5 Pennsylvanians Set For Foot Locker Nationals

Taryn Parks (Greencastle-Antrim)

Regionals Performance: Parks was well in position to book her fourth straight trip to Foot Locker Nationals coming out of the woods at Foot Locker Northeast. She was easily inside the top ten and ready to cross to earn a spot in San Diego. But Parks had some difficulties, stumbling to the line and found herself in tenth, desperately trying to get to the line. She fell and got up a number of times in the closing meters only to be passed at the last possible moment by fellow Pennsylvanian Mia Cochran for the tenth and final Foot Locker spot.

But Parks will get her nationals opportunity after all. Cochran, who has been battling a hip injury, opted to withdraw from the national meet. The spot then went to the Parks with her 11th place regional finish. Given the circumstance, it's hard to imagine a more deserving runner.

The addition of Parks means the senior becomes the first girl since Makena Morley to make Foot Locker Nationals all four years of her high school career.

Season Recap: Parks carried the momentum of a fantastic junior year on the track into this fall, and had the best XC season of her career. She won at PTXC for the second straight year and then reclaimed the Mid-Penn Conference title. She was second to Starliper at the District 3 Championships and the PIAA State Championships. At districts, Parks ran 17:40, the fastest 5K of her career on a tough Big Spring course.

Nationals Outlook: It's not often in life you're handed a second chance, and Parks got just that with the unfortunate withdrawal of Cochran ahead of Saturday's race. Parks has more experience than anyone else in the field at Foot Locker Nationals, with her making her fourth appearance at Balboa Park. That will certainly come in handy, when part of the battle is adjusting to new terrain, a different timezone, and an unusually small 40 runner field.

Parks has got better each year she's appeared at Foot Locker Nationals. After a 40th place finish as a freshman, she took 36th as a sophomore, and 27th as a junior. She's in some of the best XC shape of her career, and that coupled with her experience make her a good bet for a strong finish to her high school XC career this weekend.