Foot Locker XC Championships 2014

Foot Locker Girls Preview

Foot Locker Girls Preview

Dec 12, 2014 by Gordon Mack
Foot Locker Girls Preview

By: Brandon Miles, Milesplit
The 2014 Foot Locker Nationals will be held this Saturday, December 13th once again at Balboa Park in San Diego, California with the top 40 boys and top 40 girls high school cross country runners in the nation coming together for two highly anticipated races.
Let’s preview and breakdown the favorites, contenders, dark horses, and top stories coming into the meet for the girls' race. 
Can Rohrer Cap Off Another Comeback With Another National Title?
Indiana state champ Anna Rohrer won the girls title two years ago as a sophomore, but was unable to repeat her title last year as she suffered a season ending injury at the start of her junior season of cross country.
Rohrer also won her second Foot Locker Midwest Region title two weeks ago in arguably the most dominant performance from all the regional race winners by a margin of 30 seconds against one of the higher quality girls regions for Foot Locker. As mentioned before, Rohrer won at Balboa Park two Decembers ago, but missed out last year due to injury. She made a comeback to racing late last spring and eventually won the New Balance Nationals 5K outdoor title in a 16:17 PR.

Another injury scare in the summer held her out of races this fall until mid-October, but she was able to get enough cross training in and then get back into the routine of consistent running to return stronger than ever for November. Rohrer broke her own Indiana State Meet course record in 17:09before pulling away from a field of All-American runners at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional at UW-Parkside.
If Rohrer would win on Saturday, she would join only the likes of Jordan Hasay as the only two-time Foot Locker Nationals champion in meet history to win the race twice in non-consecutive years.
Standing in Rohrer's Way? 3 Regional Champion Roadblocks
The 3 other Foot Locker regional champions all look like formidable threats and legit contenders for Rohrer in racing for the 2014 national title including South regional champion Ryen Frazier of North Carolina, West regional champion Makena Morley of Montana, and Northeast regional champion Brianna Schwartz of Pennsylvania.

Morley has the most experience of the bunch as a 4-time Foot Locker finalist and last week won the West Regional for the second straight year by posting a time 33 seconds faster than her 2013 race at Mt. SAC. The 4-time Montana state champion is joined this year by her kid sister Bryn, who was third this past summer at the US Junior Nationals 1500 meter behind only Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny as a mere 8th grader. Her big sister Makena ran 16:49 for 5K and 10:15 for 2 miles last spring, which included a runner-up finish in the New Balance Nationals two mile. Makena Morley was 7th in last year's race and 9th as a freshmen at Foot Locker Nationals, so she will attempt to become a rare 3-time All-American in the event, but is more looking towards racing for the win.

Ryen Frazier is a first-time qualifier with real chances of taking first in her debut appearance at Foot Locker Nationals. Last June, Frazier won the New Balance Nationals outdoor mile title remarkably at the tail end of a 5K/2 mile/mile triple over the 3 days of competition. Having not been able to stay completely healthy for a cross country season has derailed previous goals of making it San Diego, but not this year as she came on strong at season's end. Over the last month, Frazier's hot streak has included a 16:44 5K performance in a college race at WakeMed Soccer Complex in Cary, North Carolina then posting a 10:12 3200 outdoors and 4:44 mile indoors as part of tune-up races leading to her Foot Locker South win. At Foot Locker South in Charlotte, the NC State recruit Frazier posted the second fastest time ever at McAlpine Greenway Park with a US #1 5K time of 16:27.

The fastest miler in the field owning a 4:42 personal best to make her a dangerous threat if found with the leaders late in the race is Pennsylvania state champion Brianna Schwartz of Shaler Area High School in Pennsylvania. The state of Pennsylvania could potentially celebrate a Foot Locker Nationals girls champion two years in a row if Schwartz could follow in Tessa Barrett's footsteps, a runner's times that Schwartz had been chasing to beat on many courses in her home state this season. Schwartz won the Foot Locker Northeast regional two weeks ago at Van Cortland Park over last year's Foot Locker Nationals runner-up Hannah Debalsi by 15 seconds in a 17:35 victory on one of the tougher courses among the Foot Locker regional races.
Regional Runners-Up Eyeing First At Nationals

Speaking of Debalsi, the top returnee from last year's national race can be counted out. She was slowed down and got a later start to her season due to an injury, but has started to work herself back to her form from a year ago. Keep in mind that the two-time New England champion Debalsi was third in last year's Foot Locker Northeast regional before a second place finish and near win at Balboa Park. It has been a shame that Debalsi has not been able to race completely at her top level of fitness, which would be in her 9:55 sophomore national class record form from last spring, but she feels that is getting closer and could thrive in the role of not being considered a strong favorite to win. With the New Balance Nationals outdoor 2 mile champ Debalsi, the field has a total of 3 girls in the race who know what its like to experience a national championship victory along with Anna Rohrer (2012 Foot Locker Nationals) and Ryen Frazier (2014 New Balance Nationals outdoor mile).

Another regional runner-up who is certainly capable of putting herself up with the regional champs to challenge for first is New Braunfels (TX) junior Paige Hofstad. After starting her season off slow to injury and taking several earlier losses to 2013 Foot Locker finalist Devin Clark, Hofstad's season changed for the better on November 22nd with a NXN South Regional win over Clark. Each race since then has only gotten better for Hofstad including a 16:47 5K PR in a runner-up finish at the Foot Locker South Regional to Frazier then last week running out of her mind challenging Allie Ostrander and Fiona O'Keeffe for first at the Nike Cross Nationals before finishing in a shocking second place finish in the Portland mud. She will be racing on tired legs, but her confidence and momentum from past 3 races should be able to carry her to a high finish at Balboa Park.
The Midwest Region Is Deep

Anna Rohrer's regional race two weeks ago in Kenosha stood out just a tad more than the other regional races due to the fact that she was able to create a 30 second buffer between herself and arguably the most talented region of qualifiers heading into this weekend. Two-time Colorado state champion Lauren Gregory who ran 10:15 for 3200 as a sophomore was the Midwest's runner-up. #2 all-time performer at historic Detweiler Park in Peoria, Illinois in Maryjeanne Gilbert was the third place finish. 2-time Michigan state XC champ and last summer's USATF Junior Nationals 5K champ Audrey Belf was the fourth place finisher. Stephanie Jenks, a World Junior Track & Field Championship qualifier in the 3K and silver medalist in the World Youth Olympic Games triathlon this past summer was the fifth qualifier out of the region. Rounding out the top 6 was Hannah Long, a 4:44 miler from Missouri. This will be a tough squad for the 3 other regions to defeat on Saturdayat Balboa Park.