. If the Warrior Track Club isn't spot on with their strategy, then their finishing places of 24, 29, and 39 from the regional championships are sure to increase at NXN.

NXN NE Regional Championships
Name Class Place Time
Tony Russell JR 1 15:51.7
Reiny Barchet JR 2 15:55.8
Alex Knapp SO 24 16:36.9
Bobby Rimkis SR 29 16:40.3
Eric Stratman JR 39 16:50.7
Seamus Collins JR 71 17:15.8
Gordy Barchet SO 93 17:31.0

Honorable Mention: St. Xavier (KY), Saratoga, Carlsbad, Carmel

Boy's Individuals

1. Nick Ryan

He's back, he's on the attack, and he's going to take it out hard. Ryan has been on an absolute tear this season with his performances at Manhattan and the NY NXY Regional Championship.

Last year at Van Cortlandt Park, Ryan ran 12:50.20 for the 2.5 mile course. This year, he dropped 45-seconds to run 12:05.7, which was second only to Edward Cheserek.

In 2011, Ryan took it out hard, was reeled back, and finished fifth in 15:31. We know his race strategy, but will anyone go with him? We know he's fit, so will anyone be able to hang?

2. Bernie Montoya

The Beast Bernie Montoya is also a much different runner. Last year, Montoya finished 12th at NXN and had personal bests of 4:12 and 9:08. Now, he has 4:01.32 for the mile and 8:48.25 for the 3200m to his name. 

He's undefeated and hasn't really been challenged once this season. Will he be the one to go with Ryan?

3. Jake Leingang

He's going for the double, again. Leingang and Bismark HS are finally looking to make some noise at NXN. Leingang is also one of many that has not been beaten so far this season. His track credentials of 8:51 for 3200m and 14:27.16 make him even more of a threat compared to when he finished 8th at the 2011 NXN championships.

4. Jacob Burcham

This past Thanksgiving, we were thankful to see Burcham back on the NXN start list. While he competed at NXN in 2010 and finished 16th, he shut down his cross country season early last year in preparation for indoor track. The 4:02 miler only finished behind Montoya at the adidas Golden Stripes Dream Mile and should be in this front pack.

5. Bryan Fernandez

When Fernandez kicked for home the Mt. SAC Invitational, we went "who?" The senior from Dos Pueblos in Goleta, CA has similar track credentials compared to 2011 Montoya.

Fernandez has run 4:18.70 and 9:14.55, but has broke onto the California and national scene in fine fashion. His win at Mt. SAC and recent California Division II state title in 15:09 means he's serious.

Who says Californians can't run in the mud at Portland Meadows?

6. Joe Hardy

This one could be a surprise on Saturday. Hardy battled Kai Wilmot earlier this season, but after he was sidelined with an injury, it's been the Joe Hardy Show in Washington. Hardy has won the Washington state and the NXN Northwest titles. He ran a 8:55/4:09 double at the Washington outdoor state meet (very similar to Nick Ryan's NYS double of  9:03/4:05).

He's looked relatively calm in the last few weeks and will definitely improve on his 43rd place finish from last year.

7. Sam Wharton

The Ohioan is also trying to do the double of NXN and Foot Locker. Even he's had to settle for second at the NXN regional to Alex Riba (below) and Foot Locker Midwest to Jake Leingang, it doesn't discredit the senior. Last spring, Wharton ran 9:01 and 14:46 on the track. He finished 21st last year at NXN and like most of our predicted top nine, he'll definitely improve on his finish.

Even though this should be a weekend for celebration, a recent ruling by the Ohio High School Athletic Association will affect Wharton. The OHSAA has ruled that athletes may not accept travel, hotel, or meal stipends or they will forfeit their amateur status.

While Wharton can't receive any sweet Nike swag, maybe someone will save him some merch?

8. Tony Russell

One half of the West Chester Henderson front-running duo is poised for a big race at NXN. So far this season, Russell has finished 4th at Eastern States, 1st at PA States, and 1st the NXN NE Regional Championships. Russell posted a personal best of 9:31 for 3200 last spring, but now he could be a member of the first-team all-Americans.

Close enough.
Photo: Kyle Brazeil

9. Juan Gonzalez

There may be some unknown California bias here, but we have a feeling about Fernandez Gonzalez. It's like in recent years, Californians have finally learned how to run in the mud. He posted the second fastest times of the day at Mt. SAC (14:48 14:38) and the California State Meet (15:05). Oddly enough, he's been in different races than Bryan Fernandez and it should be exciting to see the two go toe to toe.

Honorable Mention: Robert Domanic, Alex Riba, Luis Martinez

Who's is going to be in the mud?
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