Foot Locker Northeast: Spence-Seymour, 1 & 3; Springer, 9 (Captions Added)

11/25 FOOT LOCKER NE WEEK #12 SUMMARY: Girls summary first, followed by boys summary. Complete PA Stories in links below or to the right.

Neely Spence, Shippensburg, 1st

PA GIRLS STORY: PA FL Girls: Neely Spence wins, Carly Seymour 3rd. Kacey Gibson 12th. PA Girls 2nd as Team

Photo Gallery PA athletes in the Girls & Boys Seeded Races

PA BOYS STORY: PA Boys: Springer survives minor injury for 9th. McNally, Weller fall... rise to race well

Photo Gallery of PA athletes in the Girls Freshman, and Boys Freshman and Sophomore Races

PA Girls: Neely Spence and Carly Seymour relax and take 1&3 - PA girls 2nd as team

The conditions were ripe for fast. Temps in the low 50's. Light breeze. Blazing late fall sun. Dry ground. And very talented girls. And boy (sorry, I mean girl), was it fast. 5:20 fast for the first mile. For some, it was foreign territory. And those athletes paid throughout the hills (Read the PA Girls story linked above and to the right). For others who didn't quite keep up early, it was a blessing in disguise (Read the PA Girls story linked above and to the right).

When the leaves settled, there were four previous Foot Locker finalists heading back to San Diego – one for the third time – and six girls making the trip for the very first time. Two previous Finalists will not be making the trip.

At the front of the group when they crossed the line was Pennsylvania junior Neely Spence. The AAA state champ proved that her 17:38 run 13 days prior at the NY Roadrunners Championships at Vanny was the real deal. She led now-three-time-finalist Hannah Davidson across the line by exactly one second with her 17:41.1. Close behind the Saratoga Springs junior in 17:44.0 was PA AA runner-up (2004 AA champ) Carly Seymour of Central Cambria. Those three had gone back and fourth upon exiting the woods, with Seymour leading for what she thought was about 20 seconds. But first Spence, and then Davidson passed her, which Seymour didn't seem to mind... "I didn't care. I was in the top ten."

Carly Seymour, Central Cambria, 3rd

First time finalist Ashley Higginson, the recent two-time runner-up in NJ to fellow returning Finalist Danielle Tauro of Southern Regional, spent much of the race in 4th, and that is where she finished, running 17:52. Higginson will be making her first west coast trip(s) starting with the Nike Team Nationals next week with her Colts Neck NJ team.

Joining Higginson for the first time in San Diego will be Allison Smith, a senior from Atholton, Maryland, 5th in 17:55.9; Allison Sawyer, a senior from Hilton HS in New York; and Massachusetts sophomore Emily Jones, 9th in 18:03.9.

The three additional returning finalists include Suffern sophomore Shelby Greany, 6th in 17:58.8; Elisabeth Deir of Honeoye Falls-Lima, NY, 7th in 18:00.6; and Danielle Tauro, Southern Regional NJ senior, 10th in 18:14.5. Tauro, who was 6th in the finals in 2006, was in 3rd with 1000 meters to go, but had been in trouble since the two-mile point, and nearly didn't finish. According to Dyestat reporter John Nepolitan, Tauro started to stumble with 70 meters to go, and went down twice in the final 20 meters, before crossing the line in 10th, less than a half second in front of Hilton NY's Caroline Schultz. PA State AA champ Kacey Gibson of Neshannock, a junior, was in 12th at 18:18.8.

Not making the return trip to the Finals will be Colts Neck's Briana Jackucewicz, a sophomore, who was 19th, and Caitlin Lane, who stopped shortly after 4000 meters, in obvious distress.

Paul Springer, Unionville, 9th

PA Boys take five of the top 29 places. Paul Springer 9th to qualify. Vince McNally and Jason Weller make all-Northeast Teams

It was a rough day for three of PA's top runners. And it wasn't just the competition. (Read the PA Boys story linked above and to the right).

State AAA runner-up, senior Paul Springer of Unionville survived his brush with a school-assigned, ill-timed lifting session this past Monday to finish 9th in 15:31.9 and earn one of the coveted spots at Foot Locker Nationals in two weeks.

Vince McNally, the Conestoga Valley junior, overcame a fall early in the race, and a brush with a Foot Locker announcer going by the finish line just after the start, to take 13th in 15:41.9.

And Boyertown senior Jason Weller, the AAA State Champ, took a spill in the woods, and never really had his legs under him. He would finish 23rd in 15:52.9.

Springer and Weller earned 2nd Team all-Northeast honors, while Weller earned 3rd Team. Rounding out the scoring for the 5th place PA team were Max Kaulbach, Germantown Friends junior, 25th in 15:54.5, who missed all-Northeast 3rd Team by one place and less than a second; and Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior Scott Van Kooten, 29th in 15:58.5. Two PA runners took up 30th and 31st, as Luke Zarzeczny of Avonworth, the AA State Champ, and Josh Izewski, the Central Bucks East junior, ran 16:00.8 and 16:01.9, respectively. PA placed five in the top 29, and seven in the top 31.

Neely Spence has spent a year preparing for this race.
She has strong PA challengers in Kacey Gibson, Carly Seymour and Lara Crofford.

(Clockwise from top left: Neely Spence,
Kacey Gibson, Lara Crofford, Vince McNally, Jason Weller,
Paul Springer, Kyle Dawson (running at NTN), Carly Seymour)

11/25 WEEK #12 PREVIEW:

At the front of the race, this is one of the strongest fields of PA harriers ever entered in the Northeast Foot Locker Regionals. There are equally strong individual contenders from New Jersey, New York and Maryland... but while they're busy watching each other, they should get to know their PA competitors, if they haven't already.

Topping the girls' challengers from PA is Neely Spence from Shippensburg. Spence is homeschooled, but competing for her local high school - Shippensburg - for the first time this fall. Neely has looked sharp all season, easily winning the Paul Short Invitational in September in the fastest time at the course this season, 17:47. She won her conference meet, and ran the 3rd fastest time on the new Hershey Parkview course, going 18:07 to comfortably take the AAA Girls title. But the first true indication of her conditioning and mindset this season came eight days later when she ran a 17:38 at Van Cortlandt Park in the New York Road Runners XC Championships. The time would have won the Northeast Regional last year, and adds her name to the all-time list at the storied layout. It is also the 3rd best PA time ever run, with only Foot Locker finalists Lois Brommer of Mechanicsburg at 17:04.7 (2nd best all-time, 1981) and State College's Lynne Strauss 17:35.1, also in 1981 (2-time finalist). Strauss was 2nd at the big race twice, and 3rd in 1981 when Brommer took 2nd. No PA athlete has ever won Foot Lockers... but that discussion is for another day. Last year, Spence was in the top 10 with 1000 meters to go, but faded to 19th. An iron problem was diagnosed, and from all signs this season, she is running her best ever. She has already run out of the shadow of her marathon world medalist father Steve Spence when she won her state championship in cross country. Saturday, she should add another family first.

The fastest two times at Hershey Parkview came in the AA girls race as Neshannock's Kacey Gibson and Central Cambria's Carly Seymour reversed their 2004 finishes. Both appear to be in peak shape for their run at a Foot Locker berth. Seymour didn't finish the race in 2005, and took advantage of this year's Manhattan Invitational to get that race out of her mind. "It was kind of nerve-wracking coming back from that experience, but this time it ended up better. I'm happy I came here." Her 14:30 6th place finish that day put her within seconds of previous Foot Locker finalists. Gibson had a commendable race in 2005 as a sophomore, finishing 20th in 18:31. Look for these three to be joined by Big Spring senior Lara Crofford, who has been having her best year as a runner, winning a District 3 title and taking 2nd to Spence in AAA States. She was 64th last year, but that is ancient history. She was 2nd to Spence at the November 12th NYRRC XC Champs, running a 5K PR of 18:15. That was seven seconds better than her Parkview time this year, and better than her 18:19 on the relatively flat Carlisle course at Mid-Penns. She also had to pick up some confidence by taking 4th at the 11/18 Mid-East Regional Championships in Ohio.

Five other PA harriers who could move into contention with great races are Latrobe sophomore Natalie Bower, Chambersburg senior Sarah Morrison, Central Bucks East junior Kate Ross, Council Rock North senior Allison Sikora, and Harborcreek junior Lauren Zarger. Bower was 4th in AAA States this year, and has raised her game to a new level after leading her team to a 2004 state title. This could be her breakout race. Morrison is still coming back from health problems last indoor and this summer, but is getting stronger every week. She was 17th in the Northeast in 2005. Sikora took 5th at PIAA States in the AAA race. Ross has had a great season, and her 6th place in AAA States was proof. Zarger is looking for experience at Van Cortlandt Park, but with a 3rd place in AA at States, is poised to place well.

Top PA runners not registered include Kerry Swayne, Hatboro-Horsham and Chanelle Price, Easton

Other PA runners to watch include:
Amanda Bascelli, Archbishop Carroll, freshman
Sydney Clark, Hempfield (3, junior
Kathleen Davies, St. Basil, senor
Hannah Kligman, Conestoga, senior
Kristina Kubala, Coatesville, senior
Marie Lamparter, Carlisle, senior
Kassandra Meholick, Cedar Cliff, senior
Kara Millhouse, Boiling Springs, junior
Sarah Simonetti, Pennridge, junior
Alycia Woodruff, West Chester East, senior

Paul Springer-Jason Weller-Vince McNally lead fastest PA group in years.

This is a senior kind of year for PA at Foot Lockers in the boys race, with a junior from the Lebanon-Lancaster League not named Miller looking to join his older brethren in San Diego in two weeks. This is the rubber-match between PIAA State Champion Jason Weller of Boyertown and Paul Springer of Unionville. Springer led that incredible 1-2-3 sub-15 group at PIAA District 1, going 14:47. He has the wheels on the flats and if in the right position crossing the bridge the 2nd time, will do serious damage to anyone near him. He trained through states, and gained confidence by racing well against one of the pre-meet favorites, Craig Forys of New Jersey, in late September. Springer made two predictions this season... one to break 14:50 at Lehigh (check), and the other to qualify for Foot Lockers. Weller is better on hills, and showed his expertise by holding off a hard-charging Springer to win AAA States. (Hint to Jason: don't look back, it takes too much energy and sends the wrong message). The third member of that sub-15 club, Kyle Dawson of Coatesville, will be leaping hay bales and preparing with his team for the Nike Team Nationals December 2nd.

The junior with a great shot at nationals is Conestoga Valley's Vince McNally. Since bursting on the scene in 2005 with his 15:02 at Gettysburg, he had a hurdle to overcome this season when a bio-mechanical problem restricted his training. The problem was corrected and he was on his way back by the Carlisle Invitational. McNally is the only one of the top guys in the state to set his season PR at the state meet, where he was 5th in 15:29. His coach, Mike Craighead, says they too trained through states with an eye on the Northeast Regional. After watching McNally cross-train so rigorously to regain his season, Craighead says he wouldn't be surprised by anything McNally accomplishes. "He is the toughest kid mentally I have ever seen." You gotta be tough to place in this race.

But there are several other PA runners with the credentials and the talent to challenge for a top spot, including West Chester Henderson junior Chris Aldrich, 4th at PIAA States in the same time as McNally; Avonworth senior Lucas Zarzeczny, the AA State champ; and Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior Scott Van Kooten, 7th at States in 15:42, who is the only one of these six to have raced the full 5K course in NY in a seeded race. Aldrich was 11th in the freshman race in 2004. Springer ran at the Manhattan Invitational this year on the 2.5 mile course and had the 7th best time of the day by winning his race in 12:28.53.

Other PA runners to watch include:
Travis Dean, Westmont Hilltop, senior
Mark Dennin, Boyertown, junior (3rd in soph race in 2005)
Chris Ferry, West Chester Henderson, senior
Dan Hibbs, Hatboro Horsham, senior
Josh Izewski, Central Bucks East, junior
Max Kaulbach, Germantown Friends, junior (won soph race in 2005)
John LaColla, West Chester East, junior (7th in soph race in 2005)
Jake McKenzie, Germantown Friends, junior (6th in soph race in 2005)
Tom Mooney, Council Rock South, senior
Trevor Vanackeren, Liberty, junior
Philip Wood, LaSalle, sophomore

Not running, Isaac Dunkelberger, Tamaqua, 45th in 2005; Kyle Dawson, Owen Dawson, Tom Pannulla - Coatesville, competing at Nike Team Nationals the following week; Ben Hahn, Smethport, moving on to wrestling after a long season

Complete List of PA Competitors for the 11/25 Foot Locker Northeast Regional