When the gun went off for the Boys Foot Locker Championship, there was subdued excitement. Yes, fans had waited all season to see whether Edward Cheserek would defend his Foot Locker title, but there a silver lining in this highly anticipated cloud.
 
This would be the last race of the high school cross country season. The crisp fall weather would turn to bitter cold and soon force runners onto little 200m circles. There’s nothing wrong with the inevitability of indoor track and field, but there’s a somber smile that goes along with saying “au revoir” to the fall.
 
This past season was once again filled with events that begin as motivational speeches in June and end with sweaty hugs and high fives in December. Even with all of those pushups, it’s still tough to lift giant trophies after a hard 5000m.
 
We look back at fifteen story lines that captivated fans, runners, and the cross country world this past fall.
 
If you don’t already have Green Day’s Time of our Lives playing through your computer’s speakers, now would be a good time to turn it up.



15) Christian Brothers Academy’s ‘B’ team is NJ’s ‘A’ team
 
As expected, CBA won its eighteenth New Jersey state title. Not as expected is the fact that they did it without their top five runners.
 
Since the state meet was on Wednesday and the NXN Northeast Regional Championship was on Saturday, CBA didn’t want to risk anything. The short rest and possibility of injury and illness forced the 2011 NXN champions to try and win with their jayvee squad.
 
With a race that played out like a M. Night Shyamalan film (ie: twist), CBA’s ‘B’ team defeated Holmdel High School for the NJ state title 110 to 133.
 
Between the two teams, CBA only graduates three seniors. While they lose their top two, their NJ dynasty will continue.



14) Streaks are meant to be broken, but just not this year


"There's always next year," said everyone else.

Whether it’s through luck, the game itself, or retirement, all streaks must come to an end. It’s the matter of “when” that keeps sports fans captivated. While there are certainly more, four big streaks live for yet another cross country season.
 
  • The Fayetteville-Manlius girls from NY have won seven straight NXN team titles.
  • Elmhurst (York) High School has qualified for all nine NXN races.
  • The Saugus High School girls have won seven straight CIF California Division II state titles.
  • The Bismarck High School boys have won eight straight North Dakota State titles.



13) “Fall” of the Favorites
 
There’s a reason why no one places bets on cross country.
 
Take Letsrun.com’s annual track and field championship prediction contests. If someone can predict the top three for every event for both genders, they win a huge cash prize. This year, that came to a $200,012 payout for the golden ballot.
 
There’s a reason why they keep doing it - it’s because you have a better chance to win the Powerball because at some point, people actually win that.
 
The whole point isn’t to win the grand prize, but to shoot for the stars and hopefully land where there’s a $150 gift card or something of that matter.
 
Therein lies both the difficulty (for the predictors) and the beauty (for the runners) of cross country: Anything can happen on any given day.
 
One particular day happened to be the NXN boys championship race. Even with data, facts, and historical analysis, some of the pre-race favorites were engulfed by the mud and had an off race.
 
Unfortunately, only two of our predicted top nine finished in that range. Even though the favorites fell in Portland, they’ll be back in better conditions. Can we place a bet on that?

Name Predicted Place Actual Place
Nick Ryan 1 15
Bernie Montoya 2 22
Jake Leingang 3 59
Jacob Burcham 4 84
Bryan Fernandez 5 66
Tony Russell 8 106
Juan Gonzalez 9 98


12) The Battle for Washington
 
While we’re still trying to figure out which state reigns supreme in cross country, we know which one has the best top three.
 
The Big Three of Katie Knight, Amy-Eloise Neale, and Alexa Efraimson have duked it out all season long in Washington.
 
Their almost weekend-annual competition does not go without a reward. The good news for Efraimson is that she’ll be the only one of the three left next year as as she’s only a sophomore and Knight and Neale are seniors.
 
The better, or rather the best news, isn’t for Knight or Neale, but for the University of Washington. Both girls will be Huskies next year and will bolster an already impressive Washington team. Between the new giant purple track and his two marquee in-state recruits, I bet coach Greg Metcalf is pretty happy.
 
When the three or sometimes two nationally ranked harriers went up against one another, the results wasn’t always the same.
 
Neale went undefeated against the two, except for NXN where she was the third of the group to cross the line. Efraimson was the bridesmaid throughout the season, but thankfully got to win her own WA state title because she moved up from 3A to 4A (Knight and Neale are in 3A). Knight, who had to tough out the season, finally came through in the clutch to be the first of the three to finish at NXN.

Below are the places of each Washingtonian throughout the season.

  Alexa Efraimson Katie Knight Amy-Eloise Neale
Stanford Invitational 2nd N/A 2nd
Richland Invitational 2nd 1st N/A
WA State Meet 1st (4A) 2nd 1st
Nike Borderclash 2nd 3rd 1st
NXN Northwest 3rd 2nd 1st
NXN 2nd 1st 3rd
 


11) Remember defeat, but don’t let it overwhelm you
 
Defeat isn’t black and white. For the one on the less than desired end, defeat can be like the phoenix - rising from the charred ashes to being life anew. It’s important to remember the feel of losing because it can drive an athlete to not let that temporary sting happen again. It’s negative reinforcement that drives athletes to better themselves.
 
It’s hard to bounce back from loses, especially ones that happen late in the season. Lets say that a team’s state meet and NXN regional are the last two potential meets of the season. If one team bombs at their state meet, then the same result is expected to happen again at the NXN regional championship.
 
Maybe it’s overconfidence from one team or tenacity from the other, but predictions aren’t always fulfilled in the fall.
 
This scenario happened to at least four major teams this season. These guys and gals fell down, got back up, brushed themselves off, and came back with a full head of steam. Some even carried those sentiments one meet further and the results were mixed.

 
Boys - Pennsylvania
  State Meet Score NXN Regional Score NXN Score
West Chester Henderson 69 (1) 90 352
Cardinal O’Hara 69 (2) 95 223


Boys - New York

  State Meet Score NXN Regional Score NXN Score
Fayetteville-Manlius 58 86 372
Saratoga 57 98 271

 
Girls - New York
  State Meet Score NXN Regional Score NXN Score
East Aurora 66 123 212
Saratoga N/A 59 218
Academy of Holy Names 38 132 N/A

 
Girls - Colorado
  State Meet Score NXN Regional Score
Fort Collins 98 104
Monarch 91 230
 


10) The girls from the Midwest are good. Very good.


 
When the weekly girl’s individual rankings came out, there were a lot of representation from the Midwest. When predictions for Foot Locker came out, there was a lot of Midwest in the top ten. When the team results from Foot Locker came in, there wasn’t a lot of points for the Midwest.
 
Historically, the ladies from the Midwest aren’t just good, they’re unbelievable. In the last  ten Foot Locker Championships, they’ve won eight of ten times and have taken the team title for the last five years.
 
2012: 1st, 24 points
2011: 1st, 42 points
2010: 1st, 36 points
2009: 1st, 27 points
2008: 1st, 49 points
2007: 4th, 70 points
2006: 1st, 36 points
2005: 2nd, 56 points
2004: 1st, 28 points
2003: 1st, 26 points

This year was particularly interesting for the individuals that made the trip from Kenosha, WI to San Diego, CA for the Foot Locker Finals. We predicted that five of the ten Foot Locker finishers would be from the Midwest; there were six. You could have doubled their team score of 24 points and they still would have won (the South took second with 49).
 
That’s not even their best team. Other than Foot Locker champ Anna Rohrer, the other three big guns from the Midwest were Erin Finn, Ashley Erba, and Julia Bos. The three were ranked among the top ten individuals in the nation numerous times throughout the season.
 
Oddly enough, none of them qualified for Foot Locker - Finn had the stomach flu, Erba had an off-day, and Bos was injured.
 
Even with Catarina Rocha (second), Karis Jochen (fifth), and Sophie Chase (sixth) running incredible races, could the Midwest have swept Foot Locker with those three running?



9) Everyone loves a Southern Gentleman
 
When we predicted that there would be five Southerners in the top fifteen in the Boy’s Foot Locker Championship, there wasn’t much cause for concern. Not only were these guys ready, but history has shown that the South is on the upswing.
 
It wasn’t a fluke that the South did place five in the top fifteen and win another Foot Locker team title. While they’re not widely known for their distance prowess, the South has made huge improvements over the last ten years.
 
Between 2003 and 2008, the Southern team was finished in the bottom two at Foot Locker.
 
Then, in 2009, they narrowly took second over the Midwest with a score of 42 points to 49. The rest is history.
 
It’s clear that the current crop of distance runners from the South have brought the team out from the dark ages and into a distance running renaissance. It’s only a matter of tradition, hard work, and expectations from this point forward for them.
 
2003:
         1 - Midwest         26
         2 - West            57
         3 - Northeast       65
         4 - South           85
 
2004
     1. West            32      (1    3    8    9   11   19   20)
     2. Midwest      38      (4    5    7   10   12   13   18)
     3. Northeast    73      (6   14   15   17   21   22   23)
     4. South          93      (2   16   24   25   26   27   28)
 
2005
     1. West           22  (1   2   4   7   8 )
     2. Midwest     38  (3   5   9   10  11)
     3. South         72  (6   12  15  19  20)
     4. Northeast   78  (13  14  16  17  18)
 
2006
    1 West          32  (1  5   6  7   13  14  15)
    2 Northeast   41  (2  3   8  12  16  17  19)
    3 South         73  (9  10  11 20  23  25  27)
    4 Midwest    89  (4  18  21 22  24  26  28)
 
2007
   1. Midwest     29   (1  2  7   9   10  18  21)
   2. Northeast   59   (6  8  13  15  17  25  26)
   3. West          62   (3  5  12  20  22  24  27)
   4. South         64   (4  11 14  16  19  23  28)
 
2008
1. Midwest   32 (4  5  6   7   10  13  15)
2. West         51 (2  8  11  14  16  22  23)
3. South        71 (3  12 17  19  20  21  26)
4. Northeast  77 (1  9  18  24  25  27  28)
 
2009:
   1 WE                           31    2    3    5    9   12   26   27
      Total Time:  1:17:29.70
         Average:    15:29.94
   2 SO                           42    4    6    8   10   14   18   20
      Total Time:  1:17:52.10
         Average:    15:34.42
   3 MW                           49    1    7   11   13   17   22   24
      Total Time:  1:17:40.00
         Average:    15:32.00
   4 NE                           94   15   16   19   21   23   25   28
      Total Time:  1:18:41.50
         Average:    15:44.30
 
2010:
1. Midwest   22 (1   2   3   5  11  12  13)
2. South        64 (7   9  14  15  19  20  25)
3. Northeast  73 (8  10  16  18  21  23  24)
4. West         75 (4   6  17  22  26  27  28)
 
2011:
   1 SO                           44    5    8    9   10   12   14   19
      Total Time:  1:17:08.30
         Average:    15:25.66
   2 MW                           58    2    4    7   22   23   24   25
      Total Time:  1:17:20.30
         Average:    15:28.06
   3 NE                           63    1   13   15   16   18   20   21
      Total Time:  1:16:59.00
         Average:    15:23.80
   4 WE                           63    3    6   11   17   26   27   28
      Total Time:  1:17:47.10
         Average:    15:33.42
 
2012:
Results - Men
   1 SO, Fairfax, VA              42    2    5    7   13   15   23   28
      Total Time:  1:16:53.90
         Average:    15:22.78
   2 WE, Salt Lake City, UT       46    4    9   10   11   12   14   16
      Total Time:  1:17:14.50
         Average:    15:26.90
   3 MW, Bismark, ND              54    3    6    8   18   19   24   25
      Total Time:  1:17:11.90
         Average:    15:26.38
   4 NE, Newark, NJ               81    1   17   20   21   22   26   27
      Total Time:  1:17:43.60
         Average:    15:32.72


 
8) There’s always next year
 
Now that this year is over, it’s time to start looking towards next fall. Each team is going to have to work harder than the year prior and hopefully go on to achieve even more success next season.
 
There’s one caveat to this yearlong pact - not every team member is going to be there next season. Unlike the recruitment process in college, each team has to work within their means. Some seniors are irreplaceable while other squads are going to have to title the 2013 season a “rebuilding year” because they going to lose so many athletes.
 
On the other hand, some teams are already licking their chops for the days, weeks, and months to pass until the 2013 Nike Cross Nationals.
 
The defending champions are the most among the fortunate. The boys from Arcadia High School only lose their number two man, Mitchell Pratt from their championship squad. The only other team to lose one runner is 15th place West Chester Henderson, who lose their number three man, Robert Rimkis.

Otherwise, there may be a very different start list for the boy’s NXN team championship race next year.
 
The girls graduate far more fortunate in terms of stability than the boys. Tenth place Assumption, third place Carmel, fourteenth place Coeur D’Alene, eighth place Fort Collins, and ninth place Pennsbury all lose only one girl from their top seven.
 
However, that one girl that they lose hurts some teams more than others. For example, Fort Collins loses their number one runner Erin Hooker while Assumption loses their number seven, Olivia Boughey.
 
The only team that will return their entire NXN squad is seventh place Wayzata. Two questions: One, how good are they going to be next year and two, what song will they lip sync next year?
 
Team / Number of Seniors
Boys
American Fork - 2
Arcadia - 1
Bismark - 3
Blacksburg - 5
California - 4
Cardinal O’Hara - 4
Carlsbad - 3
Christian Brothers - 3
Davis - 4
Dowling Catholic - 5
Fayetteville-Manlius - 4
Kamiakin - 2
North Central - 4
Saratoga - 2
Southlake Carroll - 5
St. Xavier (OH) - 5
St. Xavier (KY) - 5
Summit - 4
The Woodlands - 4
West Chester Henderson - 1
York - 4
 
Assumption - 1
Camas - 2
Carmel - 1
Coeur D’Alene - 1
Davis - 5
Eagan - 2
East Aurora - 3
Fayetteville-Manlius - 3
Fort Collins - 1
Great Oak - 3
Naperville North - 2
New Trier - 3
Pennsbury - 1
Pine Creek - 2
Saratoga - 3
Saugus - 4
Southlake Carroll - 3
St. Francis - 3
Tatnall - 4
The Woodlands - 3
Voorhees - 4
Wayzata - 0
 
Those were eight quality themes from the fall, but there’s seven left. Check back soon to see the final countdown of the best stories from the 2012 cross country season on Flotrack.