Griffith, Pajak Make History At Foot Locker Nationals

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Drew Griffith and Ryan Pajak seemingly made history at every turn of the 2023 cross country season in Pennsylvania.

And the two Notre Dame recruits left their mark again today at the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals in San Diego.

On the famed Balboa Park course on Saturday, Griffith became the first Pennsylvania boy -- and just the second PA runner ever -- to win the XC national finale and led a state 1-2 finish with his Ringgold rival.

That's just the sixth time athletes from the same state have gone 1-2 in the meet's 44-year history.

Never further back than seventh at any of the half-mile checkpoints, Griffith grabbed the lead from Ty Steorts of West Virginia after the steepest part of the hill on the second loop. Having kept Virginia's Berkley Nance at bay on the speedy downhill, Griffith finally was all alone, pushing his way to victory in 15:06.9.

Griffith joins former Abington Heights standout Tessa Barrett (2013) as the lone Foot Locker champions from the Keystone state. The previous best PA finish in the boys race was in 1982 when Mike Connelly, the 1981 PIAA Class AA champion for Upper Perkiomen, crossed the line second in Orlando, Fla.

Pajak, who had moved up to third at the top of the long downhill section in the final half mile, got as close as he could to his PA rival right before the 3-mile mark but could not catch the Butler senior. Pajak covered the 5K course in 15:12.3.

The last time two runners from the same state took the top two podium spots was when Californians A.J. Costa and Michael Coe did it in 2005. It also happened in 1980 (second Foot Locker final), 1987 and 1994 in the boys championship race, and in 2000 in the girls race as Sara Bei and Anita Siraki of California swept the top spots.

Both PA standouts improved from their All-American finishes (top 15) a year ago at Balboa Park. Griffith was eighth in 15:14.4, while Pajak was 12th in 15:22.9.

In the end, both runners ended their stellar 2023 XC seasons with just one defeat apiece -- Griffith's to Pajak's record run at Franklin Park in Boston and Pajak's to his future Irish teammate in today's national final.

North Allegheny standout Jack Bertram was 27th in his Foot Locker debut, covering the double-loop course in 15:54.6, while Colin Whitaker of Lampeter-Strasburg finished 37th in 16:13.4.

In the girls race that started the day in California, Mt. Lebanon senior Logan St. John Kletter was 34th in 18:54.5. Moravian Academy sophomore Virginia Kraus qualified for the national final with a fifth-place Northeast regional finish in Boston but missed today's race due to injury, according to race officials.

Related Links:

Drew Griffith Pulls Away Late To Claim Foot Locker Title

Foot Locker Nationals meet page

    Boys results

    Girls results