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By Kathleen Stubbs @kathleenstubbs3
Two local high school cross-country runners competed against athletes from across the United States at the Nike Cross National Championship in Portland, Oregon on Saturday.
Northwood Gladiators Obsaa Feda and Eldad Mulugeta, who are the 2018 division 4A cross-country state champion and state runner-up, raced against 223 other high school runners at Glendoveer Golf Course for the championship.
“There was a lot of people [racing],” said Mulugeta “… after the second mile, I just looked for the pack in front of me, and passed [them].”
Redwoods High School (in California) senior Liam Anderson is the 2018 Nike Cross National Champion; he broke the course record during his race Saturday, clocking a 14-minute, 57.6-second time. Cathedral High School (in Indiana) senior Cole Hocker was runner-up, finishing less than 3 seconds later, with a time of 15:00.9 minutes.
In 38th place, Mulugeta finished first of the Gladiators pair, in 15:38.7 minutes. Feda finished in 16:19.5 minutes, taking 112th place.
Runners can qualify for Nationals either as individuals or as members of a club or team when they compete in one of the eight regional championship meets across the country. Before the two Gladiators could compete in the national race, they had to be two of the top eight finishers in the southeast regional race. Mulugeta placed fourth and Feda placed eighth. Feda and Mulugeta had competed in the Nike Cross Southeast Regional in 2017, but neither made the top eight.
According to Kevin Milsted, Mocorunning.com publisher, Feda and Mulugeta broke the Montgomery County record for the number of boys who made the cut for the Nike Cross National Championship in the same year.
Anderson, the 2018 Nike Cross Nationals champion, competed in the national meet in 2017, and took third place in that race.
The two Gladiators agreed a challenge in the race in Oregon was choosing how fast to run from the start. One option involved running faster than the pace a runner plans to run most of the race, to establish their position, and then slow down a little.
Feda said Northwood’s head cross country coach, Gio Reumante, told him to run fast during the first quarter-mile, so he would not be trapped behind slower runners.
“If I don’t get out, I’ll be stuck with them,” Feda said Sunday, remembering his coach’s instructions.
In addition, other coaches at the meet told Feda and Mulugeta before the race that running fast for the first 300 to 400 meters was important.
“I was like, ‘Alright, that’s what I’m going to do,’” said Feda about “getting out” fast.
Feda kept up with the front pack of runners at the beginning.
The race conditions were worse than Feda expected, so running that fast at the beginning tired him out.
“I got out, but died before the [one-] mile mark,” said Feda. “I went out too fast.”
The opposite extreme, running too slow, can harm performance, too, Mulugeta said.
“If you don’t go out fast… you don’t have a chance to run fast,” said Mulugeta.
The 21 runners in the front pack crossed the one-mile mark within a second of each other, in between 4:43.1 minutes and 4:43.9 minutes. Feda and Mulugeta were not with them.
Mulugeta completed his first mile in 4:50.5 minutes (72nd place), followed by Feda about two seconds later at 4:52.3 minutes (81st place).
“The mud and everything else, it wore me out quick,” said Feda.
The thick mud and the course being torn up by hundreds of girls’ racing spike shoes just before the boys’ race cost more energy to run fast, Feda said.
Mulugeta said his strategy was to run his race, and he knew that during the third mile, he would pass people who had run out of energy. He felt good after running mile one, and he planned to pass other runners during the third mile.
“The people that went out [too] fast, they just died, and I was passing everyone” during the final 1.1 miles, Mulugeta said.
Feda said he then ran the remainder of the race slower than he had planned, but he had a few people to run with. He ran competitively against the people who were running near him.
“There was some guys that were passing me, and we were just going back and forth like passing each other,” Feda said.