SAN DIEGO, Calif. Fairfield Prep's Connor Rog had his lowest finish of the 2011 cross country season, yet he considered it his best race of the year. That's understandable: placing 18th among the top 40 high school runners in the country at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship is nothing to be ashamed of."I really wanted to be top 20, and I got that," said Rog, a senior who is headed for the University of North Carolina next year. For the first half of the 5,000 meter course in Balboa Park, Rog had visions of doing even better than that."The first loop I was running with the lead pack of about 10 guys or so," he said. "The second time we went up the big hill I started to lose contact a little, and then I really felt it the last half mile I think six or eight people passed me."
Still, Rog was pleased with his 15:35 finish time. Junior Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark won the race in 14:52, one second ahead of Futsum Zeinasellassie of North Central H.S. in Indianapolis. Zeinasellassie won the Nike NXN meet the previous weekend in Oregon.
Rog qualified for the national championship by placing in the top 10 at the Northeast regional meet in Long Island two weeks ago. In that race he tripped and fell and almost missed the final qualifying slot, so the California event proved to be a bounceback race of sorts.The Foot Locker nationals encompass far more than just the race. High school runners are treated like elite pros, being billeted at the exclusive Hotel Del Coronado and meeting former Foot Locker runners, many of whom have gone on to become Olympians.
"It's been great, staying right on the beach," said Rog. "The weather's been in the upper 60s, which was nice coming from Connecticut in December. And I got to meet a lot of elite runners, learn about their background and training. All in all, it's been an amazing weekend."
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