Four of Arizona's top runners advanced to Foot Locker Nationals to be held Saturday December 12th next weekend.
Brian Shrader (Sr., Sinagua)
Patience was the name of the game as Brian Shrader sat back on cruise control trying to run and easy comfortable race. An opportunity presented itself when leader Wade Meddles (Sr., NV) started fading with 500 meters to go in the race. Shrader could not help himself as his competitive nature kicked in as both runners headed into the final 200 meter side by side. Meddles was already spent from his "fly and die" strategy and Shrader just went for it, winning the 5k hilly event in 15:25; a 17 second improvement over last year. This will be Shrader's second trip to Foot Locker Nationals. Shrader took 2nd place at Foot Locker West regionals last year and 11th at Nationals.
Steve Magnuson (Sr., Ironwood Ridge)
Steve Magnuson ran as hard as he could last year to edged out Wade Meddles for the 10th place spot on the Foot Locker West team. This year he ran withl a little more ease finishing 7th in 15:40 and bettering his time by 12 seconds.
Magnuson hung back during the first hallf of the race and moved from 13th to 7th in the last 500 meters taking time to high five fellow Arizona runner Billy Orman as they crossed the finish line. Magnuson is hoping to earn all American status by breaking into the top 15.
Billy Orman (Jr., Tuba City)
Billy Orman was not all that confident about getting to Foot Locker Nationals after a fall in September caused some knee problems. It didn't help that he couldn't keep still as he D.J.'d the homecoming dance and aggravated the injury further. But it all worked out as he soon recovered from the injury and improved his time with each race. Orman pushed himself during the race knowing he was capable of qualifying but not sure if he would. "I talked to Tim Freriks (former Mingus runner running for NAU) at the Nike SW meet and he just told me to red line it…..to go out really hard and don't save anything," said Orman after the race. "And that is what I did!" Orman finished the race in 8th place with a time of 15:40 sending him on his first trip to San Diego!
Jessica Tonn (Sr., Xavier College Prep)
Jessica Tonn wrote herself into the history books yesterday as she became the 19th runner in the history of the Foot Locker event to qualify for nationals all four years. Tonn qualified as an individual for Nike Team Nationals but because Nike Team Nationals and Foot Locker West happen on the same day, Tonn gave up her spot at Nike to try qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals for the fourth time.
"It's not really just about the race, it is a huge experience," said Tonn about Foot Locker Nationals. "You meet people from other regions and you are friends with them through high school and college. I keep in touch with at least ten people from Foot Locker."
The west regional race was faster than previous years but Tonn ran a smart easy race finishing in 5th place with a course PR of 18:07. Her fastest time to date was her freshman year where she placed 3rd in 18:24. The following year the course was rained out and Tonn ran a time of 17:35 on the flat and fast rainy day course.
Tonn is hoping to improve on her 10th place finish at Nationals last year.
All four runners leave Thursday for the hotel del Coronado in San Diego. The race is scheduled for Saturday at Balboa Park.