Grant Fisher of East Kentwood (Kentwood, Mich.), and Johnathan Dressel of Mount Spokane (Spokane, Wash.), were bumping like NASCAR drivers at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship National Finals Saturday at Balboa Park in San Diego. Fisher, who is a second-degree black belt and plays soccer for Eastwood, wasn’t bothered by a little contact.
“That’s of part of cross country,” said Fisher, who won the race in 15 minutes and seven seconds to 15:10 for Dressler. “You get used to bumping. It was nothing that either of us was not used to. I don’t think it effected either of us very much.”
Dressel made the first big move in the 5-kilometer race, pulling away from Fisher and the rest of the pack on an uphill about 1,000 meters to go. Fisher rebounded, gradually pulling to Dressel’s shoulder, then opened up a lead on a downhill with 800 meters left.
“When John made that move (on the uphill), it was really strong,” Fisher said. “He dropped us by about 10-15 meters. I was hurting pretty bad going up but I knew when I got to the top it was flat and it then it was pretty much a downhill. On the flat, I started making up a bunch of space. On the downhill, I had a forward lean and tried to make up the rest. I knew that was kind of a make-or-break moment. If I let him go there, the race was probably going to be over.”
Dressel regrouped and with 400 meters to go, the two traded elbows. Though Fisher held him off, with 150 meters to go, Dressel took the lead again. Fisher stayed on his shoulder and two bumped again before Fisher made his final charge to the finish with 75 meters to go.
“Going into the race, I was pretty confident in my leg speed,” Fisher said. “I wasn’t too sure what I would have at the end. I John has really good leg speed. I just told myself to push for 30 seconds more.”
The duel could be repeated next year as Fisher and Dressel are juniors.
In the girls race, Tessa Barrett of Abington Heights (Clarks Summit, Pa.) took charge on a downhill just after a mile and broke away to win in 17:16. She is the first girls runner from Pennsylvania to win the event. Hannah DeBalsi of Staples (Westport, Conn.) was second in 17:26.
“My plan was just to go out and run,” Barrett said. “I felt really good after a mile and a half. I like hills and I wanted to take advantage of that. I didn’t look back. I could hear people running, but I was just focused on running and performing my best.”
A senior, Barrett said she plans to run next year for Penn State.