Race to San Diego: Foot Locker Midwest Preview

Minnesota's Rob Finnerty looks to make Foot Locker Nationals

The "Race to San Diego" starts this coming weekend.  The Midwest Regional takes place in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The past two days have showered the course, creating a mud pit that is often seen at this regional.  Experienced seniors and a few stellar underclassmen should be the highlight of the event.  See who the favorites are.


Race to San Diego: Foot Locker Midwest Preview

Sloppy weather is a near promise Saturday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Typically the case, the Foot Locker Midwest Regional is either cold, wet or muddy.  This year the forecast is looking more and more like a combination of all three.  Such conditions mean unexpected results, at least that is what it usually means.

The boys race is expected to be fast regardless of the weather.  A deep, experienced and talented field leads the way, with no less than a dozen top seniors making one last run at qualifying for nationals.  Chris Derrick (Sr., Neuqua Valley, IL) is the prohibitive favorite after cruising through an undefeated season and some fantastic performances. 

The girls field is equally as stacked with talent as the boys.  Front running veterans lead the way, as no less than twenty girls have a legimate shot at making the trip to San Diego.  Iowa's Katie Flood (So., Dowling Catholic) enters as the top girl.  Flood's performances this season resemble that of a national champion. 

A slew of talent means great things at Foot Locker Midwest Saturday.  If you are coming make sure to bring your camera, wear running shoes and make the hot chocolate, as the fierce competition heats up the muddy mess of a course.


1. Chris Derrick (Sr., Neuqua Valley, IL) - Many are labeling Derrick as the Foot Locker Nationals pre-race favorite.  However, Derrick knows he has to qualify first before such a label can be attached to his name.  His front running tactics have served him well all year, slashing at least seven course records down, and running the second fastest time ever on the Illinois State course.  His big win at NTN Midwest should keep him rolling right along on Saturday.

2. Kevin Williams (Sr., D'Evelyn, CO) - Williams ran for a smaller school, meaning he didn't get a chance to face the top runners in Colorado all that often.  However, when pitting his time against other race champions, Williams equaled or surpassed theirs.  Williams' break through race came at the Liberty Bell Invitational, where he won his division in course record time, running faster than the larger race.  He also ran the fastest time of the day at the Colorado State Meet.

3. Rob Finnerty (Sr., Burnsville, MN) - The Minnesota senior seems raring to go for Foot Locker Midwest.  Ever since his freshman year Finnerty's search to qualify for nationals has ended without a plane ticket.  This year Finnerty rolled through his competition in Minnesota, capping the season with a state title.  His late-season training phase should have him ready Saturday.

4. Mike Fout (Sr., La Porte, IN) - Riding a wave of momentum from winning his state meet and the Mid-East CC Championships, Fout is ready to roll at the Midwest Regional.  Last year he was hurt and missed the competition.  This year he is healthy and definitely one of the favorites.  His 14:59 mark at Mid-East ecclipsed the old course record by eight seconds, set by Bob Kennedy.

5. Maverick Darling (Sr., Ovid-Elise, MI) - The most dominant runner in Michigan this year not only won the state meet, but pushed the pace at the Mid-East CC Championships.  Darling made the race until the last 400m as Fout outkicked him.  However, Darling has been on a tear all season and has the tenacity to push pace.

6. Evan Appel (Jr., Dakota Ridge, CO) - The top returnee from 2006 qualified as a sophomore last season to Foot Locker Nationals.  That type of experience is invaluable.  Appel ran well all season, concluding his regular season with a state title in a convincing run over some strong competition.

7. Kevin Havel (Sr., Hersey, IL) - Much like Finnerty, Havel's stock was high even as a freshman.  The hyper-successful senior looks to make his first ever Foot Locker Nationals.  The consistency he brings to the course is first-class and the fact that he has raced Derrick a few times this season helps his cause.

8. Nick Holmes (Sr., Limestone, IL) - Few know much about Holmes.  What is known is that he beat Havel at an early-season meet, while taking second to Foot Locker finalist Griff Graves (Abingdon, VA).  He also won the Illinois AA State individual title by a large margin and his time ranked him fourth on the day.

9. Bobby Aprill (Sr., Dexter, MI) - The experienced veteran takes one last crack at qualifying for Foot Locker.  While placing second at his state competition, Aprill bounced back well last week at the Mid-East meet.  His third place finish behind Fout and Darling is a good sign of things to come.

10. Charles White (Sr., Cherry Creek, CO) - White placed second to Appel at the Colorado State Meet, but showed his strength earlier in the year when he took FL Finalist Ben Johnson (Albuquerque Academy, NM) to the line at the Liberty Bell Invitational.  His late race speed may be the key to earning him a trip to San Diego.

Best of the Rest:  MileSplit has learned that front runner Tom Achtein (Sr., York, IL) will not be racing Saturday.  His loss will be felt, however many others are capable of filling his void. 

Addis Habtweold (Sr., St. Clair, MI) is a runner often overlooked.  At the Michigan State Meet he won his race over Dexter's Bobby Aprill.  While his performance at the Mid-East Meet was sub-par, espect a big comeback from the senior. 

Joash Osoro (Sr., Bismark, ND) leads the way for the major darkhorse candidates.  The star from North Dakota easily plowed through in-state competition, while also winning the NTN Heartland Regional two weeks back over some solid competition.  Osoro won the meet by seven seconds.

The homestate favorite is easily Elliot Krause (Sr., Appleton North, WI).  The Wisconsin native won big at the Wisconsin State Championships and knows the Foot Locker course well.  While few expect someone from Wisconsin to qualify, the state does have a history of qualifying strong individuals.

A few more Illinois athletes should be up there.  Mat Smoody (Sr., Palatine), Nathan Troester (Sr., Lincoln-Way East) and Rich Eber (Sr., Brother Rice) all ran strong during the season and have shown commitment at the end to have an outside shot to qualify.  Jim Riddle (Sr., Neuqua Valley) registered as well, seemingly to gear up for Nike Team Nationals a week later.

Missouri front runner Eric Fernandez (Parkway West) leads the charge for his home state after finishing first in the 4A state race, while runner-up  and 3A champion Jacob Swearingen (Potosi) add depth to the state's contingent.

Freshman James Martin (Carroll Ft. Wayne) finished second at the Indiana State Meet, earning the label as the best freshman in the race.  Fellow Hoosiers Anthony Witt (Sr., Shakamak), Drew Shields (Jr., Fishers) and Zach Gates (Sr., Hamilton Southeastern) should vie for top 15.

Jordan Carlson (Rosemount, MN), Bryce Volz (Sr., Bishop Carroll, KS) and any of the top Ohio runners that particpate all are under-looked heading into Saturday's competition and have a shot to finish high if they run a great race.



1. Katie Flood (So., Dowling Catholic, IA) - Running at a champions level this season, Flood makes her first Foot Locker Regional appearance.  The sophomore star beat '06 Foot Locker third place finisher Emily Sisson (NE) twice during the season by huge margins and broke her state meet course record by quite a bit.  Flood helped her team qualify for Nike Team Nationals, now it is time for her to shine individually.

2. Claire Durkin (Sr., Worthington, OH) - Durkin's performance last weekend at the Mid-East Cross Country Championships means a lot.  Her time beat the old course record by eleven seconds and beat runner-up, and potential Foot Locker finalist, Caitlin Comfort (IL) by 44 seconds.  That type of domination over that qualify of field bodes well for Durkin.

3. Emily Sisson (So., Millard North, NE) - Sisson placed third last year as a freshman at Foot Locker Nationals.  She dominated Foot Locker Midwest and ran incredibly strong during track.  That type of year is hard to live up to, but Sisson continues to improve.  While she lost twice this season to Flood, she continues to beat the rest of her competition fairly easily.  She won her state meet in record time and placed second at the NTN Heartland Regional.

4. Stephanie Morgan (Jr., Barnsville, OH) - Morgan ran under the radar for much of the season due to running in a small class than the likes of Durkin.  However, her performances indicated that she is national class.  Morgan won her state meet race, running the second fastest time on the day, while also placing fifth at the Great American XC Festival in Alabama.  At that race she beat a wealth of talented individuals and ran stride for stride with the leaders.

5. Ashlie Decker (So., Dowling Catholic, IA) - A surprise of sorts this season, Decker has emerged as a favorite to make Foot Locker Nationals.  Running under the shadow of Flood much of the season, this sophomore has finished very well all season when it matters most.  Her third place effort at the NTN Heartland Regional, only a few seconds behind Sisson, shows her drive is enough to lead her to the national meet.

6. Laura Hughes (Sr., Makato West, MN) - The number five returnee from last year, Hughes just missed a spot on the Midwest team for Foot Locker Nationals.  This season Hughes has stepped up her game another notch and looks to challenge for top five.  The Minnesota senior won her state race and finished fourth at NTN Heartland behind a wealth of top talent. 

7. Ashley Beutler (Sr., New Glarus, WI) -  Beutler ran 18:27 two weeks ago at the Brooks/EastBay Border War.  That time means a lot since last year the tenth qualifier ran about twenty seconds faster than that.  Beutler ran that race all by herself, meaning she can go much faster.  The senior will have to put herself in contention if she hopes to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals.

8. Emily Infeld (Sr., Clev. Heights Beaumont, OH) - A Foot Locker finalist in 2006, Infeld returns to familiar territory.  Ranked in the MileSplit Foot Locker National Power Rankings much of the season, Infeld went unchallenged for the most part.  Her big state meet win gives her some added momentum as the end of the competition season nears. 

9. Alex Banfich (Sr., Culver Academies, IN) - The Foot Locker National qualifier needs to bounce back from a lackluster performance at the Mid-East Cross Country Championships last weekend.  Banfich faded badly after a strong start.  However, she cruised through the season in Indiana, winning another state title.  Her experience will come in handy if the race is tactical this weekend.

10. Lindsay Anderson (Sr., Leeds, ND) - Experience is the key to Anderson qualifying for nationals this time around.  Earlier in the season Anderson went head-to-head with Flood and Sisson at the Roy Griak Invitational but lost big.  A strong and even race from Anderson Saturday should put her in contention for a top ten finish.

Best of the Rest: Tenth returnee Brittani Johnson (West Plains, MO) faltered a bit this season, finishing way back at her state meet.  However, Diane Robison (Parkway Central) seems to have taken over Johnson's Missouri throne, besting her in-state competition by nearly half a minute at state. 

The Illinois contingent follows the path of two girls.  Kristin Sutherland (Sr., Sandburg) and Annette Glaz (Sr., AA Stagg) lead the way after some impressive performances the past few weeks.  Sutherland ran away from the field in her race at the Illinois State Meet, while Glaz came back a week later to win the NTN Midwest Regional over strong competition.  Both girls, plus Foot Locker top ten returnee Lizzy Hynes (St. Charles East), give Illinois a strong combination of front runners that they have not shown in a while.

Behind Banfich in Indiana should be a combination of talent.  Megan Ranegar (Jr., Valparaiso) and Chelsea Blanchard (Sr., Carroll Ft. Wayne) lead a talented bunch of girls that should impress. While Sloan Secord (Sr., Gaylord), Katie Hines (Sr., Rockford), and Shannon Osika (Fr., Worthington Kilbourne) lead a strong Michigan group.