All season long, Mackenzie Haight of George C. Marshall had to take defeat after defeat at the hands of Louis Colson. A total of 9 races to be exact that Haight raced against the state's best high school cross country runner this fall in Colson and every time Haight was denied victory. Two weeks ago at the Foot Locker South Regional, Haight once again finished behind Colson again but this time finished much closer to him than any race this season easily with only a one second buffer between the two as both punched tickets to nationals with top 10 finishes and sub 15 minute races. Haight might not have enjoyed as many victories as he would have liked this season despite competing a consistently high level and running great times all season long with Colson in his way, but will get to experience and enjoy something that many other runners in the state who may have had more wins this season wish and envy that they could be part of on Saturday when the George C. Marshall senior Haight races at the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego. Haight earned the trip with a remarkable turnaround race from a disappointing 6th place state meet finish in the Group 5A race at Great Meadow to grab 5th place in the seeded race at Foot Locker South with a swift new 5K PR of 14:51. MileStat.com interviewed Haight as he prepares to head out to San Diego on Thursday with the rest of the 5 other qualifiers from Virginia.
Season Highlights Video:
Interview with George C. Marshall senior & 2013 Foot Locker Nationals qualifier Mackenzie Haight
MileStat.com: How did you first get started running and why?
Haight: I started running my freshman year to get in shape for lacrosse in the spring. I was debating playing golf in the fall but I was told I looked like a natural running on the lacrosse field so I figured I'd give running a try! I haven't looked back since.
MileStat.com: What were some of your highlights or best moments of your underclassmen years as a freshmen and sophomore in running?
Haight: My sophomore year I PRed by 25 seconds at Burke Lake to make it to States. That still stands as one of my best races.
MileStat.com: You went from a 9:40's and 9:50's two miler as a sophomore to dropping down to 9:21 at last year's Group AAA State Indoor Meet. Do you feel that race was a big breakthrough for you in moving up into that top tier of the state's best runners?
Haight: Definitely! That race was where everything really clicked on the track. I was aggressive in the first half and didn't leave anything out on the track.
MileStat.com: To end your outdoor season, you ran a sensational 5K PR time at the time of 15:11 and finished ahead of Colson in the same race. What did that race do for your confidence going into this season?
Haight: It gave me the confidence that I would hopefully be competing for a state title and a national berth. It also helped me realize that Louis is, in fact, beatable.
MileStat.com: What was your summer training like going into the cross country season? What was your average week of mileage and what kind of training pace were running on most of your runs?
Haight: I started training in July after taking some time off post-nationals. I started with something like 25 miles a week and peaked around 45 miles per week. We don't do high mileage at Marshall but I was training hard: most of my runs were close to 6:00 mile pace and tempo workouts would be under 5:30 or 5:20 pace.
MileStat.com: You got a chance to race Colson many times this season and he ended up being unbeatable this fall against in-state competition. Did the consecutive losses against Colson discourage you at all in the last half of the season to try and challenge him early for the lead and wins or motivate you more?
Haight: I knew Louis was going to be a tough competitor. I just want to go out there every race and try my luck against him. I'll never be a runner to just sit on a slow pace and kick, I want to have an honest race each and every time.
MileStat.com: Before Foot Locker South, what did you feel was your best race of the season as well as your worst race of the season and why? What did you learn from both of those races?
Haight: I have two bests: the first isn't so much a race as was a time trial, I ran 14:56 at Burke Lake at the Wednesday meet before the MileStat.com Invite; the second was the MileStat.com Invite because I kept out of trouble and ran a tactically smart race. Worst: The State meet, from this race I learned it doesn't matter how your first two miles are if you don't finish well.
MileStat.com: After a subpar 6th place state meet finish in the Group 5A race, it could have been easy for you to have written off being in contention for a national berth at the Foot Locker South Regional. So how were able to mentally and emotionally able to bounce back from the state meet and run so well in Charlotte?
Haight: After the State race (and a subpar post-season as a whole) my coach and I knew something was up. We completely revamped my diet so that I had the energy to train and race hard and I trusted that this would fix whatever was wrong. It's important to trust your coach no matter what.
MileStat.com: What did you do for training in between the state meet and Foot Locker South? What were your last hard or primary workouts of the season?
Haight: We just focused on staying healthy and coming into Foot Locker being fresh and ready to go. This season we peaked for the Foot Locker meet to give me the greatest chances to have a national berth so the two weeks leading up to the meet consisted of a lot of tune ups for my leg speed.
MileStat.com: Going into the Foot Locker South race, how strongly did you feel about your chances to qualify?
Haight: I knew I was fit enough to run close to 15 minutes so the focus was just on running my own race and seeing what happened. Especially after states, I wanted to end (and now continue, woo!) my season on a high note.
MileStat.com: How did you position yourself throughout the race to find yourself in the top 10 at the end?
Haight: I made a big move up the hill on the course (at the halfway point) to put myself into sixth or so place. From there on I made sure I had distance away from the group that had both guys who would be going to San Diego and those who wouldn't so that I would not find any trouble at the end of the race, when everyone would be gunning for a spot.
MileStat.com: Did you key off Louis Colson throughout the race and knew if you could run close to him that you would have a shot at nationals?
Haight: I didn't focus on Louis at all, actually. I started the first mile a few seconds back from him but I caught up at 2 miles, completely unintentionally. I just focused on staying ahead of the pack that had some guys who would make it and some who would be left at home. When I saw him, steps in front of me, with 200 to go I didn't really think much of it and just kicked as hard as I could.
MileStat.com: What were your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and reaction as soon as you crossed the line at McAlpine and realized that you had made it and would be moving onto Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego?
Haight: It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had. My coach and I had put in work for months and month and it paid off: every painful workout was suddenly completely worth it.
MileStat.com: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you are the first Foot Locker Nationals qualifier in your school's history at George C. Marshall. What does that mean to you to achieve something never been done by a Marshall runner and leaving a legacy for yourself at your school forever?
Haight: I don't think I'll know what this means for a long time. Obviously it's wonderful for myself, my coach and the school but I hope that my success inspires kids at Marshall to want more than just a spot on the Districts team or a letter for the sport.
MileStat.com: Where are you at in the recruiting process? Have you made your college decision yet? Based off your recent facebook cover photo it looks like possibly William & Mary for you?
Haight: I will be proudly running for the College of William and Mary next year. GO TRIBE!
MileStat.com: What are you looking forward to the most in the trip to San Diego?
Haight: I hear that Sundae making is a blast! I'm excited to hang out with the very best in the country and to meet the professionals as well.
MileStat.com: What time goals do you have set for yourself on the track in your last two seasons of high school running?
Haight: I want to break 8:50 in the 3200 and 4:10 in the 1600.
MileStat.com: What are your expectations or goals for the race itself in going against some of the 39 best runners in the country?
Haight: I want to be an All-American. I think it's a possibilty but I have to race smartly. The race should go out quickly seeing as it's the 40 best runners in the country so I don't expect to be out front early. I want to move up and put myself in a position with a K to go so I can get a coveted top-15 spot.
Mackenzie Haight - 2013 XC Season Stats