Cole Hocker (15:13.7) Uses Big Kick To Win 2018 Foot Locker National Title

December 8, 2018

Indiana senior Cole Hocker, the 2018 Nike Cross Nationals runner-up, delivered as the favorite to win the 2018 Foot Locker national title in San Diego in 15:13.7, but only after fighting off a spirited battle from Tennessee senior Jake Renfree, who moved up three spots from last year to grab second in 15:19.5. The 5.8-second time gap doesn’t do Renfree justice as he twice grabbed the lead in the final half mile led as late as the 14:35 mark in this one, but the final 250 of this race was all Hocker.

2017 runner-up Graydon Morris of Texas, a junior, was best of everyone else in third in 15:25.1. There were a bunch of guys close behind Morris as only 11.5 seconds separated third and 10th.

The race

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Hocker ran at the very front of this one throughout. In hindsight, knowing the results, one might be tempted to say he was in total control, but Renfree definitely made him earn the win.

Eventual 7th placer Josh Methner, the Illinois state champ who was 15th at NXN last week, had the lead at the mile (4:48.4) but Hocker was right there with him (4:48.5). At 2 miles (9:55.1), Hocker led but there were still 12 other runners within 2.4 seconds of the lead. By 2.5 miles (12:24.8) Hocker had started to stretch things out as Renfree (12:25.1) was the only runner within two seconds of the lead. And on the hill just after the 2.5-mile mark, Renfree briefly took the lead but Hocker responded. Renfree didn’t go down without a fight, however, as he took the lead again in the final 400 at the 14:20 mark, but Hocker responded and the finish was all Hocker, who took the lead for good at the 14:35 mark.

You can watch a full race replay here.

Top 10 results (full results here)

  1. Cole Hocker Midwest 15:13.7
  2. Jake Renfree South 15:19.5
  3. Graydon Morris South 15:25.1
  4. Carter Solomon Midwest 15:25.3
  5. Drew Bosley Midwest 15:25.4
  6. Joshua Methner Midwest 15:27.4
  7. Jack Stanley Northeast 15:30.1
  8. Colin Baker South 15:30.9
  9. Evan Bishop Midwest 15:31.5
  10. Robert Carter Cheeseman South 15:36.6

Quick Take: Cole Hocker was a worthy champion

Hocker used his big kick to take second at NXN last week, which made him our pre-race favorite on paper. At the high school level, it can be very tough at the to deliver two outstanding performances in back-to-back weeks, but Hocker did exactly that, running an aggressive race but leaving enough in the tank to prevail thanks to a devastating kick.

Based on DyeStat’s national rankings, NXN was the tougher field (Hocker finished 3.3 seconds behind champion Liam Anderson at that meet). But Hocker was very pleased to add his name to the storied list of Foot Locker champions, one that includes Bob Kennedy, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Chris Solinsky.

“Watching all the past winners and how elite they are and how much they’ve achieved just beyond this just really motivated me to do this race,” Hocker said. “It’s just a super cool experience and to put my name on that list just means so much.”

Quick Take: Tennessee senior Jake Renfree did exactly what he wanted, he just got beat by a better runner

First of all, let us apologize to Renfree, who was 5th last year, for not garnering a single word in our pre-race preview. We forgot about him as he was just 7th at the Foot Locker South meet but he made it clear in his post-race interview that everything was about today.

”Every day, every day (I’ve been visualizing this race). Foot Locker nationals is what I run for. Four years of training every single day, the hard workouts, in cold, rain, whatever. To come out and get the runner-up in the national championships, it doesn’t get better than that,” said Renfree after the race.

“I think everything went according to plan perfectly. I was gonna try to lean on my kick a little bit, I just didn’t happen to have any at the end and that’s fine,” said Renfree.

Quick Take: Can Graydon Morris pull a Jorge Torres and go out on top in his fourth Foot Locker finals next year?

In the 40-year history of Foot Lockers, only one boy has qualified four times: Jorge Torres, who went on to become an NCAA XC champion at Colorado and a 2008 Olympian. Graydon Morris of Texas, who finished third today, could become the second if he makes it next year.

He’ll be hoping to emulate Torres in more ways than one. Both Torres and Morris finished in the top five in their sophomore and junior years. Torres finished his senior year as the champion; Morris will be the top returner in 2019.

FL finals finishes:

Torres: 13th, 5th, 2nd, 1st
Morris: 34th, 2nd, 3rd, ???

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