Oregon At 2010 Foot Locker
Oregon has had a long tradition and presence in the 32 years of the Foot Locker National Championships. Runners from Oregon have accepted the challenge of facing the best in the western United States from the very beginning and the state has been well represented even at the national level. Although the 2010 edition was not great in numbers, as it often has been, the state’s presence was felt in a number of ways and that presence ought to be recognized.
Nowhere was that presence more keenly felt than in the boys’ seeded race, which offered the chance for a trip to San Diego to compete at nationals. Sheldon’s Matt Melancon had committed to the challenge early in the season and after winning the State 6A championship plus the Puma Concordia Invitational he was surely a runner to watch closely. Ian Burgess of Franklin had claimed the State 5A title and, although hampered by some physical issues during the season, there was little doubt, if things went well he could be heading to California as well. Ian was a pleasant surprise to see, when our family boarded a plane that Friday morning. Andy Bennison of Central Catholic was the third of Oregon’s inveterate group and he had placed second at state in 6A only two seconds behind Melancon. Andy ‘s coach, of course was Dave Frank, who guided Kenny Klotz & aided Galen Rupp to Foot Locker nationals. What the state may have lacked in depth it certainly did not lack in quality.
I spoke with both Dave & Andy shortly before the race and the atmosphere was as relaxed as it could be given the conditions. A trip to San Diego has so much to offer, so the regional is not your everyday race and certainly this was hardly your everyday invitational as far as the quality of field. Earning a national berth is very difficult and then one must recall that Mt. SAC is a course that must be respected. Those hills just keep coming at you. To qualify one would need their “A Game.”
After last year’s race, when Wade Meddles of Nevada blasted out of the blocks and performed his “fly and die” routine, another rocket start was not anticipated but Jantzen Oshier of Trabuco Canyon went immediately to the lead. He wore a shirt emblazoned with “snail’s pace” on it but, if it had been meant as a note of caution, Jantzen paid no heed. Billy Orman of Arizona, who had been one of the prerace favorites, went out hard yet he was a good twenty meters back the first time around the “corral” area. Orman, not knowing who it was & assuming the Oshier was not for real, ran alone five meters ahead of a chase pack that included Kevin Banard of Clovis & Sergey Sushchikh of Mill Valley, California.
Oshier raced past the mile mark in 4:39 and increased his lead over Orman but the flat part of the course was essentially over and the runners raced out of sight up the “Switch backs”. Orman remained in a distant second, while a chase-pack of about 15 to 20 runners, bided their time awaiting the real race to begin in earnest. Matt Melancon was securely in that group & Bennison loomed close behind, while Burgess must have been in a large throng further back, as I missed him at that point.
Having completed the “switch backs” Oshier raced into view in the “cross over” area, which leads to the opposite side of the course beyond the “air strip”. Oshier rounded the bend that leads to famed “poop out” hill with a seemingly larger lead and his running time was 7:55. Orman was still alone and by this time he had decided that it was time to put in a concerted effort. After the race he admitted this might be my big chance to win. Another five to ten meters behind Orman was Dallin Taylor of Utah. They were now half-way through the race and a fair number of runners remained in contention for nationals, as they headed toward” poop out”. Noteworthy was a pack of seven runners, who were made up of Darren Fahy of Carlsbad, Matt Carpowich of San Diego, Dan Milechman of Tamalpais (Cal), Sergey Suschchikh, and Matt Melancon, who was wearing an old Athletics West shirt making him fairly easy to spot. Andrew Gardiner of Spokane ran with a pack of six runners another twenty meters back.
Another ten meters behind that group were Andy Bennison & Ian Burgess, who were somewhere in the top thirty at that point.
Oshier remained in the lead as he crested “poop out” but on the downhill Orman began to cut into the lead. Oshier hit the two mile mark, which is shortly after the bottom of “poop out” but Orman was now really cutting into the lead. Darren Fahy took over third but looming behind him was Andrew Gardner, who was threading his way through the pack. Although only a sophomore Gardner ran like a veteran, who seemed to know when to extend himself.
With little more than a mile to go the race was far over as the harriers began to take on the challenge of “Reservoir hill”, which is deceiving. Rather than one hill it is actually two hills with a short but fairly steep incline, which precedes a moderate downhill. The runners make the turn at the bottom of the first downhill and then make a turn that parallels the “air strip.” What follows immediately is another steep climb, which brings the runners back into view. From the “airstrip” fans have an excellent vantage point, as the runners are almost like silhouettes far above them. On the last rise Orman reeled in Oshier as Gardner was reeling in them both. Orman moved into the lead before cresting the top of the hill but was passed in turn by Gardner. Matt Carpowich & Nathan Weitz had their own private battle for 4th another twenty meters back and to make matters even more interesting close behind followed another small pack of aspirants, which included Fahy, Milechman, Taylor, Melancon, Sushchikh plus Kevin Barnard & Christopher Kigar of California.
Gardner gave way to Orman on the downhill and the Arizona flash cruised to victory in a time of 15:28, which is the fastest time on the course since Nurani Sheikh of Salt Lake City streaked home in 15:25. It should be noted the German Fernandez’ 2007 time was run on an alternate & much easier course due to inclement conditions. Gardner claimed second in 15:35 to follow his hero Shane Moskowitz as a Foot Locker national finalist. Oshier claimed third just three seconds later and Matt Carpowich’s 15:44 edged Spokane’s Nathan Weitz by a second to take fourth. Carpowich, a native of San Diego, would get to race in his home town, while Nathan earned a berth just as his sister Kendra did, as they became the first brother & sister pair to qualify in the same year.
Darren Fahy led the next group of qualifiers with his 15:49 and Dan Milechman followed in 7th a second later. Dallin Taylor’s 15:51 was good for 8th and Christopher Kigar earned 9th. Sergey Sushchikh closed well to score the last ticket to San Diego and Matt Melancon had the misfortune to be in the hardest of finishing places in 11th. To his credit he had given his all in the race and left nothing out on the course. It is a rare runner, who can dig that deep and it is something of which he should be proud. Kevin Barnard placed 12th & Jeff Bickert of California was 13th . Hawaii’s Margarito Martinez finished 14th ahead of Luis Guitierrez of Rancho Cucamonga. Ian Burgess of Portland, Oregon, closed late to garner 18th, Burgess could certainly relate to Melancon’s fate, for he was on hand in 2007, when his brother Bryce (now running for Oregon) finished eleventh. Central Catholic’s Andy Bennison had one of those days, that all longtime runners can relate to and on this unforgiving course, he placed 62nd in a time of 16:45. Should anyone question that time it is suggested that one try to run that even a good day.
Matt Melancon, Ian Burgess & Andy Bennison were the only Oregon guys to run in the seeded race but Hudson Eustace of Medford raced in the one for the junior boys. He earned a medal for his fifth place finish in that event with a time of 17:09. The Foot Locker people score the state team results as a merge, so the top times for all races count in the state’s scoring total, which meant that Hudson placed 136th overall yet 44th in real team scoring (all runners beyond the top seven for each state can not count in the team scoring. Coupled with Pendleton’s Tyler Zyph’s time of 17:44, good for 59th place overall, it meant the Oregon boys placed fifth overall in the team scoring by state. California won that race with a low of 19 points & was followed Utah (76), Washington (80) & Arizona (126). The males from Idaho finished sixth with 196 points. Considering the low number of total entrants, the Oregon guys fared quite well. Due to a number of problems Tyler only had four weeks to train and, like most of his Pendleton team mates, is a special story that deserves a story on its own, which we‘ll try to cover tomorrow.
Suffice it to say that Pendleton runners did Oregon proud and a number of them secured medals for their efforts in various races. The 7th & 8th grade boys & girls ran together in a two mile race but Delaney Clem, just a seventh grader, had a banner day with her 28th place finish. Twenty-five of the people in front of her were guys, which meant that she was the third place girl over all & I believe she was the first from seventh grade. Her time was 12:26. Jackie Sheoships & Emma Anderton placed 44th & 46th in the Senior Girls’ race to earn medals but Nicole Dillavou, who had placed 7th in the Oregon 5A championship, claimed 15th among the senior girls to garner not just a medal but a college scholarship. Congratulations Nicole and on what a course to earn one! Not to be overlooked is Ryan Montgomery, who placed 42nd among the junior boys. He earned a medal & was also the sixth runner on the overall Oregon boys’ team, that placed fifth. As noted earlier we will take an in depth look at the Pendleton team and program tomorrow.
The girls from Oregon placed tenth in the team race but there was not much support for the Pendleton girls. It’s too bad that we could not include Priscilla Timmons of Vancouver (Vancouver after all is essentially just a Portland suburb & lies on the other side of the Columbia River) & Erin Hegarty of Richland, Washington, which is also by the Columbia River. Certainly Hanford’s Hegarty raced in Oregon last fall, winning the Brooks Hermiston Invitational, and Skyview’s Timmons, won both the New Balance Invitational in Monmouth, Oregon & the Puma Concordia Classic in Portland. Partial credit anyone?
In seriousness the state of Oregon does have one somewhat unexpected connection to Foot Locker in the coach Rob Collins of Santa Rosa ran for Centennial Collins ran for current coach Greg Letts and qualified for state in XC all four years. It can be argued that he would have been an Oregon large-school champion had not fate intervened. Hudson, who had lived in New Jersey, qualified second in the Foot Locker (Kinney) Northeast Region in 1983, but his family moved to Eugene, where he completed his senior year of high school. Hudson claimed the title and went on to place third in the national meet, while Rob finished second to Hudson at State. Years later Collins coached at Sandy, where probably his most noted runner was Pam Johnson. For the last decade or so Rob has coached at Santa Rosa & and managed Foot Locker qualifiers Alejandra Barrientos (1999), Alex Dunne (2003) and this year Anna Maxwell. Another of Rob Collins runners, Laura Kearns, won the sophomore girls race defeating Montana standout Aja Starkey. Starkey incidentally is advised by Foot Locker Jenni Brown, who was formerly from Ohio. At any rate Oregon can be proud that one of its own is keeping up the Oregon tradition at Foot Locker.
Congratulations to all of those individuals, who were willing to face the toughest competition on a classic cross country venue. You are all part of a vaunted tradition that is both Oregon & Foot Locker.