2007 Footlocker Girls' Cross Country Preview: A Battle for the Age?
Casual observers of distance running likely assume that the 2007
Footlocker Cross Country Finals girls race is going to be an epic rematch between the 2006
champ Kathy Kroeger and the 2005 champ Jordan Hasay.
That being said, let's start with the two-time defending champs Hasay and Kroeger.
Photo by photorun.net
First of all, there are a number of talented runners back from last year. 6 of the top 10 from last year are back including the top 3.
Additionally, there is one very, very talented newcomer, Ohio's Claire Durkin. Hasay and Kroeger may have been running well but Durkin has simply been on another planet all fall. Let's take a look at her last 3 meets, starting with the Ohio State championships.
She won the Ohio state championship by a dominating 28 seconds. Sounds impressive. Given what she did after that, it seems like she might have been having a bad day at states. At the Mid-East meet of Champs, Durkin broke the course record and won by 40 seconds. At the Footlocker Midwest race, she put on a show for the ages. Durkin ran 17:01 to break Melody Fairchild's 17 year old course record of 17:08, winning by an incredible 42 seconds. The younger visitors to letsrun.com may not know who Fairchild was. Let it be clear, she was one of the greatest female HS runners ever in American history.
When asked if he'd ever seen such a larger margin between 1st and 2nd at the regional, Footlocker Midwest race director Pete Henkes summer up Durkin's performance best when he said, “I don’t know if there was ever a 42-second gap between the first and 10th runner."
As we stated in our Footlocker Boys preview, we are using the TullyRunners.com Speed Ratings to help us compare performances. At the Midwest regional, Durkin earned a speed rating of 163. Kroeger, who barely edged Florida's Kayla Hale by less than a second in the South Regional only earned a 156. Now a fan of Kroeger's might point out that last year Kroeger didn't even win the South regional (she finished 2nd) before winning nationals. That's true, but last year Kroeger had a 165 speed rating at Footlocker South and a 166 to win. She doesn't appear to be in that type of form this year (one point on a speed rating is worth 3 seconds), particularly given the fact that she was pushed to the limit by Hale.
Hasay's speed ratings aren't all that impressive either. Hasay earned a 157 in winning the West Regional. But at least she won easily - by 11 seconds - so one might think she could up the ante when pressed.
We've talked about 3 of the 4 regional champs. The one we haven't mentioned - Neely Spence - may very well be the best bet to challenge Durkin. Spence you say? Yes, as in Steve Spence. Neely is the home schooled daughter of Steve, who won a bronze medal at the 1991 World Championships in the marathon. Her mom was also a 17 minute 5k runner. Clearly she has good genes and good coaching (her dad coaches her). She also is experienced as she was 8th last year at Nationals after she won the Northeast Regional for the first time.
She's been running well in 2007. She won the PA state meet by 25 seconds before winning FLNE for the 2nd straight year. This year she ran 17:37 compared to 17:41 last year.
Looking at the West, CA's Laurynne Chetelat was the runnerup - 11 seconds back. The fifth placer from the West, Kauren Tarver, can't be ignored as she's a 4-time finalist and finished 5th in 2005 and 7th in 2006. A backward trend appears to be occurring but she could challenge for the top 10.
The Darkhorse Pick
We decided to reward those who actually are reading the entire girls preview. There is one person we haven't mentioned who is capable of winning on Saturday. Florida's Ashley Brasovan was a phenom all year long up until Footlocker South. At Great American, Brasovan destroyed Kroeger by 42 seconds when she ran 17:05 to Kroeger's 17:47 (Hale was 8th in 18:28). At the Florida state meet, Brasovan and Hale were in different races but Brasovan ran 17:04 to Hale's 17:35 as Brasovan captured her 3rd straight 4A title.
We're not sure what happened to Brasovan at Footlocker South as she was only 6th. If she was sick or taking it easy and runs in the finals like she did at Great American, she might be the only runner to challenge Durkin (assuming Hasay doesn't step it up). Unfortunately, we're fearing she may be burning out as she did last year when she was expected to be an easy qualifier for Nationals but didn't run well at regionals and didn't make it. The fact that Brasovan ran a 16:36 road 5k in August scares us. Considering, it's very hard for a professional runner to maintain his or her form during the long pro track season from say Prefontaine to World Champs (June to August), we think a high school junior would find it nearly impossible to be sharp from August through December.
We'll find out when the gun goes off on Saturday.
LetsRun.com Final Analysis: The meet looks fantastic on paper as an argument can be made for all 4 regional champs. We're big Hasay fans and we'd love to see her wage an epic duel with Durkin. Hasay's been running better than she did in 2005 so its possible she could do it and it would be a great story after her struggles last year, but the speed ratings say it's very unlikely.
It would be great if Spence and Kroeger and Hasay and Durkin and a few others were all up there in a huge battle which isn't normally seen on the girls side. We don't expect that however. In our minds, if Durkin is on, it doesn't look like anyone will challenge her.
Look for Durkin to earn a comfortable win.
We're not sure what to make of Brasovan as she's clearly a talent. If you're looking to win the contest, you might pick her to win and pray she comes through as most everyone else will pick Hasay, Spence, Durkin or Kroeger. She's probably likely to either be in the top 3 or not in the top 10.
LetsRun.com Picks: 1) Durkin 2) Spence 3) Hasay 4) Jones 5) Seymour 6) Kroeger 7) Chetelat 8) Hale 8) Amaro 9) McGuire 10) Sisson
JK's picks: 1) Durkin 2) Hasay 3) Kroeger 4) Tarver 5) Spence 6) Sisson 7) Flood 8) Brasovan 9) Seymour 10) Hale