NEW YORK >> A second place finish at Saturday afternoon’s Foot Locker Northeast Regional cross country race turned out to be pretty good preparation for Fairfield Prep’s Christian Alvarado.
The senior distance runner clocked a time of 15 minutes and 21.5 seconds to qualify for the Foot Locker Nationals on Dec. 14 in San Diego, Calif. at Balboa Park.
“I was obviously going for the win today, but it was a really tune up for the national meet,” Alvarado said. “I was stressed a little about making sure I was Top 10 to qualify, but I had a good race and I’m feeling confident going into the finals.”
Alvarado, who battled Darien’s Alex Ostberg (third, 15:22.5) for most of the race at Van Cortlandt Park, was outkicked by Mickey Burke of Henrietta, N.Y. down the stretch. Burke won the challenging 5,000 meter course in 15:18.8.
“The last 400 (meters) it was all out,” Alvarado said. “Mickey beat me the last 100; it was fun though.”
Alvarado’s time was a personal record for the course and the best finish by a Jesuit runner at regionals in program history. A year ago Alvarado, who is headed to Georgetown next fall, finished in ninth place (15:49.1).
“It gives me so much confidence going into nationals,” Alvarado said of his finish. “It just makes me want to kill it in San Diego even more.”
Fairfield Warde’s Aidan Fiol ended his cross country season with a 62nd place finish (16:48).
Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi found herself in a similar situation as Alvarado at the end of race. The sophomore finished in third place (17:39.4) but was happy to qualify for the nationals in her first time running at regionals. Her goal is to peak the last race of the season.
“It’s a really hard course and you don’t realize how hard it is till you’re going fast on it,” DeBalsi said. “I knew I would be giving something up for this race. Hopefully it pays off.”
DeBalsi who led during the race, had a fight to the finish down the straightaway but Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) pulled away and won in 17:32.3. Anoush Shehadeh of Larchmont, N.Y. was second (17:37.3).
This was DeBalsi’s first race this season where she’s been challenged. It was also broke the sophomore’s undefeated streak this fall. Staples head coach Amanda Parrish said experiencing running in a tight pack and not leading should serve DeBalsi well in two weeks at nationals. She is the first ever Staples runner to qualify for the Foot Locker Nationals.
“I thought she had a great race,” Parrish said. “Now she has practice. She hasn’t had that much practice being in a crowd and being strategic.”
Fellow teammate Erica Hefnawy finished in 43rd place (19:28.5) to cap off a great junior cross country season.
“Well, she mostly came today to get experience,” Parrish said of Hefnawy. “Hoping next year she might be in contention for a Top 10 spot.”