2016 Foot Locker Finals Girls’ Preview: Sophomore Standout Claudia Lane Will Duel Senior Nevada Mareno for the Title

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By LetsRun.com
December 7, 2016

Let there be no doubt, the nation’s top female high school runner, Brie Oakley, has run her final race of the season. Yet there is still a Foot Locker title to be decided, so we’re going to break the race down. Two girls stand above the rest in this field: sophomore sensation Claudia Lane of Malibu, Calif., who blazed a 17:20 at Mt. SAC to win the West Region by 35 seconds and Stanford-bound senior Nevada Mareno of Raleigh, N.C., the top returner from 2015 who owns the best track PRs in the field (4:43 mile/10:00 2-mile). We expect one of those two to break the tape at Balboa Park on Saturday.

Below, you’ll find our analysis of the girls’ race. Our boys’ preview is here: LRC 2016 Foot Locker Finals Boys’ Preview: Sam Worley, Noah Affolder & Finn Gessner Headline a Wide-Open Race

What: 2016 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships

Where: Morley Field at Balboa Park, San Diego, California

When: Saturday, December 10. Girls’ race begins at 12:15 p.m. ET, boys’ race at 1:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: You can stream the races live for free here beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

Results: 2015 FL Finals * 2016 FL Regionals

The Co-Favorites

Claudia Lane • Sophomore • Malibu, CA • 5:09.96 1600 • 11:00.29 3200

Regional result: 1st West, 17:20
Previous FL finishesnone
College choice: N/A
Major results this fall: 2nd at Woodbridge XC Classic (16:16.7 for 3 miles; lost to Brie Oakley) on 9/17; 1st at Mt. SAC (16:32 for 2.93 miles) on 10/22; 1st at California D-IV state meet (16:45 for 5k, #3 in course history) on 11/26

Per Tully Runners‘ speed ratings, Lane has the three best performances of anyone entered at 2016 Foot Lockers — a 154 at Mt. SAC on October 22, a 158 at the California state meet on November 26 and a 158 at Foot Locker West on December 3. The latter two were particularly impressive. Lane’s 16:45 at states was the fastest time of the day by 40 seconds and third-best in course history, behind only Sarah Baxter and Julia Stamps. At FL West, Lane won by a monstrous 35.8 seconds — the largest margin of victory at a regional since Aisling Cuffe in 2009 (46.0 seconds). Lane’s 17:20 time was also the fastest at FL West since Jordan Hasay ran 17:17 in 2007. The good news for Lane? Both Cuffe and Hasay are former Foot Locker champions. The bad news? Neither of them won it in the years we just mentioned (Cuffe won in 2010, Hasay in 2005 and 2008). Still, Lane’s speed ratings in those races put her an estimated 15 seconds (1 point = 3 seconds) ahead of the next-best performance among girls entered at Foot Lockers, Alyssa Aldridge (153 at New Jersey state meet).

Lane may well become a national champion on Saturday, but if she does it will be hard to argue that she is the top runner in the country as she raced NXN champ Brie Oakley this season at the Woodbridge XC Classic in September — and lost to her by 23 seconds. And that doesn’t appear to be a fluke as Lane’s best speed rating of the year (158) is rated as being 21 seconds inferior to Oakley’s (165).

mareno_nevada-flcc15

Mareno was third at FL last year as a junior

Nevada Mareno • Senior • Raleigh, NC • 4:43.39 mile • 10:00.44 2-mile

Regional result: 1st South, 17:21
Previous FL finishes3rd 2015
College choice: Stanford
Major results this fall: 1st at North Carolina 4A state meet (17:27.7 for 5k) on 11/5

Mareno is the top returner from last year’s race and holds the top personal bests in the field at 4:43 (mile) and 10:00 (2-mile). She’s also undefeated this fall, and with that resume, you’d think she’d be a no-brainer choice for the win on Saturday. The only concern is that, unlike Lane, Mareno hasn’t posted any truly remarkable performances in 2016. Entering Foot Locker finals last year, Mareno had speed ratings of 157, 153 and 151 before she posted a 160 at Foot Lockers. This year, Mareno’s best speed rating was “only” 148, which she ran at her state meet back on November 5.

Still, it’s hard to find fault with an undefeated season.

Other Contenders

Alyssa Aldridge • Junior • Linwood, NJ • 4:55.83 1600 • 10:34.78 3200

Regional result: 1st Northeast, 17:40
Previous FL finishes23rd 2015
College choice: N/A
Major results this fall: 11th at Manhattan Invitational (15:00.6 for 2.5 miles) on 10/8; 1st at New Jersey state meet (17:55 for 5k, won by 40 secs) on 11/19

Aldridge has come on strong late in the season

Aldridge has come on strong late in the season

Aldridge has won her last five races and has the best speed rating in the field after Lane thanks to her 153 at the New Jersey state meet on November 5. She matched that with another 153 en route to winning Foot Locker Northeast on November 26 and enters San Diego among the favorites. Thebig  knock on Aldridge is that she was only 11th at the Manhattan Invitational two months ago. Aldridge has improved significantly since then, as her last two races have been her best of the season, but it’s hard to imagine an athlete getting 11th in a regular season race and proceeding to win Foot Lockers (though we should point out that only two of the girls who beat Aldridge that day — Abigail Green and Maria Coffin — will be at Foot Lockers).

Anne Forsyth • Junior • Ann Arbor, MI • 4:56.30 1600 • 10:30.97 3200

Regional results: 1st Midwest, 17:17
Previous FL finishesnone
College choice: N/A
Major results this fall: 2nd at Michigan Lower Peninsula Division 1 state meet (17:35 for 5k) on 11/5; 3rd at NXN Midwest (17:09 for 5k) on 11/13; 14th at NXN (17:58 for 5k) on 12/3

Forsyth has had a few extremely impressive performances in 2016, none better than her 17:17 win at Foot Locker Midwest, a race she won by 19 seconds. On the other hand, that’s the only race she’s won since the start of November as she was second at the Michigan Lower Peninsula state meet before taking 3rd at NXN Midwest and 14th at NXN. 14th at NXN is still a very good result, especially considering that NXN is a stronger meet than Foot Lockers, and Forsyth is second among NXN finishers entered in San Diego (India Johnson was 9th). However, three straight weekends of racing in different states, including two separate trips to the West Coast, is a lot for a high schooler to handle, and if Forsyth is to win, she will need to summon her best race of the season. It will be a challenge.

India Johnson • Senior • Hilliard, OH • 4:58.26 1600 • 10:29.80 3200

Regional results: 2nd Midwest, 17:36
Previous FL finishesnone
College choice: Undecided
Major results this fall: 1st at Ohio D1 state meet (17:28 for 5k) on 11/5; 2nd at NXN Midwest (17:07 for 5k) on 11/13; 9th at NXN (17:53 for 5k) on 12/3

Johnson and Forsyth have gone back and forth in their last three races, with Johnson beating Forsyth at NXN Midwest and Forsyth winning FL Midwest before Johnson took 9th to Forsyth’s 14th at NXN. That 9th-place finish was the best among anyone entered at Foot Lockers, and considering the extra depth at NXN, it positions Johnson well for a high finish on Saturday. In addition, Johnson has the #6 and #8 performances of the year by speed rating thanks to her runs at NXN and NXN Midwest. She’s in the same boat as Forsyth though as she’s been traveling and racing a lot recently — this will be her second straight race on the West Coast and she has raced eight of the last nine weekends dating back to October 8. Does she have enough for one last big effort in San Diego?

A Few More Stats

  • Returners from 2015 Foot Lockers include: Nevada Mareno (Raleigh, NC; 3rd in ’15), Jordan Oakes (Seattle, WA; 20th in ’15), Alyssa Aldridge (Linwood, NJ; 23rd), Maria Coffin (Annapolis, MD; 27th), Kate Hunter (Provo, UT; 31st), Kayla Young (Westminster, CO; 33rd) and Julia Heymach (Houston, TX; 36th)
  • Runners pulling the FL/NXN double include India Johnson (Hilliard, OH; 9th at NXN), Anne Forsyth (Ann Arbor, MI; 14th), Lauren Peterson (Farmington, MN; 30th) and Christina Geisler (Carmel, IN; 40th)

LRC Prediction: While seniors have won six of the last eight Foot Lockers, history has shown that age and experience isn’t necessarily a help on the girls side (16 of the last 30 champions have been non-seniors).  Lane FTW.

Thanks to Athletic.net for the PRs and to Tully Runners for the speed ratings.

Discuss the race on our world famous messageboard: MB FL 2016 Predictions

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