5 things to watch at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals

5 things to watch at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals

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5 things to watch at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals

Forty of the top boys and 40 of the top girls cross country runners in the nation compete Saturday at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego.

A live stream broadcast is available starting at 11 a.m. ET on YouTube or via http://footlockercc.com/nationals.shtml. The girls race begins at 12:15 p.m. ET with the boys race at 1 p.m.

Here are 5 things to watch:

2016 Footlocker CC South Regional Charlotte, NC Nov 26, 2016 Photo: KevinMorris@PhotoRun victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.net

Nevada Mareno, the South Region winner, is among the clear favorites in the girls race (Photo: KevinMorris@PhotoRun)

Nevada Mareno returns

The Stanford commit from Raleigh, N.C., is the top returning female after placing third last year at Nationals. Mareno comes in off an impressive victory in the competitive South Regional, where she pulled away after the first mile and was not challenged from there. She again dominated the state championship race in North Carolina, winning by 16 seconds after blowing away the field by 44 seconds in 2015.

Mareno has acknowledged that she has missed a lot of training this season because of college visits and also because her motivation has sagged a bit after being so dominant last year, but said the prospect of a national title has given her a boost.

Mareno’s biggest competition could be Claudia Lane, a sophomore from Malibu, Calif., who won the state Division 4 title.

Five other finishers from last year’s girls field are in the race: 20th-place finisher Jordan Oakes from Seattle; No. 27 Maria Coffin from Annapolis, Md.; No. 31

Kate Hunter from Provo, Utah; No. 33 Kayla Young from Denver; and No. 36 Julia Heymach from Houston.

Olympic moms

Two runners are the sons of mothers who competed in the Olympics. Patrick O’Brien, who placed third in the Northeast Regional, is the son of Cathy Schiro O’Brien, who ran the Olympic marathon in Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992. She finished 10th in Barcelona and was the top American. As a high schooler at Dover High, she won five state titles and won the Foot Locker Nationals. Her time of 16:46 at the 1984 Foot Locker Northeast race is still a course record; her son qualified for nationals over the same famed course at Van Cortlandt Park in New York.

Gabe Fendel, who placed third in the Midwest Regional, is the son of Solange Fendel. The former Solange de Souza ran the women’s marathon for her native Brazil at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His father, David, was the runner-up in 1991 in the Indiana state cross country championships.

The Next Meb Keflezighi

Amir Ado’s compelling story of leaving a war-torn country and excelling as a runner in similar to that of Meb Keflezigi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York Marathon winner. Ado and his family left Benghazi in 2012 and spent two years in a refugee camps before Amir, his six siblings and parents were relocated to Spokane, Wash. Ado was a soccer player but eventually took up cross country before his junior year at Ferris High. He placed third in the West Regional to qualify for nationals.

By state

California and Pennsylvania each has seven runners in the field followed by six apiece from Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Washington and five each from Maryland and East.

Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia each as three runners with two apiece from Indiana, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

Eight states are represented by one runner: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oregon.

2016 Footlocker CC South Regional Charlotte, NC Nov 26, 2016 Photo: KevinMorris@PhotoRun victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.net

Sam Worley, the South Regional winner, is hoping to take home the Foot Locker national title (Photo: KevinMorris@PhotoRun)

Watch out for Worley

Coming off a second-place finish last week at Nike Cross Nationals, Sam Worley from New Braunfels, Texas, is among the favorites in the Foot Locker boys race. Worley’s only loss this season was to Casey Clinger, who became a two-time NXN champion last week.

Only one Texas runner has won the Foot Locker nationals in the event’s 37-year history, and that was back in 1985: Reuben Reina from San Antonio. Worley, the South Regional winner, could be the second because someone will need to take a step up to beat him Saturday.

However, Worley is one of five boys runners, pulling the NXN-Foot Locker double and the travel and the miles could take a toll.

Nine of the 40 boys competed in last year’s race led by Seth Hirsch from Omaha, who finished ninth; Finn Gessner from Madison, Wis., who was 11th; and Noah Affolder from Carlisle, Pa., who was 15th.  That trio all should contend this year.

The others returning finishers are: No. 16 Reed Brown from South Lakes, Texas; No. 24 Matthew Pereira from Kildeer, Ill.; No. 28 Tibebu Proctor from  Seattle; No. 29 Waleed Suliman from Richmond, Va.; No. 35 Matt Grossman from Millburn, N.J.; and No. 37 Talon Hull from Ogden, Utah.

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