Foot Locker and Nike Cross Nationals

menu-spacer.pngUpstate XC Runners Excel on National Stage

High school cross country runners have not just one but two de facto National Championships.  The top boy and girl in the US have been determined for the last 35 years at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.  The top boy’s and girl’s teams have been crowned for the last 10 years at the Nike Cross Nationals.  This year runners from Western and Central New York figured prominently in both championships. 

flcclogoclean.jpgHigh school runners qualify for the Foot Locker event by placing in the top ten in one of four regional individual championship races in late November.  The top 40 girls and boys then converge on Balboa Park in San Diego in mid-December to determine the national championship.   The Foot Locker 5K course is in the American tradition of a loop course in a park over smooth dirt and mowed grass with challenging hills and sharp turns to break up the field.  Being in Southern California, the weather is usually warm and dry for the race.

This year two runners from the Rochester area got into the big show by making the top ten in the Northeast Regional held on the historic course in Van Cortlandt Park: 

Mickey Burke (senior at Rush-Henrietta HS) won the Northeast Regional in 15:19 at Van Cortlandt Park 5K course.  Burke set the all-time course record at the 2013 McQuaid Invitational (14:25 for 3 miles).  In 2012 Burke finished in 13th place at the Nike Cross Nationals.  His mile PR is 4:15.

Katie Lembo (senior at Penfield HS) placed 9th in the Northeast Regional in 18:04.  Lembo won the 2013 State Championship for 3000 meters in 9:41 and her mile PR is 4:56.

Mickey Burke – 4th Place in 15:20 at Foot Locker Championship
Highest Place Ever by a Section V Runner


Early in the first lap:

#51 Mickey Burke (on the right) is in contact with the early leaders.  Most of the early leaders finished outside the top 10.

After pack thins:

#51 Mickey Burke will finish 4th only one second behind #81 leading on the right.


Katie Lembo – 22nd Place in 18:11 at Foot Locker Championship
Fighting for every place in the Middle of the Pack


Early in the race – Teammates hang together

#19 Katie Lembo (on left) keeps pace with three teammates.  Northeast runners are in the blue singles numbered 11-20.

On a hill later in the race:

#19 Katie Lembo racing two Midwest runners.

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For full results, more photos and wonderful video replays of both races check out the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships web site.  Especially watch the video replays of the races to for exciting, close-up coverage of top notch cross country competition.


nxc-logo.jpgThe Nike Cross Nationals is comprised of 8 Regional Qualifying meets and the National Finals in Portland, OR. Following in the tradition of European cross country meets, the Nike event features a flat, two-lap course with man-made obstacles built on the inside of the horse race track. Runners have to hurdle two sets of hay bales and a section of whoop-de-doos each lap.  Being held in Oregon in December, there have been some remarkably wet and muddy races in previous nine years.  This was a cold year with a firm, dry course.  The first place individual in the boy’s race ran 15:00 for 5K over the whoop-dee-doos and hay bales on the course.  The girl’s race was also fast with the first place runner finishing in 16:50 over the same course.

The big story for 2013 was what didn’t happen in the girl’s race.  Set the WABAC Machine for December 2005.  That’s when seven young women[1] on the Hilton XC Club traveled to Portland for the Nike Cross Nationals and made us all proud.  On a very wet and muddy 5K course, they won the National Team Championship with 85 points over the Saratoga Streaks with 112.

The 2005 Hilton girls were the last girls’ squad not from Fayetteville-Manlius to win the Nike Cross National Team Championship.  For the next seven years (2006-2012) the Fayetteville-Manlius girl’s team took the Championship.  Seven consecutive National Championships are amazing when no other girls’ team has ever won the Nike event twice in its history.

This year the Fayetteville-Manlius XC Club put their girl’s and boy’s teams into the big show when both squads won the New York Regional meet on November 30 at Bowdoin Park, Wappingers Falls (on the Hudson near Poughkeepsie).

Both squads faced 21 other 7-person clubs for the team championships.  The girls raced first and the unexpected happened.  Mighty Manlius got edged out by the Wayzata XC Club from Plymouth, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The top five scoring totals were close:  Wayzata 108, Fayetteville-Manlius 120.  As often happens, the difference came from slightly higher finishes by the fourth and fifth girls on the winning team.  So, after seven consecutive wins, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls took a close second place nationally.

Next on the schedule was the boys’ race.  The Fayetteville-Manlius XC Club has had strong boy’s teams before… in 2005 they took third place at the Nike Cross Nationals and in 2010 were the second place team.  More recently they were 12th in 2011 and 16th last year.  How would they do in 2013 after seeing the girl’s team narrowly miss an eighth consecutive championship?

Actually, the boys did quite well, finishing 4th and again demonstrating that the Fayetteville-Manlius XC Club, led by Head Coach Bill Aris, is consistently the strongest high school cross country club in the US. 

Bill Aris and his son John are also the coaches of Stotan Racing, the Nike-sponsored, USATF Elite Development Club based in Syracuse.  We have seen their runners at the front of some of our bigger races recently, e.g., Runnin’ of the Green – first four men overall, Flower City Half Marathon – first place man in new course record, Lilac 10K – four men in the top 10, two women in the top 3, Rochester Marathon – first place man in new course record.

Not To Be Overlooked
The Liverpool XC Club boys team took 20th place at the Nike Cross Nationals after qualifying for the big show by finishing in 3rd place in the New York Regionals in Wappinger’s Falls.  With only 22 teams selected for the event from 8 regional qualifying races for the whole country, it is pretty spectacular to have two teams from our region in the Nationals.

For full results, more photos and video replays of both races check out the Nike Cross Nationals web site.  Especially watch the video replays of the races to see how the runners hurdle hay bales and navigate the whoop-de-doos at full speed.


[1] Allison Sawyer, Amanda Griggs, Caroline Schultz, Shelby Herman, Ashley Jones, Calleen Childs and Erin Pratt.