Buckeye Valley’s Zach Kreft accomplished more in his first three years of high school cross country than most do in four.
He’d already won a state title and set more than a few records … he’d already had a monster career.
There was one monster left to slay, though. He wanted to compete for a national championship and, after nabbing his second straight OHSAA Division II state crown last month at National Trail Raceway, Kreft earned a chance to do just that. He finished second in the Midwest Regional Championship on Nov. 25 — an effort more than good enough to punch a ticket to Saturday’s (Dec. 9) Foot Locker National Championships at Balboa Park in sunny San Diego.
Kreft finished 12th overall — not the finish he was looking for — but said he walked away with an experience he’ll never forget.
“This has been one of the best weekend’s of my life,” Kreft said. “I can’t thank Foot Locker and New Balance enough for putting on such a great meet. My experience was outstanding … I loved it. It almost felt surreal being there, especially when athletes like Emma Coburn (bronze medalist and two-time Olympian), Cory McGee or Brenda Martinez were just hanging out with us.
“I got close with the Midwest boys and met some great people from the other regions as well. This trip will easily be something I always remember.”
Kreft was just two seconds behind the lead pack a mile in, but ran into some trouble after that. He rebounded well, though, crossing the finish line in 15:48.2 to narrowly miss a spot in the top 10.
“The race itself was OK,” Kreft said. “I didn’t get out where I wanted to be right away and was forced to battle for position in the mid-pack. Unfortunately, around 1,200 meters into the race, I got shoved down and spiked on my lower back.
“I got up right away, and tried surging back to my position, but ran out of gas and was passed by three runners in the last mile. It was tough, but with all things considered, I’ll take 12th place. Obviously I wanted higher, but to finish my career as an All-American I surely can’t complain.”
Buckeye Valley coach Nate Ritz made the trip to California as well. He simply couldn’t miss the chance to see Kreft compete one last time.
“It’s been an honor to be able to coach Zach,” Ritz said. “To come to San Diego and run in the Foot Locker National meet is a great way to cap off an outstanding high school cross country career.”
Next up, Kreft will compete on the Baron boys track team in the spring before heading off to Notre Dame to start his collegiate career.
Claudia Lane and Dylan Jacobs Capture First Place Titles at the 39th Annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships National Finals
SAN DIEGO (Dec. 9, 2017) – Claudia Lane of Malibu, Calif., and Dylan Jacobs of Orland Park, Ill., captured first place titles at the 39th Annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (FLCCC) National Finals at Morley Field, Balboa Park in San Diego, today. Race conditions were ideal with dry terrain, sunshine and temperatures reaching 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the girls’ 5K race, Claudia Lane successfully defended her 2016 FLCCC national title with a wire-to-wire victory in 17:03.4. With the win, Lane became FLCCC’s ninth two-time champion in its history. In the boys’ 5K, Dylan Jacobs took control at the halfway mark, en route to a 15:19.7 victory.
Lane, still only a junior, jumped out to a sudden lead in the girls’ race and sailed through a mile split of 5:17. A well-formed pack trailed her by 14 seconds with Marlee Starliper (Wellsville, Pa.) at the head. Lane kept the pressure on at the race’s halfway mark where the duo of Katelynne Hart (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and Olivia Theis (Lansing, Mich.) surged past Starliper and initiated a side-by-side charge for second place. Lane, like last year, charged across the final steep uphill/downhill portion of the course and began her push to the finish line. Hart, meanwhile, outkicked Theis over the final 200 meters to finish second (17:22.5) with Theis third (17:22.6). Katherine Lee (Wading River, N.Y.) finished fourth (17:38.3) and Jacqueline Gaughan (Exeter, N.H.) fifth (17:44.6).
In the boys’ race, two-time FLCCC national qualifier Jacobs (placed 11th in 2016) waited in a large lead pack that started out conservatively with a mile split of 4:56 with Kashon Harrison (Fruitland, N.M.) in command. After Dalton Hengst (York, Pa.) grabbed a slight lead on the first steep downhill, the race finally began to spread out. It became a two-man duel at the halfway mark, with Jacobs being closely tracked by Daniel Kilrea (La Grange Park, Ill.) through a two-mile split of 9:49. Kilrea managed to nudge ahead briefly before Jacobs made his second big move on the final big hill, leaving Kilrea to fend off the late charges of John Tatter (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and Graydon Morris (Aledo, Texas). In the final mile it was all Jacobs (15:19.7) while runner-up Morris (15:23.3) overtook Kilrea (15:27.3), who held on for third with Tatter crossing the finish line fourth (15:27.9). Jake Renfree (Knoxville, Tenn.) rounded out the top five (15:38.7).
The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships is comprised of four regional 5K races, which took place across the country in the Midwest (Kenosha, Wis.), Northeast (Bronx, N.Y.), South (Charlotte, N.C.) and West (Walnut, Calif.), culminating in the National Finals here today.
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Information for this story was provided by Foot Locker.