December 13, 2014
In contrasting styles, one pushing relentlessly from the front, one waiting until the final 800, the two favorites Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka, Indiana, and Grant Fisher of Grand Blanc, Michigan, both won their second Foot Locker Cross Country championships today in San Diego in dominant fashion.
Rohrer won by 10 seconds in 17:13, Fisher by nine in 15:03 as both joined the class of ‘All-time great’ for the high school ranks.
Montana’s Makena Morley took things out fast as the opening mile was a blazing quick 5:19. Rohrer likes to hammer and she kept things honest as the pace remained quick throughout. Given the fact the two mile split was 11:03 it wasn’t surprising it was only a two-person race for glory between Rohrer and South champ Ryen Frazier (Raleigh, NC). Frazier didn’t go without a fight but around the 14:30 mark, Rohrer finally gapped her for good going up the second hill. Frazier would hold on for a much-deserved second-place showing in 17:23. Morley ended up third (17:29).
Fisher closed out one of the greatest-ever high school cross country careers by an American on Saturday with his second consecutive Foot Locker title. After an early attempt at a breakaway by Thomas Pollard (Ames, IA, 2:17 first 800), the pack bunched up as the pace slowed (mile in 4:42, 2 mile in 9:48) and by 3k 10 boys were in the lead group including regional champions Fisher, Elijah Armstrong (Pocatello, ID), Alex Ostberg (Darien, CT) and Andrew Hunter (Purcellville, VA).
Ostberg tried to push the pace during the second half of the race, but the group remained together as it started to head up the course’s main hill with under a kilometer to go. Fisher went to the lead and as he approached the summit, Fisher began to push and started to string out the field, with Armstrong close behind in second. Once Fisher reached the downhill with around 600 meters remaining, he really started to open up and his lead ballooned to over 50 meters within a minute. In an instant, this tight race turned into a blowout. Game, set, match to Mr. Fisher.
Fisher coasted in for the win in 15:03 (he surely could have gone under 15:00 if he was pushed) while second place went to Olin Hacker (Madison, WI), son of former USATF and NCAA champ Tim, who moved up well late in the race. Hacker (15:12) was second at NXN last week as well, so credit to him for putting together two top-notch efforts in consecutive weeks.
Quick Take #1: Fisher is officially now an all-time high school great.
Let there be no doubt: Fisher is very special. As he instantly destroyed the field on the final hill, we wrote on the messageboard:
“Fisher is DESTROYING THEM. A man amongst boys. He’s racing Ritz for history.”
Another messageboard poster “updatin” was equally impressed, “Fisher just opened a can of Whoopazz. he is incredible. Outclassed everyone.”
This probably didn’t come as a huge surprise to close observers of the sport as if anyone was going to destroy the field, it was Fisher. As LetsRun.com’s Jonathan Gault was watching the race, he remembered Fisher open his stride on the final downhill last year and told his roommate that Fisher would start pushing at the top of the hill and accelerate away from the field on the downhill. Well that’s exactly what happened.
Fisher joins Edward Cheserek, Dathan Ritzenhein, Lukas Verzbicas and Abdirizak Mohamud as the only two-time FL champs on the boys’ side — Ritz and Fisher, both Michiganders, being the only Americans to do it (Fisher is actually a dual citizen as he was born in Canada). Ritz went on to great things — a 2003 NCAA XC title, three Olympic teams and an American record in the 5000 (since broken) — and Fisher is shaping up as that kind of talent, though Fisher seems more like a 1500/5k guy. We can’t wait to see what he does at Stanford.
Actually, why wait until next year? After this one was over, LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson started this messageboard thread:
Fisher, who ran 4:02 for the mile last spring, certainly deserves to be mentioned with the great names in US history including the more mile-based guys like Alan Webb and Jim Ryun. And of course, there are several other HS studs who didn’t win FL twice – Marc Davis, Chris Solinsky, Adam Goucher, Reuben Reina, and Gerry Lindgren (Foot Locker didn’t exist when Lindgren was in HS) to name a few – that might be able to give Fisher a run for is money in HS xc.
To be mentioned with those guys means that for the rest of his HS career, Fisher is now running for his place in history.
Quick Take #2: Rohrer is also an all-timer
Winning two Foot Locker titles for an American is much more common on the girls’ side than the boys’ as Rohrer is now the fifth American girl to win multiple titles, but just the second to do it in non-consecutive years.
Erin Keogh (1985, 86), Melody Fairchild (’89, ’90), Erin Sullivan (’97, ’98), Jordan Hasay (’05, ’08) all won two titles as well. But of those four women, by far the most accomplished of them collegiately and professionally was Hasay. Winning in non-consecutive years is very significant. It shows you are winning because of supreme talent, not because of something else like a stunted maturation process.
The real question is how would Rohrer have fared against 2013 NXN champ/4:07 1500 runner Alexa Efraimson? Efraimson is a senior in high school and didn’t run here because she turned pro to run with Nike in August (we never got why being pro meant she couldn’t run NXN or FL). Efraimson isn’t as good as Mary Cain was in high school, but 4:07 is blazing (Cain’s record is 4:04 and remember she made the final at senior Worlds that year). Efraimson and Rohrer are two of the all-time greats at the high school level and it would have been awesome to see them race each other today.
Quick Take #3: Olin Hacker and Paige Hofstad successfully pulled off the NXN/FL double.
Hacker is the first guy since Futsum Zienasellassie in 2011 to place in the top five at both NXN and Foot Lockers in the same season (Zienasellassie was second and first; Hacker was second and second). The FL webcast crew acted as if Hacker’s performance was a huge surprise because Hacker was only 10th at Foot Locker Midwest (they conspicuously ignored the rival NXN meet throughout the webcast). But it appears Hacker was merely running to qualify at that race, with the knowledge he had two national championship races on the horizon in the next two weeks. He couldn’t have played it much better.
Hacker is off to Wisconsin next year, setting up what could be a great rivalry between the Badgers and Stanford. Take a look at each team’s potential top six in 2016 (with their current class year):
|Sean McGorty, so. (20th at NCAAs)||Malachy Schrobilgen, so. (10th at NCAAs)|
|Sam Wharton, fr. (39th at NCAAs; ’12 NXN champ)||Olin Hacker, HS sr. (2nd at NXN/FL)|
|Grant Fisher, HS sr. (2-time FL champ)||Kai Wilmot, rs (’13 NXN champ)|
|Alex Ostberg, HS sr. (11th and 9th at FL last 2 years)||Morgan McDonald, fr. (14:07/10th World Jr 5k; 75th at NCAAs)|
|Garrett Sweatt, so. (68th NCAAs)||Ryan Kromer, fr. (99th at NCAAs, #8 frosh)|
|Jack Keelan, fr. (100th NCAAs, 2nd at US XC jr race)||Carl Hirsch, fr. (107th at NCAAs)|
Plus Wisconsin could have an ace in the hole if NXN champ Tanner Anderson chooses to join HS teammate Wilmot at Wisconsin.
On the women’s side, NXN runner-up Paige Hofstad (New Braunfels, TX) was fourth.
Quick Take #4: Makena Morley executed a sound strategy for third in the girls’ race.
Morley, a four-time qualifier, posted her third top-10 finish in San Diego with a third-place showing in the girls’ race. She made a bold move right off the start line and already had a gap on the field 200 meters into the race. Morley came through the mile in a very quick 5:19 but she said after the race that she felt good and wasn’t overly worried about the fast split.
Morley was clearly very confident in her fitness, and her plan ended up being a smart one. No one was beating Rohrer today, but Morley was able to string out and gap most of the rest of the field early, which quickly reduced the number of her competitors. When the pace in the boys’ raced dawdled mid-race, it allowed guys like Hacker to get back into it. Morley didn’t let something similar to happen in the girls’ race as the pace never slowed up front, meaning that the top three finishers — Rohrer, Ryen Frazier and Morley – had to be in that top group early.
Morley will attend the University of Montana next year. The school is less than two hours from her home in Bigfork, MT, which was clearly a selling point for Morley as the Grizzlies were just eighth in the Big Sky conference this year and have never qualified for NCAAs. Montana has some history with strong individuals (Sabrina Monro was 2nd at NCAA XC in 2000 before transferring to Washington) but its school record in the 5000 is just 16:12, a mark Morley could take down as soon as next year.
Quick Take #5: Some of the pre-race favorites (and top guys from last year) underperformed.
Eleven guys from 2013 returned to Foot Lockers in 2014. Here’s how they fared:
|Name||2013 finish||2014 finish||Difference|
After Fisher, three of the next four from 2013 finished lower this year than they did the year before. The performance of Dressel (-4 spots from last year) and Maton (-16) makes what Fisher accomplished even more special and goes to show how hard it is to stay on top.
On the girls side, NE champ Brianna Schwartz of Pittsburgh, PA, who is headed to Colorado next year, was just 18th.
Quick Take #6: How would NXN champ Tanner Anderson have fared in this race?
Anderson only beat Hacker by two seconds at NXN (Anderson broke away late before Hacker started gaining on him at the end) while Fisher won by nine seconds today and made it seem like a lot more. As good as Anderson is, he wasn’t touching Fisher today, but there’s a strong case to be made that he would have been second.
The top four from NXN finished in the same order at FL (Hacker was 2nd NXN, 2nd FL; Jesse Reiser was 6th NXN, 8th FL, Benjamin Veatch was 7th NXN, 14th FL; Stuart McNutt was 10th NXN, 21st FL), suggesting that the FL field was stronger. But since they all finished in the same order, it’s safe to assume each ran at a similar level at both races. If Anderson did that, he’d have been ahead of Hacker and would have been second. (It should also be noted that Carter Blunt ran better today than he did at NXN as he was 20th at NXN and 13th at FL).
Anderson had some truly phenomenal performances this year and he might have been able to finish close to Fisher if everything broke right. Anderson’s best race of the season was at the Washington state meet, where he ran a 14:32 5k course record. In that race, he finished 15 seconds ahead of John Dressel. Guess how many seconds behind Fisher Dressel was today? 15. Anderson doesn’t appear to be on Fisher’s level, but he is a fantastic runner in his own right and it’s a shame the NXN/FL schedules prevented him from getting a shot at Fisher today.
Quick Take #7: Hunter and Tamagno lead the returning crop.
The Class of 2015 was special, and 10 of the top 12 from today will be graduating in June. Still, next year should be a good battle as both Andrew Hunter (fourth today, set VA state meet CR) and Austin Tamagno (fifth, set Mt. SAC CR) both return. Finishing in the top five as an underclassmen is very impressive and we’re excited to see what those two can do over the next year and a half.
Quick Take #8: This broadcast was horrible.
It can be difficult to livestream a cross country race, but NXN put on a flawless webcast last week, showing that it can be done. NXN was on the air for around three hours and the picture quality was consistently good with very few freeze-ups.
That was not the case at Foot Lockers today. Many of our visitors reported problems with the stream (see this MB thread: Foot Locker broadcast … how slow is it for you?) and that meant that one of our staffers only saw about one-third of the girl’s race and less than half of the boys’ race.
If fans of running are going to watch one high school race, it’s usually going to be Foot Lockers and for their webcast to be this bad was embarrassing, especially considering that NXN did such a good job last week. Perhaps Foot Locker should have spent less on flying in pros from around the country (we saw Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Deena Kastor, Kara and Adam Goucher, Abdi Abdirahman and several others on the broadcast) and more on beefing up the webcast quality. They were using the livestream.com platform so it’s a little surprising it was so horrible but totally unacceptable.
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Make your predicitions now, When does Grant Fisher break 4:00 and how close to Webb’s 3:53 does he get?
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