Friday, December 16, 2011

Three Days of Sun

Last week I had the privilege to spent three days in sunny San Diego as an honorary captain for the Footlocker Cross Country National High School Championships presented by Saucony.  As a former finalist to this meet, it was amazing to go back and be apart of such a great event and watch the country’s top forty high school boys and top forty high school girls compete for a national title.  Running the course the day before the race bought back vivid memories of my own two visits to Balboa Park, where the championships has been held for all but seven years of it’s thirty-three year history.  Reminiscing to a time when I knew nothing of running- just a naive kid from Maine who ran twenty-five miles a week and whose eye’s where opened by the likes of Chris Solinksy’s reported hundred mile weeks to what it takes to compete at the highest level.  This year the race media focused on the showdown between two individuals: the senior, Futsum Zeinasellassie from Indiana and the rising star, Edward Cheserek, a junior from New Jersey.  Both boys entered the race undefeated for the year and held impressive accolades.  Staking each other from the start of the race, it quickly became a two man duel as both boys battled each other to the line, throwing surges upon surges and separating themselves from the rest of the field by nearly half a minute.  In the end, Cheserek crossed the line first by less than one second to claim his first national title.  But the real prize, the true display of excellence, came later that night during the awards ceremony when Cheserek excepted his award and made a speech to the crowd.  In his broken English, he described how he came to the race wanting nothing more than to win the race and beat his rival.  But over the course of a few days, he was able to meet Futsum and learn that Futsum was no different than himself, becoming not rivals but fast friends.  Cheserek then pulled Futsum onto the podium to have his friend share his spotlight, claiming that the friendship he gained this week in meeting Futsum was more important and meaningful than any national championships.  Footlockers has always been the pinnacle of high school running and it was great to be able to come back to the race that opened my eyes to the possibility of professional running and to watch the next generation of elites compete.  I look forward to the time when I toe the line myself with one of these raising stars in the future.

Until next time,

Me with the Northeast crew showing off their "team t-shirts"

The night before the race there was an athlete panel for Q and A's

Abbey Leonardi from Maine finishing 4th and becoming the first Mainer to finish in the top ten since 2003

Eventual winners: Molly Seidel and Edward Cheserek