No hill in the Greater Columbus area could prepare Seth Williams for the monster hill he would face twice in Saturday’s Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
That Morley Field hill in San Diego’s Balboa Park might have cost Williams a shot at a top-15 finish, which would bring All-American honors. The Columbus North senior was running in the top 15 until encountering the hill for the second time and ended up 24th.
“The final hill the second loop of the course kind of slowed me down,” Williams said.
Williams, who finished in
15 minutes, 57 seconds for 5,000 meters, trained for the race by practicing at the Grandview Loop and at Clifty Creek Elementary.
“Nothing can really prepare you for that big of a hill, but it helped,” Williams said. “This is probably the hilliest course I’ve run on this year. We’ve had hilly courses like Clifty that we’ve run on when we’ve run against (Columbus) East in the past, but nothing like that this year.”
Williams was only the second runner from North to compete in the Foot Locker Finals, joining two-time qualifier Christian Wagner. Williams, who finished fourth in the Indiana state meet, had qualified by finishing seventh in the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Nov. 29 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
On Saturday, Williams used some of the same strategy he used in the Midwest Regional. He stayed near the back of the pack for the first mile, then began moving up toward the front.
“It was tough,” Williams said. “They kept picking up the pace. Those guys are all the top of the nation, so anything can change in a few minutes.”
Zach Snider of Brebeuf Jesuit caught Williams just before the end of the race to finish 23rd. Grant Fisher of Grand Blanc, Michigan, ran 15:03 to win for the second consecutive year.
“It was awesome,” Williams said. “Going with all the top guys and trying to stick with them, it was tough, but it was a lot of fun.”
Two-time Indiana state champion Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka also became a two-time Foot Locker champion, winning the girls race in 17:13.
The Foot Locker experience allowed the 40 boys and 40 girls qualifiers to hear professional runners speak. Each of the qualifiers received shirts, shorts, pants, spikes, shoes, a jersey and a backpack.
Williams, a Purdue recruit, will now take a couple of weeks off before beginning to train for track season.
“I didn’t know if I could make it to this kind of meet,” Williams said. “It was just a dream to come here.”
Top finishers in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships:
1. Grant Fisher;Grand Blanc, Michigan;15:03
2. Olin Hacker;Madison, Wisconsin;15:12
3. Elijah Armstrong;Pocatello, Idaho;15:13
4. Drew Hunter;Purcellville, Virginia;15:14
5. Austin Tamagno;Brea, California;15:15
24. Seth Williams;Columbus;15:57