ALBUQUERQUE - More than 2,300 of the best youth athletes in the United States will compete at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships on Saturday. The athletes advanced to the national championships after qualifying through their respective state and regional competitions.
Races will be held at the Fiesta Balloon Park. Each age division will compete over the following distances: sub bantam (8 and under) racing 2 km; bantam (9-10) racing 3 km; midget (11-12) racing 3 km; youth (13-14) racing 4 km; intermediate (15-16) racing 5 km; and young men/women (17-18) racing 5 km.
2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) will attend the Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships as a guest of honor. Manzano will speak at opening ceremonies, serve as a guest starter for select age-group races and will help distribute awards at the awards ceremony. There will be multiple meet and greet opportunities with Manzano as he will sign autographs at Saturday’s pasta dinner as well as at the course on Saturday.
This year's athletes will build upon the 31 years of Junior Olympic history. Past standouts including Amy Yoder Begley, Andrew Wheating and Deena Kastor have emerged as successful distance runners and gone on to represent the United States on the Olympic stage.
Athletes to watch by age group:
Sub-Bantam Girls: The top returners is include Faith Martinez (Maple Valley, Wash.) and Sofia Gibson who placed 4th and 5th respectively in this age group last year. Another competitor of note is Sydney Holden (Los Angeles, Calif.) who was recently named the 2012 Youth Athlete of the Year for her record-setting season on the track.
Sub-Bantam Boys: Albuquerque’s own Jamin Harlan is the top returning athlete after finishing third last year. Others to watch include Noah Lindo (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Ethan Godsey (Woodland Hills, Calif.) who ran within one second of each other at the Region 15 Championships in 7:26.40 and 7:27.17 respectively.
Bantam Girls: Two of the top five girls from the 2011 Sub-Bantam race will move up to the Bantam division to challenge for the win. Those athletes include: Victoria Swepson (Durham, N.C.) and Lauren Forster (Post Falls, Idaho). Caroline Fischer (Merrimack, N.H.) finished third as a Bantam last year and will return to the division as a top contender.
Bantam Boys: Maxwell Wilson (Carlsbad, Calif.) returns to defend his 2011 title, but he will face challengers James Gastineau (Carmel, Ind.) and Brandon Howell (Albuquerque, N.M.), who recorded top-five finishes in the Sub-Bantam group last year and will advance to the Bantam division.
Midget Girls: Sisters Emma and Chloe Arriaga (La Verne, Calif.) look to be top competitors after Emma won the Bantam division in 2011 and Chloe recently won the Region 15 Championship.
Midget Boys: Two of the top-three finishers from the 2011 Bantam Championships will move up to compete in the Midget division this year: Zachary Wilson (Carmel, Ind.) and Samuel Toolin (Saunderstown, R.I.).
Youth Girls: Mimi Meggison (Lynden, Wash.) is the top returning athlete in the Youth division after finishing seventh in 2011. Sophia Cantine (Sammamish, Wash.) will compete in the Youth division after finishing as last year’s runner-up in the Midget division.
Youth Boys: Phillip Rocha (Azusa, Calif.) is the top competitor as he returns as the Youth runner-up from 2011. Rocha has had a successful season in 2012 with youth titles in the indoor 800m, 1500m and 3,000m and outdoors in the 1500m. Gabriel Fendel (Bothell, Wash.) and Jackson Pinnow (Austin, Texas) recorded top-five finishes last year in the Midget division and will move up to challenge Rocha for the Youth title.
Intermediate Girls: After finishing fifth and sixth with less than half a second separating them in 2011, Rebekah Topham (Griswold, Iowa) and Veronica Yamane (Arcadia, Calif.) return as the top contenders in the Intermediate division.
Intermediate Boys: Miguel Bautista (Long Beach, Calif.) is the top returning athlete after finishing fourth in 2011. One of his top challenges will come from Anthony Palazzo (Santa Ana, Calif) who moves up after a top-five finish in the Youth division last year.
Young Women: Summer Harper (Orem, Utah) won the Intermediate division in 2011 and will advance to the Young Women’s race as one of the top entrants. Lindy Long (Newnan, Ga.) is the top returner from the Young Women’s division as she finished 4th last year.
Young Men: Estevan De La Rosa (Arcadia, Calif.) is the man to beat in the Young Men’s race. De La Rosa recorded the fastest time across all divisions last year to win the Intermediate age-group. Earlier this month De La Rosa finished as the runner-up at the Nike Cross Cross Nationals as he finished only three seconds off of the win.
For more information on the 2011 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships, visit www.usatf.org