PORTLAND OR, - Coming into the Nike Cross Nationals Joe Rosa was heavily favored to win his first cross country national championship. Zach Mils (OH) was said to be the only one (at entered in the meet) capable of handling the deadly fast pace that Rosa has set all year long. Craig Lutz, who hails from Texas had other ideas. Rosa, Lutz and Californian Elias Gedyon had put a slight gap on the field going into mile two (the first mile as clocked in approx. 4:42). Rosa tried to do what he did best at every course this year. Put the hammer down. Only Gedyon and Lutz didn't go away and it was apparent come time for the final 50 meters that Gedyon and Lutz had a little more left. Lutz started to go and Rosa had nothing for an answer. He could only hope to hang on for 2nd. In the final 5 meters Gedyon darted past Rosa to claim 2nd place and Rosa took 3rd. This is only the 1st time Rosa has not claimed victory (not counting his local county meet) all season after claiming meet record and course records on just about everything he stepped on. One huge not from the results, the top 5 athletes in the boys championship race are all juniors. So look for them to take another crack at each other next cross country season.
Other New Jersey competitors at the Nike Cross Nationals included Joe's twin brother James who didn't fare as well as Joe and finished in a tough 18th place. Mike Mazzaccaro (CBA) finished in 42nd place running 15:49.3, very similar to his PR at the famed Holmdel course. Mazzaccaro told me he felt great through the course and had a good time (due to a faulty video camera that interview will not be seen), so look for Mazz' to continue to excel and make another run next year for the Nike Cross Nationals. Morgan Pearson of Delbarton was the 4th and final qualifier for NJ and he was as happy with his performance as he was a week ago at the NJ Meet of Champions. Pearson said he had not felt good through the entire 5000m and his timed showed that. Pearson finished in 16:16.3, just a week ago Pearson rocked a Holmdel career PR of 15:47. Pearson is also a junior so will return for a senior campaign looking for more success.
The lone female New Jersey qualifier was Hillsborough's Ashley Smolinka. After leading her team to victory in the NJ Meet of Champions in just her school's 2nd appearance Smolinka ran to a 2nd place finish at Bowdoin Park, Wappingers Falls, NY at the Northeast Regional meet to qualify for the National meet in Portland. Smolinka had nothing to lose and all the gain in Portland as she was up against some of the nations fastest 5000m runners. Smolinka finished with a time of 18:59.6 to cap her senior campaign. She gained some valuable experience running against National competition that she will look to harness in the next two seasons.
pictures courtesy of Reccentral.net