LetsRun.com's 2008 Boys Foot Locker Preview: Can An American Win It? by: LetsRun.com
December 12, 2008
Before we talk about the the 30thedition of the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships on the boys side, we wanted to share you a little secret with you. Whenever we write an article on a boys/men's race and a girls/women's race, the LetsRun.com audience clicks on the men's piece way more often than the women's piece. We wonder if that will hold up this week as quite honestly,
the girls race at 2008 Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships is the much more compelling race in our minds from a fan's standpoint.
The boys race will undoubtedly be compelling but it certainly lacks the luster of the girls race. Coming after one of the all-time great classes in American distance running history (as proven by their recent showing as freshmen at the 2008 NCAA XC Championships), the class of 2008 Foot Locker finalists aren't nearly as well-known or accomplished as their female counterparts.
The biggest story in our minds might not be determining who captures the title on Saturday but rather figuring out the age of the winner. Because
in our mind the overwhelming favorite is Maryland'sSolomon Haile.
Undefeated for the year, Haile has enjoyed a sensational and completely dominant 2008 fall campaign. At the Manhattan Invite, he shattered the high school
record by running 12:06.7 for 2.5 miles. At the Maryland state meet, he won by 40 seconds. At the Northeast Regional for Foot Lockers, he won by 15 seconds and the guy who was second, NJ'sTylerUdland, is someone we think will be in the top 10 on Saturday.
The only drama surrounding Haile's season so far has been determining whether he should be ineligible because he is a professional runner and whether
he truly is 18 or 21 as he once claimed.As for being a pro? We say no, as any money that he won he didn't cash and even if he did, it wouldn't really have covered more than his expenses. As for being 21? Thatís something we're more unsure of. We're not sure why anyone, particularly a runner looking for a pro contract, would say they were older than they really are.Our doubts
would be settled if his passport or original passport was produced, but the family won't do so.
After the Ethiopian Haile, the second favorite isJakub Zivecfrom the Czech Republic and
Minnesota. If you haven't heard much about Zivec, he's only a junior, but he's a beast. His trackPBs are 3:49 and 8:19 for 1,500m and 3k, and he dominated the Midwest Regional, beating preseason Foot Locker favoriteJoseph Manilafasha, now a 3-time Foot Locker finalist. As far as freshness, Zivec might have an edge on all of the other runners in the field. He has been ineligible to compete
in most of the varsity meets this year in Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how he responds to likely front runners Solomon Haile andTrevor Dunbar. Or will he be the front runner? ***At the 11th hour, it has been reported that Zivec may be seriously hampered or even out of the competition with an injury sustained at NXN. If you feel this will affect the outcome, don't forget to revise your picks in our contest (link here) while you still can!
Ahhh,Trevor Dunbar. Our high school soccer coach made us break every huddle for an entire season with the phrase: "No Excuses.
No Regrets!" This guy certainly doesn't make excuses, and we doubt he regrets going out and trying to hammer away from the West Region last weekend, although he was passed and finished 3rd. After watching the awesome YouTube videos of Dunbar and teammates shoveling snow off of a track and Dunbar powering through a 9:02 3,200 while it's snowing so hard that there is a dusting on the track by the time he's done, we're forever huge fans of the Alaskan. One gets the feeling that guys like Emil Zatopek and Percy
Cerutty would have loved this kid. You can watch the videos of Dunbar here (Part 1, Part 2)
as well as on the left.
There are a bunch of interesting stories but we can't go through every guy so we'll give you some stats on each of the top five finishers in each Foot Locker region and our top 10 picks.
1.Bill Matthews(TN). Tennessee Div. II-AA state
champ, Great American champ. Personal bests of 1:57, 4:16 and 9:10. We've met this guy and know his coach the great Van Townsend. Matthews visits LRC so we are routing for him. 2.Matt Sonnenfeldt(TN). Tennessee 3A state champ, Great American runner-up. Personal bests of 1:58, 4:18 and 9:11.
3.C.J. Brown(TX). 2-time Foot Locker finalist,
24th last year. High school teammate of the graduatedColby Lowe, who was 4th at Foot Locker Nationals last year. Personal bests of 1:55, 4:12 and 9:17. 4.Thomas Porter(VA). 3-time Foot Locker finalist, top finish of 31st in 2006. Virginia 3A state champ. Personal bests of 1:56, 4:15 and 9:15. 5.Leoule
Degfae(VA). 3rd at Virginia 3A state meet. Personal bests of 1:54, 4:19 and 9:30.
Northeast 1.Solomon Haile(MD). Maryland 4A state champ. Personal bests of 4:17 and 9:06. 2.Tyler Udland(NJ). New Jersey
Meet of Champions winner. Personal bests of 4:21 and 9:04. 3.Joe Whelan(NY). New York Class A state champ. Personal bests of 4:24 and 9:15. 4.Andrew Springer(RI). Rhode Island All-State champ. Personal bests of 1:55, 4:12 and 9:14. 5.Philip Wood(PA). 2005 AAU National Youth cross-country champ. Personal bests of 1:56, 4:15 and 9:18.
Midwest 1.Jakub Zivec(MN). Czech Republic junior cross-country champ is ineligible for Minnesota state competition as he is not part of an official foreign exchange program. Personal bests of 1:56, 3:49 1,500m and 8:19 3,000m. 2.Joseph Manilafasha(CO). 3-time Foot Locker finalist, 22nd last year. 4-time Colorado 4A state champ. Personal bests of 4:23 (altitude) and 9:25 (altitude). 3.Evan Appel(CO). 3-time Foot Locker finalist, 21st last year. 2-time Colorado 5A state champ. Personal bests of 1:56, 4:16 (altitude) and 9:09. 4.Futsum Zeinasellassie(IN). 9th grader is Indiana state runner-up. Personal bests of 4:33 and 9:02 3,000m as an 8th grader. 5.Dylan Sorensen(IN). 4th at Indiana state meet. Personal bests of 1:58, 4:22 and 9:51.
Schwartz(CA). 2-time Foot Locker finalist, 37th last year. 2007 California Div. I state champ (7th this year), Mt. SAC runner-up. Personal bests of 4:15 and 8:58. 2.Brian Shrader(AZ). Arizona 4A-II state champ. Personal best 1,600m of 4:15. 3.Trevor Dunbar(AK).
3-time Alaska 4A state champ, Mt. SAC champ. Personal bests of 4:15 and 9:06 (also unofficial 9:02 time trial in snowstorm). 4.Wyatt Landrum(CA). 4th at California Div. II state meet. Personal best 3,200m of 9:11. 5.Shane Moskowitz(WA). Washington 4A state runner-up. Personal bests of 4:18 and 9:23.
LRC Top 10 Picks:
Unlike a lot of distance aficionados, we have no problem with foreign competition in the NCAA, but to us the beauty of Foot Locker is it is normally all about the search for the next great American distance star. Thus while the stats don't let us pick Dunbar to win, let it be known we will be rooting for him. If he pulls it off, you'll have an instant cult hero following up in the mold of a Mr. Steve Prefontaine.
2. Jakub Zivec ***
3. Joseph Manilafasha 4. Trevor Dunbar
5. Chris Schwartz
6. Bill Matthews
7. Brian Shrader 8. Evan Appel 9. Tyler Udland 10. Matt Sonnenfeldt
***If Zivec's reported injury prevents him from competing to his full extent, move everyone in spots 3-10 up a place and we'll go with Wyatt Landrum to round out the top 10.