By Leonard COUTIN
Oasis hosted the 37th annual Foot Locker Cross-country National Championships at Balboa Park on Saturday. The event brought together the top 10 runners from four regional areas – west, Midwest, northeast and south –giving spectators a chance to witness some of the fastest runners ready to fight for individual medals and a regional victory on the 5000m course.
Flintridge Prep star runner Jack Van Scoter ranked sixth at the Foot Locker West Regionals and placed 27th at the Foot Locker Nationals running a time of 15:46.6. Van Scoter came to Balboa Park having earned first place leading his team to the Division V CIF championship and placing second at the CIF state championship. Though unsure where he will be attending college, there is little doubt that whatever school this athlete attends will benefit greatly from his experience and leadership on and off the field.
Phillip Rocha of Arcadia was among the top three battling for the national championship alongside Drew Hunter of Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Virginia and Ben Veatch of Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana. The start included 40 of the best nationals elite runners. Coming onto the course, these accomplished athletes had earned divisional and state championship titles. Hunter placed fourth at last year’s race running 15:14. Returning as a seasoned veteran, he wanted to leave his mark in the sand.
From the start, Hunter led the pack in the first loop of the course with others just steps behind. As he approached the second loop he took a chance and ending up seizing eight seconds from two others. Rocha made every attempt at closing the gap but not early enough, and Hunter could not be stopped. Hunter finished first with a time of 14:56, 12 seconds above the pack. Rocha took second running 15:07.09 followed by Veatch running 15:09.6. Rocha walked away with silver wondering if he could have had a better performance had he not been plagued by food poisoning earlier in the week.
The girl’s championship race was another highlight of the day. Junior Weini Kelati of Leesburg, Virginia ran for the south and won the girls’ race in 17:10. Kelati was born in the East African nation of Eritrea and has only been in the United States two years. She started to run at the age of 12. Maryjeanne Gilbert of Peoria Notre Dame High School in Peoria, Illinois ran for the Midwest and took second (17:10.6) trailing Kelati by just a few steps the entire race. Junior Nevada Mareno, running for the south from Leesville Road High School in Leesville, North Carolina, took third (17:17.6). Burroughs sophomore Emily Virtue fell short in the race, placing 38th running 18: 51.7. She came to the course having placed second at CIF finals, sixth at CIF state finals and eighth at Foot Locker West Regionals.