I was pleased to once again attend the Footlocker National Championships after it returned from a misguided exile in Florida to its rightful home here in San Diego. It actually returned last year, but I was unable to attend due to illness.

The weather this morning was a fine day for racing and especially for viewing. Temps in the 50s and 60s with a thin overcast to take the edge off the sunlight.

This was the 25th anniversary of the event. Pre-race festivities included a special introduction of all four the men who have run sub-4:00 miles in high school. It was three graying guys and Alan Webb. Jim Ryun naturally drew a lot of attention and stood graciously posing for pictures and signing autographs throughout much of the morning. It was said to be the first time all four of these guys had been brought together.

Other bigtimers on hand included Bob Kennedy, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Sarah Schwald, Adam Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, and Steve Slattery. Some of them served as sort of honorary captains of the various regional teams of the HS athletes and thus wore warm-up uniforms. I overhead Sarah Schwald say that she wasn't real thrilled with the burnt orange color this obliged her to wear.

Girls Race.

Pre-race talk seemed to suggest that each of the four regional champs had a reasonable chance of wining the race. Last year's champion, Zoe Nelson, was among them and clearly meant to defend her title.

The start was clean as usual, and the girls stayed bunched up for quite a distance. At the half mile mark South Regional champ Jennifer Barringer and freshman Marie Lawrence held a narrow lead over a large pack of girls. Lawrence's sister Collier, a senior, was also in the race but did not seem to as much of a factor as her little sister. By 1200m Northeast champ Nicole Blood had pushed into the lead, but the pack was still right there.

By a mile and a half the order was Blood, Barringer, Sunni Olding, Lindsay Donaldson, and the rest of the pack. At 2 miles Barringer was back in the lead with Midwest champ Katelyn Kaltenbach moving out of the pack of eight girls to tuck into second. The race remained very close throughout. Coming down the hill for the last time Lawrence made her bid and pulled out to about an 8 m. lead, but Kaltenbach was still looking strong. Kaltenbach came back on Lawrence and caught her with perhaps 200m to go and pulled away. Kaltenbach won in 17:24, completing an undefeated season, with Lawrence in 2nd in 17:25 and Barringer in third at 17:35.

Full results of girls race:

A sign of modern times and was evident a couple of minutes after the race when new champion Katelyn Kaltenbach got on her cell phone while she was still posing for media pictures in the winners circle. I also saw Nicole Blood staggering about in the first area - in much distress after her great effort.

Boys Race

Pre-race favorites seemed to be Galen Rupp of Portland and Shadrack Kiptoo, a native Kenyan now living in Albuquerque. The start was very fast with the pack covering the first 200m in 31 seconds. At half mile Rupp had moved into the lead followed by Erick Stanley and the pack. Rupp put the pressure on early, stringing out the pack and covering the first mile in 4:39.

Following Rupp at the mile and a half mark were West champ Kiptoo, Midwest champ Matthew Winthrow, and James Strang. Winthrow made a big move at this point, surging into the lead and trying to pull away. But the others refused to die, and by 2 miles Rupp had moved back into the lead. Northeast champ Benjamin True pushed up out of the pack to join the three other leaders. Heading into the late stages of the race, Kiptoo and Rupp began a duel for the lead with Kiptoo taking the lead on the downhills and Rupp regaining it on the uphills. With 300m to go Kiptoo was leading Rupp with Winthrow in third. At 200m Winthrow made his second big move of the race and kicked into the lead and held on to win in 14:55. Rupp passed Kiptoo for second in 14:57 and Kiptoo was in at 14:58.

Full boys results at:

While new champion Winthrow was posing for his photos in the winners circle, I saw girls champ Kaltenbach not far away, still talking on her cell phone. In the post-race interview Kaltenbach said that her race plan was to stay with the lead pack and out kick them. She expressed a lot of confidence in her kick, confidence that was evidently not misplaced. Winthrow said that he tried his customary tactic of a mid-race surge that had worked for him all season. But this time he was dismayed to find everybody still with him, the first time that happened all year. So he had to think up a new plan, which he admirably did.

At the presentation of the trophies Suzy F-H presented the Girls trophy and gave Kaltenbach a congratulatory peck on the cheek. When Adam Goucher gave Winthrow his trophy, the crowd called for him to similarly kiss Winthrow. But Suzy came to Goucher's rescue and came back out and gave Winthrow his congratulatory kiss too.

It was a great day of racing.

Kurt Bray

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