Historic performances from two runners highlighted the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship National Finals.
On the boys side, senior Cole Hocker of Indianapolis Cathedral High School (Indianapolis) became the first male to win after competing in the NXN race just a week prior since 2010, according to Let’s Run.
He won with a time of 15:13.7
On the girls side, sophomore Sydney Masciarelli of Marianapolis Prepatory (Thompson, Conn.) became the first female runner to win in her first year of high school cross country since 2005, per Let’s Run.
With a time of 17:00.3, Masciarelli took first.
The steep hill played a key part in both their races.
Hocker’s fast start
“I wanted to take the race out fast,” Hocker said.
The fast start comes in the wake of nine races in 10 weeks, the most recent one coming on Dec. 1.
Runners historically do poorly after competing in both the NXN and Foot Locker races, according to Let’s Run.
“It was a super hectic past week, in between these races I would just make sure I got adequate rest, stay hydrated, and I knew the rest was out of my control,” Hocker said. “I didn’t let it affect me too much mentally, but I was definitely preparing for it.”
As he got off to the quick start, Hocker kept track of other runners’ moves. At times, someone would break ahead, but Hocker would react and quickly regain the lead.
He led through most of it, though there was one challenging spot in particular.
Jake Renfree put on a burst of speed going uphill.
“Going up the hill the last time, it’s a super steep hill and he scaled it really fast,” Hocker said. “He had about five meters on me but by the time we got to the top of the hill I matched that and (took) about five hard steps to get right back there.”
For a few seconds, Renfree had the lead, but Hocker overtook him and raced to the finish line.
It was his ninth win of the season.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt, obviously the biggest race I’ve ever won so it’s an just amazing feeling right now,” he said.
Hocker is choosing between five schools: Oregon, Portland, Northern Arizona, Colorado and Syracuse.
“I just want to go to a school that has an established program and has a coach who just seems to know exactly how to help elite runners keep excelling,” Hocker said.
Masciarelli’s bolt up the hill
Masciarelli may have become the first runner to win in her first year of high school racing in more than a decade, but this isn’t her first meet.
She ran from third through eighth grade before playing soccer as a freshman.
I missed it a lot,” Masciarelli said. “It’s not that new for me to be running, I just picked up with the training started with my twin brother and getting back on a diet and work outs.”
While Hocker started fast, Masciarelli preferred a slower start.
“In the beginning, when the gun went off, I think my coach said I was in like ninth place, so I was just trying to stay there and figure out when I was going to move up,” Masciarelli said.
At the incline, she made her move. Masciarelli said she trains on hills where she lives, so it was a perfect spot for her to take advantage.
The first time the runners went over the hill, she advanced to second place. Then, after trailing Katelynne Hart throughout, Masciarelli sped again the second time they went over the hill.
“Going up the hill the second time, coming into this race that’s where I wanted to pick it up,” she said. “I picked up the pace and then down the hill I just let my body go down quickly and then just sprint hard to the finish.”
She only lost two races all year, one of which was the Mayor’s Cup against professional and collegiate runners.
In that race, Masciarelli set the record for the fastest time by a high school girl in the race, according to Let’s Run. She finished in fourth place, per Let’s Run.
“I think that really prepared me for this race, running with professional and collegiate athletes really helped me to find a good pace and compete with strong runners,” she said.
Again on Saturday, Masciarelli beat out older competition. She’s the Foot Locker champion.
“The feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line and knowing all your hard work from the workouts and training paid off, I love that feeling,” she said.