KNOXVILLE, TN – More than 1,800 participants toed the starting line at the 2018 AAU Cross Country National Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, December 1, 2018. This was the 4th largest participant turn-out, with Orlando, Florida (2001, 2006) and Dayton, Ohio (2003) drew more participants in the past 18 years. Among the large contingency, twelve Berkeley Heights PAL runners (WolfPack Track Club) were on the docket of harrier challengers.
AAU National Championship medals were awarded to the first twenty-five (25) individual places based on year of birth for all age divisions. All American patches were presented to the top 8 individual finishers in each age division.
Athletes raced through the historic Victor Ashe Park which was mud laden from start to finish. The premier cross country national championship attracts runners from across the nation as well as Canada, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
The storied season by the Berkeley Heights PAL runners continued at the National level. Having successful campaigns at the USATF XC State Championship, USATF XC Regional Championship and the Footlocker Regional Championships, grabbing age-group team titles and individual titles, it was time to put a bow on the season with national caliber performances.
Each age group was loaded with elite runners. The BH PAL runners were anxiously waiting for their chance to see how they measured. Their tummies filled with butterflies did not take away their highly built confidence through many hours of hard work, commitment and dedication crafted through a foundation of aerobic power.
Starting off the day was Joey Frank in the Boys 14 / 4k. Challenging from the gun, Joey battled through the slick conditions and took a medal with a 25th place out of 89 runners in a time of 16:14.2.
In the Girls 12 / 3k, Danya Spoor was hungry for a top mark. Danya took off fast from the start cautiously power striding with the lead pack. As she weaved through the messy trails, the pack thinned out as she maintained contact with the leaders. Dashing to the finish, Danya made a strong attempt to close the gap and she finished 2nd in a time of 12:47.3, just 14 seconds outside first spot, an amazing feat nonetheless at the National level. Danya earned an All American Status with her top 8 placing. Teammate Samantha Richter came in 58 seconds later placing 23rd in 13:44.2 in her very first cross country season and national event. What a great season for Samantha as she is starting to come to grips that she is a solid runner that can run with the best.
In the Boys 12 / 3k, Tommy Hunt made a valiant effort to compete. Tommy has been battling with Mother Nature this fall season due to a growth spurt which has played havoc in capturing his usual elite level form. With a no quit mindset, Tommy went to work from the start. He made friends with the mud and powered through capturing a medal in 18th in a time of 12:53.6. A tremendous accomplishment with a loaded field of 126 runners.
Boys 11 / 3k Andrew Burkitt came in 29th out of 132 runners in a time of 13:29.7, just missing out on a medal by four spots. Andrew, like others, came away painted in a lovely brown spatter and a positive outlook for his hard effort.
In the Girls 10 / 3K, Sofia Romero strolled happily through the course garnering a 67th spot in a time of 16:23.2 out of 125 runners. The scholarly Sofia takes every outing as a building block to a brighter future.
In the Boys 10 / 3K, Nick Frank performed amazingly. He is not afraid to fail and puts 100 percent to every effort. Nick possesses a swag of confidence that only a few have at game time. The gleam in his eyes says it all, I want gold. The Steve Prefontaine like qualities of this runner makes for exciting performances. At the gun, Nick went out with the very best and grind it out leaving the rest of the runners in their wake. In the end, Nick came in 2nd out of 114 runners in 12:46.7, just 28 seconds behind the winner. He garnered an All American Status with his top 8 placing, a wow performance indeed.
In the Boys 9 / 3K, Louis Abbey came in 9th in 13:26.8 grabbing a medal that is well deserved out of 77 runners. Louie is looking forward to Spring Track to take top marks in the 1500 event.
The Girls 8 / 2K, Rebecca Frank brought a strong performance. Like her brother Nick Frank, she wanted victory. She went out with a blazing start scorching the trails and coming away with a 5th place spot in a time of 9:08.7 and an All American Status. Teammate Maggie Quinn came in a short time later in 31st spot, just missing a medal out of 59 runners.
The Boys 8 / 2K brought their A-game too with Chris Yue claiming an impressive 5th place in a time of 8:27.6. The 2018 1500 meter USATF State Champion and 2018 USATF Regional XC Champion put another notch in his belt to his already accomplished season. Chris also achieved an All American Status with his top 8 placing. Teammate Joshua Kim came in a strong 17th place medaling in a time of 9:06.9. This young man is impressive with the way he carries himself in totally committed in improving himself.
GM/Coach Steve SanAntonio said, “What a pleasant surprise by our team as we put no expectation on our runners. To have 9 out of 12 runners medal, and to top it off, to be in the top 25 in the nation is an amazing accomplishment.”
“The dedicated volunteer time by our coaches paid off wonderfully with the likes of Coach Cathy Mersereau, Asst. Coach John Kavanagh, Coach Scott Maselli, Asst. Coach Alexandra Frank, Coach Fang Schmitz, Asst. Coach Cindy Dai and our supporting cast of mom and dad helpers of Scott Mersereau, Huseyin Uzunalioglu, Lisa Burkitt, Debbie Merrick made the difference in the kids' development.”
GM/Coach SanAntonio said, “We will celebrate with our End of Season party in a week and grab some well-deserved rest before we start the Track Season in the Spring”.
Official Results Link: https://coachoregistration.com/track/info/xc_aau/2018/aaunatcroc1801/results.pdf
Boys 14 / 4k Run
25 Joey Frank 16:14.2
Girls 12 / 3k Run
2 Danya Spoor 12:47.3
23 Samantha Richter 13:44.2
Boys 12 / 3k Run
18 Thomas Hunt 12:53.6
Boys 11 / 3k Run
29 Andrew Burkitt 13:29.7
Girls 10 / 3k Run
67 Sofia Romero 16:23.2
Boys 10 3k Run
2 Nicholas Frank 12:46.7
Boys 9 / 3k Run
9 Louis Abbey 13:26.8
Girls 8 / 2000 Meter Run
5 Rebecca Frank 09:08.7
31 Maggie Quinn 10:29.0
Boys 8 / 2000 Meter Run
5 Christopher Yue 08:27.6
17 Joshua Kim 09:06.9