Favorites Win Foot Locker Titles

Aisling Cuffe, Lukas Verzbicas dominated the national high school cross country championships.

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Click here to check out some photos from today’s race.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Both the girls and boys races went according to script at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Saturday in San Diego. Senior Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall Central High School in Cornall-on-Hudson, NY, dominated the girls race with a time of 16:53. Forty-five minutes later, Lukas Verzbicas, a junior from Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Hills, IL, earned his second consecutive Foot Locker victory with a time of 14:59.

Weather conditions were ideal for both races at Balboa Park, unlike 2009, when the 40 male and 40 female qualifiers from four regions ran in heavy rains. Cuffe, running in her third Foot Locker championship after finishing fourth last year, took the lead early, leading Allison Woodward of De Pere, WI, through the first half-mile in a quick 2:34. Cuffe broke away from Woodward at the midpoint of the race and increased her gap steadily thereafter.

“That was pretty much the plan, to try and take them early,” she said.

By the finish line cuff was a whopping 34 seconds ahead of Rachel Johnson, the third-place finisher in the South Regional. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked, according to Cuffe.

“I paid for it in the last mile. I was dead tired,” she said.

The boys race unfolded similarly. Heavily favored Verzbicas, who won the Nike Cross Nationals last weekend, put himself near the front of the pack in a fast first 400 meters. Futsum Zeinasellassie, a junior from Indianapolis who finished second behind Verzbicas in the Midwest Regional, emerged as his strongest challenger. Zeinasellassie was still on Verzbicas’ heels when he reached the two-mile mark in 9:32, but the defending champion then surged away and was able to cruise the homestretch, waving to spectators.

“With 150 meters to go I realized I’d won and I just wanted to celebrate,” he said.

Zeinasellassie, who was second at Foot Locker as a freshman in 2008, finished 11 seconds back.

Verzbicas won Foot Locker as a sophomore last year–the first ever–but is on track to graduate in the spring. A world-class triathlete, he not only has to choose which college he will attend but, eventually, which sport he will pursue professionally.

For More: triathlete.com

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