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2007 Footlocker Boys' Preview
by: LetsRun.com
December 6, 2007

Editor's Note: We'll have the girls' preview tomorrow.

The Footlocker Cross Country Championships are always a big deal. The 40 best runners in the country, all together in one race, to determine one true national champion. It doesn't get any better than that.

While no doubt all 40 participants have been dreaming of "Footlockers" ever since last year's championships, this year for the spectator there is increased attention as the men's field is incredible strong.

In trying to handicap the races, far too often people let their own personal experiences bias things. When one sees a Footlocker contender in action, they almost all seem unbeatable as the top high schooler is so much better than most of his or her competition.

“You should have seen Runner x at states. He blew away the competition.” Statements like that may be meaningful but only if the state competition is meaningful. Winning a California state meet by 40+ seconds is a hell of a lot more significant than doing the same in Hawaii.

So instead of letting biases of who we have or haven’t seen run in person or regional biases get in the way, we thought we’d let cold hard facts rule in our analysis of the 2007 Footlocker race.

Bill Meylan of TullyRunners.com in our mind operates the most amazing high school running site we know of – hell it may be the most amazing site period. In the site, he creates speed ratings for high school races across the land – equating performances at different courses across the country. We’re not sure how he does it but it’s really, really unbelievably well done and very accurate.

He’s got speed ratings up for the Footlocker regionals and we’ll use them as the basis of our race analysis. We urge you to check his site out including his Footlocker historical speed-ratings analysis if you want a trip down memory lane


German Fernandez
at the West Region
Photo by photorun.net
Boys Race Preview: Can Derrick Challenge Fernandez?
The speed ratings certainly back up the “Wow” anecdotes that German Fernandez and Chris Derrick have been earning all fall. It certainly looks like the race will end up being a two man battle between those two, with Fernandez being the favorite.

At the California state meet, Fernandez ran a sizzling 14:24 to break Olympian and former Footlocker champ Marc Davis' meet record of 14:38. More impressive was the fact that he was 49 seconds faster than anyone else in the state. That is really unbelievable. 49 seconds better than everyone in the most populous state in the country. Sick. At Footlocker Regionals, Fernandez took it easy - wanting to just qualify and won by a still healthy 15 seconds.

Fernandez state meet performance earned him a speed rating of 209. 209 would have won Footlockers from 2003 to 2007. If he runs like he did at States, he almost certainly will win. Chris Solinsky, who won Footlockers with a speed rating of 212 in 2002, was the last guy to have a speed rating of 210 or higher.

Only once in history (well since 1999 when the speed ratings for Footlockers started), has a speed rating of 209 lost at Footlockers. That was the 1999 Footlocker race which was a race for the ages. Dathan Ritzenhein won with a 212, future NCAA champ at 1,500 Don Sage was second with a 210, 13:15 5k runner Ian Dobson also ran a 210, future NCAA xc champ Josh Rohatinsky was fourth with a 210 and then 13:04 5ker Matt Tegenkamp was fifth (206). Farther back, mile sensation Alan Webb was 8th as a junior with a 200.

The interesting thing about Fernandez is that while he's never made Footlocker finals before, he clearly has been known for a longtime in Cali circles. Dyestatcal said the following about Fernandez early in his sophomore xc season:"An amazing young man from the Sac Joaquin section who is only a sophomore may be one of the great talents in state history." I guess a 4:22 1600 in your first year of track without doing xc or indoor is pretty impressive.

Illinois' Chris Derrick is a real talent who has also had a great year, making history along the way just like Fernandez. Fernandez got the Cali state mark and Derrick got the Illinois state mark - well not technically. Derrick ran 13:52 at states whereas former world xc champ Craig Virgin ran 13:50 but the course is now a little bit longer so Derrick's is regarded as being faster.

Derrick was beaten at the Midwest Regional by 8:58 2-miler Mike Fouts but many think Derrick was taking it easy to save for Nike Team Nationals (NTN). The speed ratings confirm this as Fouts ran a 203 to Derrick's 201 but Derrick picked it up at NTN. At NTN, Derrick handed Footlocker South region champ Colby Lowe of Texas his only lost of the season as Derrick won by 3 seconds. They both produced very good speed ratings of 205 and 204. Derrick crushed 3rd place finisher Benjamin Johnson by 31 seconds - impressive because Johnson was 6th at Footlocker nationals last year.

Lowe is consistently a stud as he won Footlocker South with a 203 speed rating and he's the third returnee from last year (10th). However, in our minds he doesn't have the ability to up the ante and challenge Fernandez if he's up in the 210 + category.

Many people are worried that Derrick and Lowe will be tired as this is their 3rd big race in 3 weeks. It's a valid concern but we give Derrick big props for taking it easy at Footlocker Midwest. We also would point out that this is Fernandez 3rd big race in 3 weeks (States, Regionals, Nationals) as well but he hasn't been pushed at all. Mentally, more than anything, given the fact that Derrick's team won the NTN team title last week, we think it will be hard for him to up the ante even more to challenge Fernandez.

Let's Remember Ritz Vs Webb vs Hall
There are a number of guys that could be factors particularly if Fernandez isn't doing his best
A Great Deal Footlocker Week
Footlocker.com
Superman Dathan Ritzenhein impression and destroying what is a very good Footlocker field. Before we continue on our analysis of the 2007 race, we ask you to pause for a minute and pay homage to the 2000 Footlocker Race and the incredible run of Dathan Ritzenhein. Ritz beat a no name named Alan Webb by 20 seconds and another scrub named Ryan Hall by 24 seconds.

UNREAL. INCREDIBLE. SICK. ARGUABLY THE GREATEST XC PERFORMANCE IN HS HISTORY. You beat America's fastest miler ever and maybe it's greatest marathoner ever by a ton and you deserve a 214 speed rating.

One of the biggest players in the race besides Derrick, Lowe, Fouts and Fernandez is likely to be Footlocker Northeast champ Donn Cabral. The Ct. senior won the regional in a meet record 15:09 at VCP this year, just missing Josh McDougal's course record of 15:08. The scary thing about the performance was that his coach said he was trying to take it fairly easy. "His plan was to run as well as he could, without killing himself like he did last year," said Howie Breinan. Last year, Cabral had a hard time recovering from regionals and finished 21st at nationals.

This year, Cabral cruised a really fast time at regionals and he didn't run NTN and thus he'll be fresher than the other expected top contenders in Fernandez, Derrick, Lowe and Fouts. We'd be shocked if anyone else wins Footlockers.

That being said, a slew of guys could finish top 5. The only other two guys to earn 200 speed ratings at the regionals that we haven't mentioned are Michigan's Maverick Darling and PA's Mark Dennin.

In terms of regions, the Northeast on paper looks to have a slew of strong guys as Brian Leung, Patrick Dupont, Chris Aldrich, Zach Rivers, Vincent McNally, and Brandon Jarrett all ran 15:31 or faster at VCP to garner speed ratings of 198 to 199. We'd be surprised to see that many Northeast guys up front as many college coaches seem to think the Northeast is down a bit this year, but maybe it's very top heavy.

In terms of the West, Utah's Luke Puskedra, who ran a 9 flat to win the Arcadia 2 mile in the spring in very hot conditions, also can't be overlooked as if he finishes within 15 seconds of Fernandez again like he did at the West regional , he very well may find himself 2nd again.

The South region looks a bit weak. After Lowe, North Carolina's Ryan Hill (4:11/9:03 as a jr) might make some noise.

One Midwest guy we should have mentioned earlier is Minnesota's Rob Finnerty. Anyone who runs sub 9:00 as a junior (8:56) could do serious damage.

LetsRun.com Predictions: It's been five years since Footlockers has been decided by more than 5 seconds. Time for that streak to end. Look for Fernandez to imitate Solinsky and Ritzenhein with a dominating win.

1) Fernandez 2) Cabral 3) Derrick (we'd pick him 2nd but may think he'll be tired) 4) Fouts 5) Lowe 6) Puskedra 7) Darling 8) Dennin 9) Hill 0) Finnerty
JK's Picks: 1) Fernandez 2) Derrick 3) Lowe 4) Puskedra 5) Fouts 6) Cabral 7) Dennin 8) Darling 9) Dupont 10) Jarrett

Brief Look at the Runners:

Region Athlete City State Reg Time Notes
NE1 Donn Cabral Glastonbury CT 15:09.6 Broke Footlocker NE Region meet record and narrowly missed Josh McDougal's all-time Van Cortlandt Park record. Finished 21st in the finals last year.
NE2 Mark Dennin Gilbertsville PA 15:24.0 Had a dominating 29-second win at the PA State meet.
NE3 Brian Leung West Windsor NJ 15:25.8 Ran fastest times in all races at both the Manhattan Invitational and the NJ Group Championships.
NE4 Patrick DuPont Fairport NY 15:26.7 Winner of both NY State Division AA and NY Federation Championships.
NE5 Christopher Aldrich West Chester PA 15:27.3 PA State runner-up to Mark Dennin.
NE6 Zachary Rivers Victor NY 15:29.2 3rd at NY Federation Championships.
NE7 Vincent McNally Brownstown PA 15:30.3 Sports a 4:08.99 mile PR.
NE8 Brandon Jarrett Hillsborough NJ 15:31.5 Finished 12th in last year's finals after getting 8th in the NE Region.
NE9 Andrew Brodeur Brick NJ 15:36.0  
NE10 Andrew Judd West Hartford CT 15:40.8  
So1 Colby Lowe Southlake TX 14:45:00 South Region winner's only loss this year came to Chris Derrick at Nike Team Nationals. A 3-time finalist and sub-9:00 3,200 runner. 10th at Nationals a year ago.
So2 Ryan Hill Hickory NC 14:56:00 Won the South Region in 2006.
So3 CJ Brown Southlake TX 15:00:00  
So4 Jason Witt Midlothian VA 15:03:00 Virginia State AAA Champion over fellow finalists Thomas Porter and Michael Hammond.
So5 Luke Lovelace Chapin SC 15:04:00 Finalist last year.
So6 Rory Tunningley Lockhart TX 15:08:00 Texas State 4A Champion.
So7 Griffith Graves Abingdon VA 15:09:00  
So8 Thomas Porter Fredericks VA 15:11:00 Finalist a year ago.
So9 Patrick Campbell Mooresville NC 15:12:00  
So10 Michael Hammond Midlothian VA 15:14:00  
MW1 Michael Fout LaPorte IN 14:56:00 The Mideast Meet of Champs winner surprised favored Chris Derrick to take the MW crown. Ran 8:58.79 at 2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals 2 mile.
MW2 Christopher Derrick Naperville IL 15:04:00 Broke Craig Virgin's legendary course record at Illnois State meet. Nike Team Nationals individual winner over Colby Lowe. PR of 8:54.64 for 3,200. Enjoys LetsRun.com.
MW3 Maverick Darling Ovid MI 15:07:00  
MW4 Rob Finnerty Burnsville MN 15:12:00 Boasts a 2 mile PR of 8:59.15.
MW5 Kevin Havel Arlington Heights IL 15:17:00  
MW6 Kevin Williams Lakewood CO 15:18:00  
MW7 Joseph Manilafasha Denver CO 15:18:00 Returning to Nationals after finishing 25th in the finals last year.
MW8 Francisco Medrano Lafayette IN 15:18:00  
MW9 Bobby Nicolls Parker CO 15:20:00  
MW10 Evan Appel Littleton CO 15:22:00 Another returning finalist.
W1 German Fernandez Riverbank CA 14:53:00 Heads into the finals as at least a co-favorite after demolishing Marc Davis's 1986 California State record and cruising to a 15-second win in the West Region.
W2 Luke Puskedra Ogden UT 15:08:00 2007 Arcadia Invitational 2 mile winner.
W3 Stephen Clark Salt Lake City UT 15:14:00  
W4 James Attarian Dublin CA 15:17:00  
W5 Miles Unterreiner Gig Harbor WA 15:17:00 Washington State 4A Champion and Border Clash Champion.
W6 Jim Walmsley Scottsdale AZ 15:19:00  
W7 Chris Schwartz Bakersfield CA 15:20:00  
W8 Brett Walters Victorville CA 15:21:00  
W9 Riley Sullivan Rancho Santa Margarita CA 15:22:00  
W10 Jonathan Lafler Maple Valley WA 15:22:00  


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