The Christian Brothers Academy boys cross country program is already in the history books. Earlier this fall, CBA and legendary coach Tom Heath extended their dual meet supremacy to an astonishing 38 consecutive years and 315 victories in a row.
But no single day in all of that time compares to Saturday’s opportunity to join the list of NXN national champions.
The New Jersey crew came out of the summer as the preseason No. 1 and did everything right along the way. They won the Manhattan Invitational. They won the New Jersey Meet of Champions at Holmdel, breaking the all-time state record five-man average of 16:04.
And last week CBA hung 38 points on the Northeast Regional, with No. 1 man George Kelly and No. 5 Will Bragg separated by 22 seconds.
CBA isn’t the only team that climbed to No. 1 this season.
Southlake Carroll TX, which returned all seven from last year’s NXN 17th place team, has matured into a strong national contender. Carroll put 22 on the board to win the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas, busted The Woodlands’ championship streak at the Texas state meet with 20 points.
And the Texans also scored 26 to win NXN South – with a 30-second margin separating No. 1 and No. 5.
After holding the No. 1 spot for much of 2010 only to stumble to eighth at NXN last year, American Fork High School in Utah was expected to be down a bit due to the graduation of key top-five runners. But impressive early season results, such as the Aug. 28 Grass Relays, catapulted the Cavemen back up the rankings.
At the Utah state meet, the first one held in the Lower 48, American Fork and Davis waged the fiercest team championship battle of any state – winning 25 to 33. That result cemented both schools in the top five nationally for the remainder of the season.
And Shaker of New York, highly regarded when the season started, briefly fell off the radar with some injury problems before putting it all back together again. Shaker scored 78 points at the New York regional on the same course and same day that CBA won the Northeast. (Shaker was faster at No. 1, CBA was faster at 2-5).
Arcadia, the reigning champion, isn’t going to give up the title without a fight, either. Even without star Ammar Moussa, the team won at Woodbridge and at the Bob Firman Invitational in Boise, Idaho.
Arcadia finished behind Trabuco Hills at the California state meet, but could put it all back together in Portland.
So will it be as close as 2007 when Neuqua Valley IL edged Los Alamos NM by two points, 125 to 127?
Or can one team rise to the occasion the way Arcadia did last year, with the widest margin of victory (43) in NXN history?
One benchmark that teams will be shooting for is 100 points. Only two schools have ever broken 100 – York IL in 2004 and Arcadia in 2010 (both scored 92).
Individually, NXN features Indiana standout Futsum Zeinasellassie, who has been a dominant figure in the Midwest – winning NXN Midwest and Foot Locker Midwest handily.
Zeinasellassie, Texan Craig Nowak, South Dakota’s Tony Smoragiewicz and North Dakota’s Jake Leingang are all highly ranked – and all doubling back to Foot Locker next week.
A pair of Washingtonians, Anthony Armstrong and Izaic Yorks, have run consistently fast times over the past month and will conclude their seasons at NXN.