Hasay tries to become 2-time champ at Foot Locker

Updated: December 11, 2008, 2:04 PM ET
Associated Press

Jordan Hasay toyed with trimming her lengthy, blond ponytail, the one competitors seek out and try to follow.

The high school senior let a few people in on the secret, just to get some feedback. The verdict was resounding -- don't do it.

"I can't cut it -- people wouldn't know who I was," the 17-year-old from Arroyo Grande, Calif., said, laughing.

Oh, they'd know.

The rising distance runner was recently selected the youth athlete of the year by USA Track and Field after she burst onto the national scene at the Olympic trials this summer in Eugene, Ore.

The 5-foot-2 bundle of energy electrified the crowd, and fans chanted her name as she circled the track, trying to spur her on -- and possibly entice her to attend the University of Oregon.

Sorry, Duck fans, she still hasn't decided.

She's narrowed the field to Washington, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona and yes, Oregon -- swayed a little by the crowd's reception.

This Saturday, Hasay will compete in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego, attempting to become the sixth two-time champion in the event's history.

She won the event as a freshman, came in 10th as a sophomore and then placed third last season. Ashley Brasovan of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Kathy Kroeger of Franklin, Tenn., are also in the field. Brasovan won the 5,000-meter race in '07 and Kroeger in '06.

"We've been e-mailing each other all season," Hasay said. "I think we're excited to push each other. The race is going to be great."

The Foot Locker championships has quite a lineage, including Jorge Torres and Adam Goucher among the event's winners. Dathan Ritzenhein is the last two-time champion, winning in 1999 and 2000.

"We've had some amazing runners," race director Jeanine Zocks said. "We've had a lot of runners that have gone on to be a part of the Olympics ... This is the strongest field -- boys and girls -- in a long time."

Hasay grabbed the spotlight this summer in the 1,500 meters at the trials, added to the field on the eve of the race after a couple of runners pulled out. Hasay advanced to the finals, breaking the national high school mark with a time of 4 minutes, 14.50 seconds in the semifinals. There she finished 10th.

"Everyone was really nice to me, telling me to have fun and do my best out there," she said of her fellow competitors. "It was an honor to compete against other great women."

Hasay then boarded a plane bound for Poland to compete at the World Junior Championships, where she finished fourth in the 1,500, the best showing ever for an American woman.

On tired legs no less.

"I was happy with how I did," Hasay said. "It was really cool."

This fall, running for Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo, Hasay became just the second four-time California Interscholastic Federation state cross country champion.

Now that the season is winding down, she has a little more time to relax despite logging close to 60 miles a week.

When she's not running, she's surfing with her brother, Jedd, at a spot close to their house. She's been surfing since she was 5 years old.

Hasay liked the water so much, she thought about becoming a swimmer.

"But I wasn't great," she said. "It was just something I did."

A gym teacher noticed her talent for running in fourth grade, when she consistently beat all the boys in races. The teacher had her train with seventh- and eighth-graders, and soon she was gliding by them as well.

That's when she knew running was right for her.

Being around the elite runners at the trials only cemented that.

"It made people realize that I wasn't just a high school phenom -- I'm a legit runner," she said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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