FOOT LOCKER FINALS
Hello again everyone!
Thursday, December 6
The day I had been waiting for!!
My flight out of Pittsburgh was at 7 am, so my parents and I drove the three hours to Pittsburgh the day before and stayed overnight. We still had to get up kind of early, but I was too excited to care. Despite my paranoia, we made it through security without any problems. Unlike Brendan Shearn, I did not have to explain why I was carrying spikes in my carry on bag.
I had not been on a plane since I was five, so I was happy that my parents were flying with me. I would have had no idea what was going on if they had not! We had a connecting flight to Dallas, and I attempted to get some sleep, but I was unsuccessful. I much preferred looking at the mini cities and towns below.
When we landed in Dallas, I was pretty excited because I had never been to Texas before!...but I only saw the airport. We had a short layover and then it was time to fly to San Diego! When we landed, it was weird to think that, despite the seven hour trip, it was only a little after eleven in the morning.
When we arrived at the Hotel Del Coronado with some of the other runners, I could not wait to get off of the bus. It was a beautiful place, and I could not believe that I was in California. It seemed like a dream. We went to the game room, where we checked in and got a bag full of awesome clothes and shoes. At this point, I was starving, so my parents and I ate lunch at a restaurant in the hotel. After that, I went back up to my room where I met my roommate, Sophie Chase. She was hanging out with Grace Tinkey, a three time Foot Locker finalist who was unable to compete this year due to injury. Both girls were super nice, and they invited me to come hang out with the South girls before the group run.
Running with the other finalists during the group run was an amazing experience. Everyone was running pretty fast, and since it was supposed to be an easy day for me, I hung out in the back with two girls from Virginia, Allie and Caroline.
Before dinner, we had a regional meeting. It was during this meeting that one of the boys from New Jersey (who we call steak guy because we do not know his actual name) requested steak for breakfast on Saturday before the race.
Dinner was delicious (of course) and I finally got to hang out with the Northeast girls! After dinner we decorated shirts, and somehow we ended up rocking Indian style headbands. We played Minute to Win It, and although we didn’t do much winning, we did end up bonding pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there were only nine of us that night because Anoush hadn’t arrived yet. We later found out that her first flight was canceled, and then it was delayed so she didn’t arrive until midnight.
Friday, December 7
Despite having the intention of sleeping for as long as possible, I ended up waking up pretty early. I was surprised to see steak at breakfast. I cannot fathom ever eating it that early in the morning, but Steak Guy seemed pretty happy. After some interesting breakfast table conversation with Marissa, the winner of the West Regional, it was time to preview the course.
We practiced our introductions, walked the course, and had a chance to run. I also finally had the chance to see my aunt, uncle, and little cousin Melaya who flew all the way from Mississippi to see me run! Melaya was in love with my shoes, and would not even say hello to me until she had studied them.
I later decided that Melaya needed to fall in love with Adam and Kara Goucher’s little son.
Melaya studying my shoes.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we had lunch and then free time until dinner that evening. Most of the Northeast girls hung out together, and we had a “wicked” good time together. (Catarina Rocha is from Massachusetts and she said “wicked” constantly, although she tried not to. It was so funny!)
We were all excited to go to dinner that night because we were looking forward to the elite athlete panel after dinner. During dinner, we were all surprised to learn that one of the Footlocker Finalists, Sam from Ohio, was also one of the twelve finalists for the National Wendy’s High School Heisman award. They were having the awards ceremony in New York City that night, so they set up a live satellite so he could be a part of both. He ended up winning the national male award, so that was really cool!
Katie Lembo, Regan Rome, me, and Marissa Saenger with Meb Keflizihi!!!
Saturday December 8
Morning came and with it came the race. Steak Guy ate his steak. Afterward, he claimed that it had no effect on him. I was the first person of all eighty finalists to be introduced. As soon as the Northeast girls had been introduced, we all ran over to the bathrooms, which was kind of funny.
Standing on the line we all could not wait to start. Finally, the gun sounded and we were off! I got out to a pretty good start, and the fact that there were only 40 girls in the race probably helped! Part of the course is composed of loose dirt, and it was flying into everyone’s eyes. I was right where I wanted to be in the beginning, and I was feeling good. Unfortunately, that feeling did not last, and I slowly fell back. It was definitely not the race that I wanted to have, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to run it. It was a long season, and just making it there is an accomplishment in itself. There is a lot that I can learn from the race and from the season that I can use to help me in the future. Hopefully, I will be able to qualify again next year and do much better.
I cooled down some with Megan and Mackenzie from New Jersey, and then ran a little bit with my mom and my aunt as well. Afterwards, Edward Cheserek offered me his bouquet of flowers that he had been given for winning. I was a little startled, but I ended up taking one flower, as did some of the other Northeast girls.
Some of the Northeast girls with Edward Cheserek.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we ate lunch and then had interviews and ice cream! I spent the rest of the afternoon with my family walking around downtown Coronado.
The Northeast Girls with Kara Goucher
Everyone involved with Foot Locker deserves a huge thank you for everything that they do. They truly do everything that they can to make Footlocker an incredible experience. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be part of it all. I also want to thank Don Rich and everyone else involved with the PA Milesplit. The coverage that they give PA cross country and track is amazing.
Megan Reilly and I. Everyone said that we looked a lot alike.
FOOT LOCKER NORTHEAST
Hi! My name is Kennedy Weisner and I am a junior at Elk County Catholic in Saint Marys. I have dreamed of becoming a Foot Locker finalist since sixth grade. Since the day I first learned of it, it has been my goal to make it to San Diego. After two unsuccessful attempts my freshman and sophomore years (I was 40th and 23rd), I had my mind set on qualifying this year. All summer and all season, Foot Locker was in the back of my mind.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Weisner
My summer cross country training didn’t really begin until about the last week of June since I extended my track season in order to compete at New Balance Nationals. Mainly, I just ran the miles to build my base for the season. I did some workouts and strength training, and I also ran two road races. In July I went to cross country camp in Virginia for the second year in a row. I absolutely love going on group runs and listening to the very motivating speakers! I got to spend some quality time with some fellow PA girls, the Malones and their North Hills teammates (Clare, Caitlyn, and Sabrina) and fellow Pittsburghers Gina Alm and Kristyna Finnikiotis! We ended the week with an epic dance showdown with the Blacksburg boys. Despite what the results say, we definitely won.
In the beginning of August, my family and I traveled to Long Island so I could truly learn the Sunken Meadow course. By the time we came home Sunday, I was confident that I could run a good race on the course. Little did I know that the meet was going to move back to Van Cortlandt Park. Regardless, I had an awesome weekend and ran a super tough hill workout on the course.
Now, onto the actual season. We always run our first race on Labor Day weekend at the Big Valley Invitational. I felt very good during this race, and I felt that I had become stronger during the summer. The best races, though, were yet to come.
McQuaid photo by Kyle Brazeil
My team always runs well at the McQuaid Invitational in Rochester, NY. It is the first race of the season that we really gear towards. I always look forward to this race, and this year was no different! The course was in perfect condition this year (last year it was pure mud) and I felt fantastic during the entire race. I ended up exceeding my goal of running under 17 for the 3 mile course. I ran 16:46 and broke the meet record by 6 seconds. I later learned that Molly Huddle, the American 5k record holder, had been one of the previous record holders at this meet. Although our tenth place team finish does not show it, my entire team ran extremely well on this day, especially Ellie. This was her first year running cross country, and she had her breakout race. She pushed herself so hard, and I was so proud of her!!
Photos courtesy of Sharon Weisner
The addition of the single A classification this year did little to change our district meet. With the exception of one team, all of the AA teams became A, including my team. Although it was cold, the course was dry and there was no snow like last year! The race appeared to be close between us and Cranberry as all seven of Cranberry’s runners finished before our number five girl, but we managed to pull out a win by seven points. After that we were on to states to tackle the Hershey course.
One of my goals since I started running was to win a state championship. I had come so close six times, but the gold still remained elusive. Instead, I am the proud owner of six silver state medals. I got out quick the first mile, a bit faster than I had expected, but I felt very good and very relaxed. I had a very good race and I felt very strong on the hills. I was able to earn my first ever state gold medal!! On top of that, my team placed fourth overall. This was the highest we had ever placed at states, so we were all extremely excited.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Weisner
The day wasn’t over yet, and I couldn’t wait to watch all of the other races and cheer on some of my friends. Adair Gennocro, who actually lives in the same town as me but goes to a different school, won the AA race, so there were actually two gold medalists from the good ole City of Saint Marys!
When we all arrived back in town Saturday night, there was a police escort for Adair and me. They pulled out all of the stops; it was quite honestly a mini parade! There were multiple police cars, ambulances, the search and rescue, and firetrucks (including the ladder truck). In addition, there were at least twenty other cars in our little parade. It was absolutely incredible.
After states, it was finally time to prepare for Foot Locker. As I said earlier, this was one of my main season goals. The three weeks between states and Foot Locker went by so quickly, and it was Thanksgiving before I knew it! I definitely wanted to place in the top ten, but I really wanted to place in the top five and possibly even contend for the win.
4K Photo by Patty Morgan
I got a decent start, and I was tucked in with the front group as we entered the woods. For some reason still unknown to me, I began falling back from the leaders. I was still in the top ten as we crossed the bridge for the first time, but people began passing me and I had trouble responding. This continued for most of the second mile. The backwoods kind of blend together in my mind, but I recognized a point on the course right before the two mile mark. The day before when I was walking the course, my dad had pointed out the point because he believed it was close to the two mile point. He observed that the main climbing of the course was over, and mainly down hill remained.
Finish Photo by Don Rich
When I reached this point during the race on Saturday, I remembered how badly I wanted to place in the top ten. I decided right then and there that I was going to try and pass as many people as I could. No matter how badly it hurt, I wanted to end the race knowing that I had truly put forth all of the effort I could. I was probably in about seventeenth at that point, but due to all of the turns, no one was in sight. By the time I reached the two mile point I had passed two people, but I still had work to do. The clock read about 12:30, but luckily I had shut my brain off and failed to realize until after that I had almost run a seven minute second mile! I kept pushing, and I eventually caught site of some of the runners in the top ten. My head coach was in the open area right before the bridge and he informed me that I was about ten seconds behind number ten, the girl in the pink shorts. I was in twelfth place at that point, and I was determined to catch at least two more girls. Coming out of the words, I had moved into eleventh, but I still had about ten seconds to make up. It is about six hundred meters from the woods to the finish line, and my mom and I had talked about over and over that this was where the race could be won or lost. By that point I had abandoned all logic and reason and only knew that I did not want to go home in eleventh place. It did not seem as if I was getting any closer, and all I heard was my mom yelling at me to relax, because I still had time. Somehow I did pass the girl, and I was able to secure my tenth place spot.
I was overcome by a flood of emotions as soon as I crossed the finish line. I was exhausted and terrified that maybe everyone had been wrong and I had really finished eleventh, but this fear was put to rest as I was ushered into the white tent.
It took a few days for it to really sink in because it almost felt as if it were not real. I am so excited for nationals, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity. It is surreal to finally achieve this goal; it is my dream come true! I could not have done it without my mom (who is also my coach) and the rest of my family! I am actually so excited that I keep forgetting that my birthday is tomorrow.
Now I must come back to reality for a little while because I get to take the SATs tomorrow…YAAAAAY!