This year’s Foot Locker Nationals will still crown the best cross country runner in the country and continue its rich 30 year tradition on Saturday as two champions will face off in Craig Lutz from Texas and Lukas Verzbicas from Illinois. Lutz is fresh off his win last weekend at Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon, while Verzbicas earlier this fall won the World Dualthon junior title. Along with battling it out with each other for the win, both Lutz and Verzbicas will be racing against history as the South region has not had a Foot Locker champion since 1985 (Lutz), while an underclassmen has never won the boys race at Foot Locker Nationals (Verzbicas).
After struggling with handling higher mileage weeks and not racing as well as he expected to, Kirubel Erassa of Grayson County High School in Georgia and his coach decided to alter their training approach this fall with less mileage and more speed work. The changes in training have produced positive results as shown with Kirubel's stellar fall of races in Georgia and most recently capped off with a Foot Locker Nationals berth. In the South regional race, Erassa garnered a runner-up finish to eventual Nike Cross Nationals champion and Foot Locker Nationals favorite Craig Lutz of Texas with one of the top 10 all-time performances ever at McAlpine and fastest ever by a runner from the state of Georgia in meet history. Erassa will attempt to be one of the highest finishers ever from Georgia at Balboa Park and follow in the footsteps of recent stars Girma Mecheso and Ben Hubers, who finished 9th and 11th respectively in the 2006 national race. His 14:43 performance at McAlpine actually ties him with two past Foot Locker National runners-up in Alan Webb (2000) and Bobby Lockhart (2001) on the course all-time list.