2007 Footlocker Boys' Preview
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.
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.
at the West Region
Photo by photorun.net
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
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: