Manlius Wins Number Seven, Baxter Repeats
History was made at the 2012 Nike Cross Nationals, as Manlius XC Club (NY) won their seventh straight NXN title, while individual star Sarah Baxter (CA) ran away from a strong field to defend her NXN title, becoming the first runner in NXN history to win back-to-back titles.
Manlius Marches to Lucky Number Seven
With deep, sticky mud consuming much of the course, conditions were set for a slow, grinding race. Despite the conditions, Manlius got off to a terrific start, positioning much of their scoring seven in the top 60, keeping together and smartly positioning themselves towards the edge of the course, as to not get caught up in the worst of the mud, which ran through much of the middle part of the path.
At 2k it was apparent that it was already Manlius' race to lose. They held a decisive 44-156 lead over then second place squad Carroll (TX) and were running in control. Little changed at 3k, as they split a sub-60 point total, but behind them Carmel (IN) was charging hard in the pack, splitting a score of 197 points, 19 points ahead of Carroll.
As the runners came into the final mile of the 5k race, Manlius maintained their commanding lead with a 55 point split at 4k, while Carmel and Carroll fought it out for second, crossing the mark in a heated 210-213 battle.
Into the home stretch, Manlius' top five of Jillian Fanning, Jillian Barger, Katie Brislin, Alana Pearl and Jenna Farrell finished quick, as Fanning and Barger placed 21st and 22nd overall in 20:12 and 20:13, while Brislin and Pearl closed in 20:22 and 20:29, with Farrell rounding out their scoring with a 20:49 finish. The team tallied an impressive split time of 37 seconds, while scoring a mere 54 points.
Behind Manlius, Carroll and Carmel kicked hard, but in the end Carroll edged Carmel for runner-up status, 198-209. Carroll saw a huge performance from front runner Shelby Chapin, who finished 33rd overall in 20:28, while second runner Courtney Kreigshauser finished 54th overall in 20:53. Carroll finished seventh in 2011, only returning two runners (Chapin and Kriegshauser), so their jump to second is one of the nicer stories of the fall.
Carmel used another terrific pack race, as their top five split of 35 seconds was the best of the day. Led by Gina Genco (21:07), Kelsey Harris (21:12) and Kelcy Welch (21:22), the squad ran hard and showed why they were ranked top five in most national polls throughout the season.
Closing hard and surprising many was Aurora XC Club (NY). One of the at-large teams, Aurora showed their pack runner and toughness, as they ran a 48 second 1-5 split and just finished out of the top three with 212 points. Afterward, Aurora screamed in elation, as they finished well ahead of their goal of making the top ten. What a finish!
New York Does It Again
With Manlius picking up their seventh straight championship trophy, New York continued their dominance of Nike Cross Nationals. New York has won every girls team title since the beginning of NXN (formerly NTN). Kinetic XC Club won in 2004, Hilton XC Club won in 2005 and Manlius has won ever since. To top it off in 2012, Aurora finished fourth overall, while Kinetic placed fifth with 218 points and earned their eighth NXN top ten finish.
"I am not used to the mud"
Coming off of a decisive victory at the California State Cross Country Championships, Sarah Baxter (CA) seemed poised to repeat as NXN girls individual champion, but was sure to at least receive a challenge for a handful of challengers. As the cannon sounded to start NXN 2012, a fairly large pack of individuals sprinted to the front of the field, each jockeying for position and a chance to keep clear of the mud and puddles that marked much of the course.
Through 1k the field held together, but as the 2k approached, Illinois standout Madeline Perez (IL) took the lead and started to string out the pack. Following Perez' move, top returnees Baxter, Mary Cain (NY) and Katie Knight (WA) packed up and started to push the pace.
Around 3k (11:18 into the race), Baxter started to pull away from the field, with only Cain hanging on her heels. As Baxter glided through the challenging course, Cain tried to hang tough, but saw herself falling back every so slightly. Sensing her time to break the field, Baxter put in another surge and gapped Cain by just over six seconds by the 4k, hitting the split in 15:22.8.
Into the homestretch, Baxter soaked in the cheers of victory, crossing the line in victorious fashion, in 19:17.
After the race, a happy Baxter said, "I am not used to the mud. It was a fast and tough race."
While Cain fell off pace between 3k and 4k, she made a mad push over the final 600 meters, making some of the gap between her and Baxter, finishing only four seconds off the champion in 19:21. Cain, who considers herself much more of a track runner, was all smiles after the race, feeling confident that a successful cross country season was now behind her and she can now set her sights on having a track season for the record books.
While Baxter and Cain stole the show, Knight wrapped up her prep cross country career with a repeat third place finish. After finishing 16th as a freshman, Knight rounded out her final three years at NXN placing eighth, third and third. The University of Washington bound runner finished slightly ahead of in-state rival Alexa Efraimson (WA) 19:32-19:34. Rounding out the top five was NXN South Regional winner Karis Jochen (TX) in 19:42.
Baxter wasn't the only one talking about the mud after the race. Baxter won NXN 2012 in 19:17, a full 1:39 slower than her winning mark of 17:38 in 2011. Remember, Baxter has been shattering course records throughout California all fall, showing significant improvement over her 2011 fitness. To top it off 95 runners ran faster than Baxter's 2012 winning time in 2011.
With an incredibly challenging course, great depth in the team race and a stacked field of talented individuals, Nike Cross Nationals 2012 was fierce and in the end the talented and experienced Sarah Baxter and Manlius XC Club came away with decisive victories.