Tag: Nike Cross Nationals


Champion Tessa Barrett, Waverly, Pennsylvania senior sprinting to the tape
Champion Tessa Barrett, Waverly, Pennsylvania senior sprinting to the tape

San Diego, Ca. — It is all grist for the running mill, this Nike Cross Nationals versus Foot Locker Cross Country Championships debate:  Which high school championship is better? Which one will outlast the other?  Who wins?  Who loses?  Goodness me.  For as in all things running, it seems, the sport has found a way to engage in an internecine battle rather than work as one to take on the outside world which is where the real fight should be waged.

Of course, Nike and Foot Locker were once partners in the Foot Locker Championships until Nike departed to create Nike Team Nationals in 2004 after Foot Locker turned down the offer to add a team element in San Diego. The competition then really heated up when Nike introduced an individual championship and renamed its meet Nike Cross Nationals in 2007.

But whichever high school national cross country event you may prefer, NXN or Foot Locker, this much is true, the sport at the high school level has all the passion and energy that is missing at the professional level.  And one important reason is the built-in rooting that comes from a fan-base that is actually attached to the athletes they care so deeply about.  (more…)



2013werundirty     The mud and slop of Portland Meadows 2012 may well turn into a skating rink for Nike Cross Nationals 2013.  The forecast for Saturday’s races shows a race-time temp hovering in the low to mid 20sF for 10:05a.m. girl’s championship race, only a degree or so higher for the 11:35am boy’s championship. And since it will be between 19F and 36F from now till Saturday, we may need to pull out a Zamboni to prep the course.  Thankfully, it won’t be wet as no rain is in the forecast.


Simi Valley's Sarah Baxter, 2X NXN Champion
Simi Valley’s Sarah Baxter, 2X NXN Champion

In the highly anticipated girl’s race, Simi Valley, California senior Sarah Baxter looks to complete her high school cross country career undefeated.  She has won the last two NXNs, besting newly named USATF Youth Athlete of the Year (perhaps of the last generation) Mary Cain in 2012. Cain is now running as a pro for the Nike Oregon Project.

Baxter has been untouchable this year, and will be a prohibitive favorite on Saturday.  However, there is competition, and it isn’t to be lightly regarded.  Topping the list of the upset-minded is Alexa Efraimson, a Camus High School junior in Washington State who finished fourth last year, and Niwot, Colorado senior Elise Cranny, number seven in 2012. (more…)


Coach Salazar all smiles after Mary Cain sets American high school 1500m record 4:04.62 at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May.
Coach Salazar is all smiles after Mary Cain set the American high school 1500m record, 4:04.62, at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May.

It was around this time last year at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon that Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar began touting his new pupil, Mary Cain, the high school sensation out of Bronxville, New York.  Cain was in Portland making her NXN debut.

“I wouldn’t call it the Mary Cain “experiment”, Alberto suggested after having worked with Mary over the previous two months. “It was really circumstances why we got together.  I’d seen a video of her at the World Junior Championships where she ran 4:11 (sixth place, 1500m) and set the U.S. high school record.  Then we met at the Olympic Trials.  I recognized that her bio-mechanics, though not horrible, if fixed early would mean fewer problems down the road.

After Al found out Mary was essentially self-coached he spoke with her parents and decided to begin their long-distance coach/athlete relationship.  Alberto began flying east every two weeks to evaluate then supervise Cain’s progress.

Bio-mechanics have long been a cornerstone of Alberto’s coaching philosophy, a direct result of an ungainly (though effective) form that carried him to a remarkable track, road, cross country and marathon career until his early flame out after 1982.

“We are running against so many talented East Africans,” he explained.  “We are not going to out train them.  Our only chance is to do everything perfectly with bio-mechanics and strength (training).  That is where they don’t have an expertise. So we have to train perfectly to go against the survivors of their programs.”

Last year at NXN Mary placed second to Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley, California who won her second straight NXN title.  Mary closed fast, but had lost ground to Baxter through the mid-section of the Portland Meadows mud bath of a course.

“I’m confident,” said Al before the race. “Some runners are unbeatable on the track, but you don’t know about cross country.  I do know she is in better shape than when she ran 4:11 in July.  I think she’s a 15:30 5K runner now, because she’s done things which only people who made the Olympic team have done.”

Looking back it was as if Alberto had the looking glass Windexed perfectly clean last December, because throughout the remainder of 2013 Mary Cain certainly outdid even his high expectations.  Here is the USATF announcement.


Coming Together: High School XC

In light of the recent national election there remains much to be cynical about in the American redoubt.  While many on the Left feel rejuvenated, even mandated by President Obama’s re-election, a near equal number on the Right feel vindicated by the return of the House of Representatives to a Republican majority.  The nascent secessionist movement underscores the deep divide in the national mood, the early eye toward 2016 – even before the sulfurous fumes of 2012 have fully dissipated – betrays the uneasy acceptance of November 6th, and next month’s fiscal cliff and the specter of an onerous sequestration – along with February’s debt-ceiling debate – promises to again cleave the body politic into a rancorous opposition.

What does this have to do with running?  Not much, really, unless you seek an antidote to this growing cynicism.

All you have to do is peruse your Facebook friends to see how runners tilt easily to both political poles.  And yet, running and racing themselves transcend political influence from either side. Dedication, effort, and suffering toward the furtherance of speed strips the facades of politic affiliation as they shore up the foundations of pulse and sinew now in service against that most measured and implacable foe – gravity.

As I’ve always said, get bored with life?  Get a little intense.  The same when cynicism creeps ahead. You don’t have to sit still and stew in it.  Instead, try attending a high school cross country meet.

We can take the bitterest among us to this weekend’s Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, or to the following weekend’s Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego, plop him amongst the young strivers gunning for cross country glory, and even the most hardened will emerge with a renewed sense hope.  (more…)