December 5, 2015
It was a day of domination in the girls race at the 2015 Nike Cross Nationals at Portland’s Glendoveer Golf Course. Colorado’s Katie Rainsberger, daughter of 1985 Boston Marathon champion Lisa Rainsberger, crushed the competition over the final mile, winning handily in a course-record 16:56.8 (leader’s opening mile was 5:14, 2 mile split was 10:54). The team race was just as one-sided as Fayetteville-Manlius (NY), defending champions and heavy favorites coming in, dominated once again, scoring 55 points, well ahead of runner-up Davis (CA), who scored 144. Amazingly, this was F-M’s ninth title in 10 years — a phenomenal feat for a public school in upstate New York.
We tell you what it all means below with our quick take analysis. *Full Girls Results Here
Quick Take #1: This one went exactly according to plan
Rainsberger was the individual favorite going in, as no one had finished within 20 seconds of her all year long. Though that streak ended today, once again Rainsberger dominated, taking off at the two-mile mark and destroying the field over the final mile to win handily by 14 seconds in 16:56.
On paper, Fayetteville-Manlius appeared to be on a different level from the rest of the field and they proved it today, crushing the competition once again to win their ninth national title in the past 10 years. F-M got out hard early (41 points at at the mile) and maintained that lead throughout; they were never challenged.
Indeed, F-M’s reaction on the podium told all you needed to know. The results had not been announced when the top two teams were brought onto the podium together. When Davis (CA) was announced as second, their girls erupted in screams. F-M — who were therefore the national champions — barely reacted at all. It was business as usual, another trophy for the F-M dynasty.
Quick Take #2: This win was a long time coming for Katie Rainsberger
Rainsberger was 13th as a freshman in 2012 and took 6th as a sophomore and junior. She was clearly tops this year as a senior though, and the long-awaited victory was sweet for the Colorado native.
“I’ve been picturing this moment since my freshman year and just to come out my senior year and make it happen means the world,” Rainsberger said.
Now Rainsberger is off to Oregon, where she’ll look to make an immediate impact for the Ducks. Oregon finished third at NCAAs this year and should be formidable again in 2016 (they lose two of their top five). The question is, will Rainsberger follow in the footsteps of 2014 NXN champ Allie Ostrander — who was 2nd at NCAAs two weeks ago for Boise State — or 2011-12 champ Sarah Baxter, who has struggled in her first two years at Oregon (she didn’t make Oregon’s NCAA squad this fall).
Quick Take #3: Bill Aris Officially Is The John Wooden of Girls Cross Country Coaching
When people talk about great coaching dynasties, John Wooden always appears at the top of the list thanks to his great success at UCLA as men’s basketball coach. Aris is having similar type of success at Fayetteville-Manlius. FM won its 9th title in 10 years torday. Wooden also won 9 titles in 10 years from 1964 to 1973 and added in a 10th title in 12 years in 1975 to finish off his career (the most John McDonnell ever won at Arkansas was 7 in a 10 year period).
But what makes Aris’ accomplishment mind-boggling is the fact that he’s doing it at the high school level at a public school where recruiting isn’t much of a factor (sure a local kid may switch school districts to be part of F-M but it’s a far cry from UCLA dominating the recruiting wars). Moreover, cross country isn’t a sport like football where X’s and O’s are schemes play a big role. The culture that Aris has instilled in the F-M girls is one for the ages.
It should be pointed out that FM’s #1 runner today Kaitlyn Neal did transfer into the F-M program this year. But she’s the perfect example of Aris’ magic. As a sophomore and junior at Skaneateles, she was stuck in the 20s at the New York all-state meet (Feds). Today she finished 15th in the country. Score one for the F-M culture.
Want more info on Aris? We did a 90-minute podcast with him a few years ago and transcribed the whole thing. Marc Bloom talked to him for Runner’s World this week.
Quick Take #4 Rapid-fire observations
Ella Donaghu ran a very smart race for second place. Donaghu didn’t get caught up with the fast early pace, coming through the mile in 9th place (5:17) and instead gradually worked her way up through the field, going from fourth to second from the 2.75-mile mark to the finish. F-M’s Kaitlyn Neal, meanwhile, faded badly over the final quarter mile over the course of the race, fading from 5th to 15th from 2.75 miles to the finish. Of course, it didn’t matter for Neal and F-M as she still finished 4th in the team scoring, leading F-M to the title.… Davis (CA) overcame a two-point deficit to gain revenge on in-state rivals Great Oak, taking second with 141 points. Once again, Davis received a gutsy effort from Fiona O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe, the top returner from NXN last year (4th), has battled tendinitis this fall but took 8th at the state meet last week in her first race since October 7. She had to be carried away from the finish area in that race, but decided to suit up once again on Saturday and finished as the team’s fourth runner in 85th place. The remainder of Davis’ top five also deserves a ton of credit. Many teams would lose confidence in their situation, but they still managed to finish second overall despite having the top returner finish just 85th. … Grace Ping, the 12-year-old seventh-grader from Minnesota, finished 14th overall. She won’t even enter high school until the fall of 2017. Phenomenal.
More: Boys Race Recap