Foley clocks personal best at national championships
Eighth-grader battles snow-covered course against 240 other runners
With snow on the ground, a 33-degree chill in the air, and rain as soon as the starting gun went off, Kellie Foley finished in 62nd place overall at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships last weekend at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park in Spokane, Wash.
An eighth-grader from Prineville, Foley, 13, competed in the Girls Youth 4K - which is made up of the top eighth- and ninth-grade cross country runners from 48 states - and clocked a time of 16:00.13, good enough for 25th place among other eighth-graders.
"I'm pretty happy...It was my best time yet," said Foley, whose older sisters, Leslie and Michelly, compete on the cross country team at Crook County High School. "(My time) dropped from state to regionals and then it dropped from regionals to nationals."
Although Foley finished the 4K with her best time of the year - a feat that she was happy with - she said she would have liked to have finished with a higher placing. But competing against 240 other runners on a narrow, slippery, snow-plowed course, Foley added that it was "pretty hard to pass people because it was so jam-packed."
The race started on an open field with runners divided up by region. It began wide, but after 100 yards, narrowed, causing congestion among the runners.
CCHS Cross Country Coach Tracy Smith was in attendance to help coach Foley.
"He gave me a plan," Foley said. "I started out pretty fast and in the middle. But one team got out in front and everyone had to slow down or go around them."
But even passing proved difficult for Foley. According to Foley, it had snowed recently and the course was designated to where organizers had plowed.
"I had to pass people by running in the snow," she said. "Your feet would get stuck in the snow so you had to sprint pass them. It probably was worth it, because you'd just get pushed further and further back."
Foley's journey to the national championships in Spokane, Wash., started at the state meet on Nov. 11 in Sandy, Ore. There, Foley took eighth place out of 33 runners with a time of 16:07.20.
Her placing at state qualified her for regionals in Seattle on Nov. 18. Competing against runners from Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho, Foley finished in ninth place with a time of 16:04.51.
Competing against what some people believe to be the toughest region, Foley thought she may have a leg up on the competition. But since she qualified for the national championships last year but didn't go (the nationals were in Rhode Island), she says she didn't really know the competition.
"Our region is known as the hardest region, but I guess there are some good runners in other states," she said."
Now, with the national championships under her belt, and with one more year of eligibility in the youth division, Foley will be gunning for a top 25 finish at next year's national championship, which would garner her All-American status.
"I'll have a different strategy to stay up front," Foley said. "I'll try that next year."