Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Battle Royale: Futsum Zeinasellassie vs. Edward Cheserek at Foot Locker Nationals

Futsum won NXN, can he double back at Foot Locker?
Last year, they were both runner-ups. Edward Cheserek finished just behind Lukas Verzbicas at Nike Cross Nationals and Futsum Zeinasellassie finished just behind Verzbicas at Foot Locker, two years after finishing seventh in his freshman season. This Saturday, they'll fight for that number one spot over what could be the most competitive Foot Locker race since 2007, when Michael Fout dug deep to overtake Chris Derrick, Luke Puskedra, Colby Lowe and German Fernandez.

Cheserek has had an absolutely perfect season. Eight course records in eight tries, on difficult and storied courses, going as low as 14:20 for 5k. He also ran 14:02.33 for 5000 meters on the track this spring (in a college meet) and took home the New Balance Nationals 5000 Championship as well. He'll be ready to complete his perfect season this Saturday, but he'll have to go through the new NXN course record holder to do it.

Cheserek has one more course record in mind
Like Cheserek,  Futsum Zeinasellassie is also undefeated this season, with his most impressive win this past weekend in Portland at Nike Cross Nationals. What impressed me most about Zeinasellassie's win was his patience. This will be key Saturday at Balboa Park; a tough course whose hills will swallow those up that get too aggressive early on the first loop. If Cheserek tries to go out in 4:20 and drop Zeinasellassie, expect Zeinasellassie to reel him in by the top of the second hill. Otherwise, we'll have to wait and see what's in store!

The chase pack will be led by a nice group from the South. Expect Craig Nowak, Daniel Vertiz and Thomas Graham to make it a fast race behind the lightning duo with the Midwest's Tony Smoragieweicz looking to make a strong case for First Team All American, after his strong performance last year. Other top ten contenders will be West winner Darren Fahy, Virginia's Ahmed Bile, Washington's Nathan Weitz and anyone out of the always strong Midwest Region.

Karlie Garcia, downhill master
On the girls side, the Midwest's Molly Seidel and Julia Bos have to be the favorites, after their strong performances at the regional. The rest of the group of girls from the Midwest looks strong, as does the South team, who ran some quick times at the always fast McAlpine Park. I'm particularly fascinated to see what 1:16:58 Half Marathoner, Alana Hadley, can do in a smaller field and the ability to run a more paced race. Finally, watch out for West winner Karlie Garcia, who really broke it open on the downhill at Mt. Sac last weekend to win big. Balboa Park will play to her strengths if she uses the long downhills the same way.

Here's a link to the entire field of participants, with a little more info on their state and regional finish.

The event will be streamed live at 12:00 eastern, this Saturday, December 10th at http://footlockercc.com

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