MileSplit US will have on-site coverage at Foot Locker South for MileStat.com (Brandon Miles will on-site at NXN Southeast in Cary, NC) led by scrunners.com webmaster John Olson and other regular MileStat.com photo contributors.
While the Nike Cross Southeast Regionals has pulled away many of the state's top girls either competing on contending teams or trying to secure one of the 5 individual quaifier spots, tradition still keeps the Virginia boys coming to Foot Locker South as the best half dozen runners in the state will be racing on Saturday at McAlpine Greenway Park in Charlotte with top 10 aspirations. A total of 422 runners are entered in Foot Lockter South from the state of Virginia.
At least half dozen runners from Virginia have stated goals of qualifying for the Foot Locker Nationals in Ted Richardson of James River, Josh Morris of Fork Union, Blake Theroux of Western Branch, Kevin Dowd of Fairfax, Grant Pollock of Mills Godwin, and Andrew McCullen of Oakton. Virginia should get at least one runner in the top 10, but definitely not all six will realize their dream of earning an all expenses paid for trip to Balboa Park in San Diego.
Richardson has been the strongest of the state's best as he has gone undefeated since his opening race at Maymont, but has been seriously challenged by all of the listed runners in races this season so do not expect a great deal of separation between Virginia's best. Morris challenged him to the end at the Albemarle Invite, Pollack at the Central Region Meet, Dowd and Theroux at the state meet. It appears the whole group is capable of finishing among places anywhere from 5th place to 20th place.
Team Virginia will also be looking to defend their title after winning the state team scoring last year in the seeded boys race with a total of four national qualifiers.
Richardson is the sixth fastest returnee from last year's race with his 25th place finish of 15:38 last November at Foot Locker South. The #1 ranked runner in Virginia had a great stretch of championship races capped off with the fastest performance of the day at the state meet in a Group AAA title win of 15:34. An impressive time on a day which saw the state course at Great Meadow running slow due to a heavy rainfall during the course of the week. Richardson's state meet performances indicates he is capable of running close to 15 minutes flat at McAlpine, which is typically necessary in order to finish among the top 10 and move onto San Diego for the Foot Locker Nationals.
Morris competed at the Nike Cross Southeast Regional last fall instead of Foot Locker South and was just on the outside looking in of qualifying individual for the Nike Cross Nationals with a ninth place finish (7th non-team finisher) in Cary with a personal best time of 15:34. Competing at Fork Union this fall, Morris has not faced serious competition since his mid-October battle with Richardson as both runners ran stride for stride until the final stretch where Richardson was able to get several strides ahead for a 1 second win. At his league championships held on Fork Union's home 3 mile course, Morris became the first runner ever to break 15 minutes on the hilly course which several past Foot Locker finalists and All-Americans had failed to accomplish the feat which Morris achieved with his 14:58 clocking.
Theroux was the best of the class of 2010 runners two years ago in the sophomore race at Foot Locker South as his 16:03 third place finish put him ahead of many of today's stars including Anthony Kostelac (12th), Chris Foley (13th), Colin Mearns (14th), and Morris (17th). He will attempt to rise to the top of his class again on the same course in potentially his final high school cross country race unless he qualifies for nationals. The Western Branch senior just missed out on a state title two weeks ago after a gutsy run to attempt to break away from the field in the last mile, but was run down late by Richardson for the win.
Kevin Dowd and Grant Pollock are Foot Locker newbies as late bloomers in the sport. Fairfax senior Dowd was out last fall due to injury, while Mills Godwin junior Pollock was just starting to get hooked into the sport after his first season of cross country. Both had breakthrough track season popping swift times at 1600 and 3200 meters, which translated into a stellar fall of cross country.
Dowd has beaten many top runners in Virginia and outside with high finishes this season in elite races such as the Maymont Festival (3rd place) and Manhattan Invitational (4th). His 15:34 performance at Maymont is the fastest performance by any Virginian on that course including many past Foot Locker finalists. His 12:32 run on the historic Van Cortlandt park course in Manhattan certainly ranks him among the all-time greats from Virginia on that course. Bothered by an achilles injury this fall, he still managed to place third in the Group AAA state race behind Richardson and Theroux.
Pollock's season best time of 15:20 from his MileStat.com Invitational victory puts him not far behind the time likely needed to place among the top 10. The converted soccer player did not have the best race at the state meet with his 15:56 third place finish, but has plenty of great races to recall on from this past season entering this weekend including three major invitational wins (a win against Morris on his home course at the Fork Union Invite) and a very respectable second place and three second loss to Richardson in their regional meet clocking a 15:37 time on a fairly challenging Pole Green Park 5K course.
Other top individuals from Virginia include Andrew McCullen of Oakton, Drew Paisley of Ocean Lakes, Thomas Curtin of Loudoun County, Michael Bailey of Greenbrier Christian, and Kevin Bennert of Woodberry Forest.
McCullen actually has the fastest time in Virginia this season from a 15:18 performance on the Foot Locker South regional race in a runner-up showing at the Wendy's Invitational. McCullen had a great regional race to break 15 minutes on the historic Burke Lake Park course, which sub 15 has been the magic number for past Foot Locker finalists on that course from the Northern Region. He struggled finishing at the state meet and faltered to a 10th place finish, but recently posted a strong time trial and is anxious to prove himself as one of the state's top runners in Charlotte.
Leading the Virginia girls will be the two race leaders from the Group AAA state race in Brooke Point senior Katherine Walker and Lake Braddock freshmen Sophie Chase (pictured left by Linda D'Amato). The probability is much higher that the Virginia girls could be shut out from sending any individuals to Foot Locker Nationals than the boys with top three ranked runners in the Stevens twins of Blacksburg and AAA state champion Kaitlyn Davis of Mountain View racing at NXN Southeast instead as well as three others ranked among the top 11 runners in the state. #4 ranked Walker and #5 ranked Chase will be Virginia's best in attendance, while Hannah Lowery of Stafford did not look too bad racing Davis close in a tune-up race last weekend at the Battle of the Potomac.
One upside and positive going for both Walker and Chase is neither has any problem pushing the pace and running a fast early pace, which is necessary in order to put yourself in position for a top 10 national qualifier position on the fast and flat McAlpine 5K course.
Walker has been the pace setter for many major races this season to her Northwest Region rivals Kaitlyn Davis and Ariel Karabinus of Osbourn Park, but only to lose the lead late to both in many of those races. She refused to let that happen at the Northwest Region Meet as she claimed the title over both. She almost held Davis off again at Great Meadow in the Group AAA girls state race, but Davis had the better kick in the end. Nonetheless, Walker has made remarkable improvements from last year to be considered as truly one of Virginia's top female high school distance runners. The UVA recruit did not even qualify for the state meet last fall and had a season best time just under 20 minutes. This season, she has ran well under 19 minutes in six races including a season best of 18:11.
Chase was held back early on by Lake Braddock coach Mike Mangan including having her run in freshmen division races instead of varsity. However, once Mangan let her loose in the championship season, it was the difference in taking their team all the way to the top in an eventual Group AAA state title upset over four-time champions Midlothian. Chase set the tone for her teammates at the state meet with a super fast first mile to put herself well ahead of the rest of the field. Once the chase pack of veteran races caught her, instead of falling further back in the field, the tough freshmen fought back and stuck with them to an eventual third place finish. In her third place finish, Chase also held off Midlothian's top runner and 2007 Foot Locker finalist Kathleen Lautzenheiser.
Another talented freshmen in Hannah Lowery of Stafford leads the next group of Virginia runners as it appears Lowery is getting stronger each week in the late portion of the season after being much busier earlier in the season doubling time with field hockey. Lowery placed fifth in the Group AAA state race and last week finished less than a second behind state champion Kaitlin Davis in a photo finish at Battle of the Potomac post-season event. She has a season best 5K time of 18:26.
The next group includes a strong contigent of Central Region runners in the Deep Run pair of Erica Dobbs and Madalyn Nuckols, Clarissa Schick of Maggie Walker, Bonny Turnage of Lee-Davis, and Megan Moye of Cosby.
Dobbs won the Central Region title over Midlothian's Lautzenheiser with a personal best time of 18:23 on a challenging Pole Green Park course, while Schick last week posted a swift personal best time of 18:21 in a USATF Region III victory down in South Carolina. Virginia could have three freshmen among their top finishers as Bonny Turnage can run with the top upperclassmen as shown with her 9th place All-State performance in the AAA state race as well an 18:17 performance earlier in the season at Pole Green. All three Central Region runners are capable of running times much closer to 18 minutes this weekend based off performances this season on more difficult courses.
Moye almost won the freshmen/sophomore girls race last year, but was beaten in the end by Thomas Edison's Myah Hicks who will also be racing in the seeded race alongside Moye. The two runners are apparently close to equal in ability and fitness on a consistent basis as Moye was just two seconds ahead of Hicks at the state meet two weeks ago.
Looking for redemption races at Foot Locker South after poor state meet races are Northern Region champion Paige Kvartunas of West Springfield and Eastern Region champion Stephanie Frenchik of Landstown. If both runners can forget about their state meet races which neither placed among the top 15 to earn All-State honors and finished much lower than expected, both are very capable of earning All-South honors in the seeded race with top 24 finishes and be the state's top finishers in Charlotte. Kvartunas ran the state's third fastest 3 mile performance behind only the Stevens twins of Blacksburg with her 17:36 Northern Region victory as she held off the challenge from the ninth grader Chase. Frenchik ran one of the state's fastest 5K times of the fall with her 18:22 performance at the Eastern Region Meet.
MileStat.com Prediction for Foot Locker South: Virginia sends 2 boys (Ted Richardson & ?) and 1 girl (Katherine Walker) to Foot Locker Nationals.