Saturday, December 4, 2010

15 mile long run (1:50:48) and NXN vs. Footlocker

I heard that Dale was running a fast finish long run today and thought he was starting at 5:15 so I planned on meeting him at 6:00 which would meet up with him at 5 miles. I got there a little late and saw his van so I just headed out but could not see him. I met up with him and Lauren after 2 miles and turned around with them. They had just started their run at 6:00 too and were just a half mile ahead of me. We started back running a little faster than Dale had planned but were all conversational. When we got back to the cars Lauren finished but we picked up Chuck (who had three teeth removed yesterday, can you say hard core) and headed out again. We started picking up the pace each mile and I ran hard in with Dale where he and Chuck called it for the day. I turned around and headed out again wanting to run at least 15 today. My right calf was starting to fatigue and tighten a bit but I was able to maintain about 7:30 pace on the last 5 miles without it worsening. It must still be tired from Thursday's 10k tempo run. I finished the 15 in 1:50:48 (avg pace 7:23).

Here are the splits: 8:07, 7:46, 7:48, 7:37, 7:25, 7:38, 7:13, 6:50, 6:43, 7:03, 7:32, 7:36, 7:30, 7:13, 6:48.

Dale's last mile was 6:26 which I ran the last half mile with in my 6:43 split.

Through 13.1 I was at 1:38.

I watched the end of the boys race at Nike Cross Nationals late this morning. I have to say I was impressed, but I am still on the fence whether or not I like this event and Footlocker Nationals. Footlocker is the original HS cross country national championship event that began in 1979 as the Kinney Cross Country Championships. It was and still is an individual event and the first boy and girl were the national champions of HS cross country. There is still a regional qualifying event and the top 10 from each region go on to Footlocker Nationals. The regional events are amazing. I ran the West Regional Meet as a senior in 1996. There is a seeded race for those hoping to qualify but there is also races by class and that year I ran with the Seniors at Woodward Park (also the CA state championship course). I think I ran a pathetic 18:30. That year a freshman girl from my high school Abby Miller was third in the seeded girls race which qualified her for Footlocker Nationals where she also placed third. She would have been 4th but for you history buffs this was the race where Julia Stamps was winning and collapsed less than 100m from the finish line and DNF'd. Cross Country was the only high school sport that had a true individual national champion. Footlocker treated these top kids like rockstars.

In 2004 Nike started a new race called Nike Team Nationals as a way to have a true high school national team champion, a logical progression from having only individual champions previously. Yes, cross country is a team sport and high school cross country teams are a very close and bonded group. It sounded like a great idea, except that some of the top runners in the nation were also on some of the nations top teams. They were either on the same weekend or back to back weekends, I can't remember but either way it was tough or near impossible to do both. So you had to make a choice, run for team title or for an individual title. Hard to tell your teammates, "Sorry guys, I want the individual title, see ya later." So in 2008 they changed the name to NXN or Nike Cross Nationals and added some individual spots from each region to attract other top runners. They also have a nice Nike trophy for the individual winner of NXN. Now you can run with your team but also be competing with some of the top individual runners on the country. But what about Footlocker? Well it is next weekend and there are some kids doubling (Lucas Verzbicas will attempt the double) but west coast teams are at a disadvantage. Some east coast and midwest teams have had their state championships a month ago and have been able to recover and then qualify for Footlocker as well as be invited to NXN. The Footlocker West Regional was also TODAY at Mt. SAC! You can't run NXN and qualify for Footlocker if you are in the west region! The CA state meet was only last weekend! Nike is trying to take over the individual title and seems to be winning the battle as individuals like Elias Gedyon and the Rosa twins along with other individuals have been choosing NXN over Footlocker.

From what I saw today Nike may just deserve to have it all. Is there any other sport where the top athlete in the country, lets say Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning shows up to interview the participants of a high school event? Well that is exactly what I saw today. Chris Solinsky, the American Record holder in the 10k and one of the top US distance runners (also a Nike athlete), was down there in a big warm jacket with a microphone talking with ALL the kids, not just the winners. It was awesome. Also the course was incredibly difficult. It was in Oregon and was cold, windy, hilly, and muddy. They even had a section of haybales that the runners had to jump over. True cross country. Verzbicas won and just barely broke 16 minutes. He ran 14:44 at the Midwest Footlocker Regional last weekend. That shows you how tough this course is. Most of the best runners in the country chose NXN this year.

My biggest problem with this fight between Nike and Footlocker is that it extends these young kids championship seasons so long that they risk the health of their bodies just to get there. Some of these kids are 13 years old and their season, which started in September, goes over two weeks longer than college age kids at NCAA Nationals which was November 23rd. Footlocker Nationals is not until December 11th! And most of those college kids don't start racing until end of September at the earliest, most in October! This is too long of a championship season for a high school age kid. If you live in CA you have tough races every weekend starting in mid October with Mt. SAC, then your league championship race, CIF prelims, CIF finals, CA state finals, Footlocker Regionals or NXN and Footlocker finals if you are lucky enough and healthy enough to make it that far. Many of the top runners in CA don't even start racing hard until Mt. SAC for this reason. Sara Baxter, a freshman at Simi Valley HS and the Div I CA state champion (also Mt. SAC freshman course record holder) decided, with the help of her parents I'm sure, not to run in NXN or Footlocker this year. It is just too much for some of these young kids.

Sadly, my prediction is that after 30+ years Footlocker Nationals will be gone soon. NXN and all the money that Nike has will take over.

There was a write up by Bryan Green who gave an interesting solution to this problem so that Footlocker and Nike could co-exist but it still extends the season into mid December.
Here is part one.

And here is part two.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

Good job on your 15 miler. It appears that your training is going well with 9 weeks to go before Surf City.

Great post on NXN vs. Footlocker. I was able to watch both the girls and boys races at NXN. I was impressed with the young kid that finished second to Verzbicas. For just being a sophomore he was not afraid to push the pace early! Verzbicas sure looks smooth! It will be interesting to see if he can win another Footlocker title next week.

Sadly, after watching the coverage I agree with you. I believe that the Footlocker races will soon be gone. What kid given the chance would select Footlocker over Nike?

Did you know that Bryan Green ran cross country and track at Littlerock High School?

I remember Abby Miller! Her time of 17:08 as a freshmen is the 11th fastest of all-time on the Woodward course. Do you know what happen to her as a sophomore? I saw that she qualified for the Footlocker Nationals as a Junior and Senior.