Will The Nation's Best XC Prep Not Race Foot Locker This Year?

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Each of the past 12 years, two national cross country champions have been crowned: one at Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), and one at Foot Locker Nationals. In eight of the past 12 years, the NXN champion was defeated at Foot Locker Nationals. The other four years (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015), the Foot Locker and NXN champions never got to race each other, but the Foot Locker champion's credentials were better on paper.

Unfortunately, this may be the first year that the nation's best male cross country runner won't race at Foot Locker.

Casey Clinger, the clear favorite heading into the 2016-17 school year, is facing a scheduling issue--his Foot Locker regional meet is the same weekend as NXN. Thus, Clinger may have to make a game-time decision: run with his teammates at NXN for a chance at a team title, or race at Foot Locker for a chance at an individual national title?

Clinger's head coach Timo Mostert told FloTrack the plan right now is to compete at NXN. "We're going to NXN-SW. If the team makes it to NXN, I'm sure he will go there. If the team doesn't make it to NXN, it will be his choice."

Clinger won NXN, took third at the Brooks two-mile (where he lost to only seniors), has run a 4:05 mile PB (less than a second behind this year's top returner), and ran an 8:50 3200m (the second-fastest among this year's returners).

Check out our overview of the past 12 years of Foot Locker and NXN champions below.

2004 Kenneth Cormier (FL) vs. Sean McNamara (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where McNamara finished 12th.

2005 AJ Acosta (FL) vs. Kenny Klotz (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Klotz finished fourth.

2006 Chad Hall (FL) vs. Steve Murdock (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Murdock finished third.

2007 Michael Fout (FL) vs. Chris Derrick (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Derrick finished second.

2008 Solomon Haile (FL) vs. Reed Connor (NXN)
They did not race each other during the 2008-09 school year, but Haile went on to win the National Scholastic Indoor 2 Mile, National Scholastic Indoor 5K, Nike Outdoor Nationals 5K, and finished runner-up to Lukas Verzbicas at the Midwest Distance Gala two-mile. Connor finished runner-up at the Texas state track and field meet to Parker Stinson (24th at NXN) in the 3200m and C.J. Brown (18th at Foot Locker) in the 1600m.

2009 Lukas Verzbicas (FL) vs. Craig Lutz (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Lutz finished fourth.

2010 Lukas Verzbicas (FL) vs. Lukas Verzbicas (NXN)
Verzbicas raced at both championships.

2011 Edward Cheserek (FL) vs. Futsum Zeinasellaissie (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Zeinasellaissie finished second.

2012 Edward Cheserek (FL) vs. Sam Wharton (NXN)
They both raced at Foot Locker, where Wharton finished sixth.

2013 Grant Fisher (FL) vs. Kai Wilmot (NXN)
They did not race each other during the 2013-14 school year, but Fisher went on to win the New Balance Nationals Indoor mile, adidas Dream Mile, and Brooks PR two-mile. Meanwhile, Wilmot finished fourth at the Washington state meet 3200m.

2014 Grant Fisher (FL) vs. Tanner Anderson (NXN)
They did not race each other ever during the 2014-15 school year, however Fisher went on to win the New Balance Nationals Indoor mile and adidas Dream Mile, and finish runner-up to Drew Hunter at the Brooks PR two-mile. Meanwhile, Anderson was runner-up to John Dressel (sixth at Foot Locker) at the Washington state meet 3200m.

2015 Drew Hunter (FL) vs. Casey Clinger (NXN)
They did not race each other during the 2015-16 school year, but Hunter went on to break 4:00 in the mile multiple times and turn pro. Meanwhile, Clinger was third at the Brooks PR two-mile.

This year's top distance stars, including Reed Brown (TX), Sam Worley (TX), Noah Affolder (PA), Michael Vernau (CA), and Cooper Teare (CA), will compete for the title of best male cross country runner. But because of the NXN vs. Foot Locker situation, we may never know if they are better than Clinger.

What do you think?

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