Saturday was apparently a good day to be a Connecticut runner. While the snow poured down throughout the state, three elite high school runners were in sunny conditions participating in the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals in San Diego, Calif.
Headlined by Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi’s second place finish in the girls’ race (17:26), Darien’s Alex Ostberg and Fairfield Prep’s Christian Alvarado finished in the Top 20 in the boys’ race.
DeBalsi, a sophomore, slowly moved her way up throughout the 3.1-mile course at Morely Field at Balboa Park. DeBalsi challenged first place winner Tessa Barrett of Waverly, Pa. with about 800 meters but Barrett pulled away to win the race in 17:16.
Right at the two mile mark I started to move up a lot and then the second time I went up the hill I caught some girls,” DeBalsi said. “But I’m happy. My main goal was to make whoever beats me, hurt. And I think I made her (Barrett) work for it.”
DeBalsi is the first Connecticut girls runner since Liz Mueller of Waterford in 1991 to place as high as second. In 1991 Mueller was the national champion.
“It’s an honor to run at such a high level of competition,” DeBalsi said. “Alex Ostberg and Christian Alvarado were here and it’s cool to be a part of the Northeast and making a name for ourselves at a national level.”
With the finish, DeBalsi earned All-American status. DeBalsi is the first ever runner from Staples to run in the race. She was the New England, State Open, Class LL and FCIAC champion this season.
“This is the just the icing on the cake I guess,” DeBalsi said of her season.
Ostberg, a junior, clocked 15:31 to finish in 11th place and earn All-American. He said coming in to his first national race he didn’t really have a game plan. It was more so to gain experience.
“To be really honest, I didn’t have much of a strategy,” he said. “What I can say is I really wanted to go in and race and I knew I wanted to be in touch with the leader so I could be with them and make the moves that they make. I learned where the best athletes make their move.”
The overall boys’ champion was Grant Fisher of Grand Blanc, Mich. (15:07).
Alvarado was making his second appearance at the event. He improved on his time and placement from a year ago.
“Overall, I’m satisfied,” he said. “I was going for Top 15, All-American. I gave everything I had and I’m happy about that, I just didn’t get the overall result that I wanted. It was a really hard race for me. And physically I just felt fatigued. But overall I’m pleased with how I did. Top 20 in the country, not too shabby.”
Alvarado, who is headed to Georgetown next fall, completed his cross country season with the Jesuits going undefeated in the state of Connecticut and was the SCC, Class LL and State Open champion.
“I don’t think he (Alvarado) did quite as well as he would have expected,” Ostberg said. “But I have to give him a lot of credit. He’s been performing at an extremely high level for many months and he’s actually made me a better runner and given me excellent competition.”