Justin Wachtel: Race Day @ Foot Locker Nationals

Race Day! I woke up at around 6:20 am, hopped in the shower, then went to breakfast. I kept the breakfast light with a bagel and some scrambled eggs. We loaded up the buses and were on the way to the course at 7:30. Stepping off the bus, it immediately hit me that this was not your ordinary high school meet...

There were photographers everywhere taking pictures of the runners. I just went to the tent for the athletes and did my usually pre race routine. I got my chips and bib on then relaxed until it was time to warm up. We had about an hour and a half before the introductions for the race. I went through my 10 min jog + 3 min tempo warm up like usual. I got to see bits and pieces of the girl's race while I was doing my dynamic stretches. I headed back to the tent then laced up my spikes and put on the singlet. It was time to roll. After we did our jog out introductions, we got to walk over to a grassy area to do some quick strides. I was feeling confident and excited to run against the best 40 kids in the nation. Before I knew it, I was back toeing the line. All I remember is hearing "runner's set" then we were off.

After a painful 16 minutes, I crossed the line to one of my most disappointing races of the year. Although it was not my best race, I still gained a lot of valuable experience that will be with me in all the races to come. After lots of pictures and seeing how the other guy's races went, I headed back to the tent before doing a quick cool down. I cooled down with John and a couple of the other south boys and found out how their races went.

Back at the hotel, we ate lunch in the courtyard. We had the afternoon to ourselves before the banquet at 7:30. I got all my interviews out of the way and hit up the recovery room before I left with my parents. We went to Point Loma and got to see some pretty cool views and monuments. I also knew I had to stop at In-N-Out before I left California. After a quick burger, we went back to Coronado to get ready for the banquet. The banquet included some very good food as they recognized the top runners in the country. Following the banquet was the dance that quickly became barron as all the kids left. A little while later everyone returned in more proper attire for dancing. The dance never really met my standards for fun as it never quite got going. After the dance, a group of us went to the beach and explored the Coronado. Now that the race was out of the way, everyone was much more energetic and friendly. Six of the Northeast guys went for a dip in the freezing cold water. They said the water wasn't that cold, but I can assure you that it was. I decided to just pull an all-nighter since I had to be up at 3:30 am for the flight anyways. It ended up being a very fun night to cap off the weekend. We were on the buses and loaded up by 4. The trip was quickly coming to a close. At the airport we said our quick goodbyes then parted ways.


Footlocker has been one of the greatest experiences in my life. It was an honor to have the opportunity to run against the best runners in the nation. I already have the goal set to qualify again next year and use my experience to hopefully get a better placement. I was able to make some super cool friends that I will see this upcoming track season. This also has to be some of the best food over the past 4 days I've ever eaten. San Diego is an extraordinary place to visit, let alone get to race at. It was an awesome experience running the Balboa park course no matter how my race went. It was an honor to be able to represent Georgia on the national scale. I am beyond grateful for all my family, friends, and coaches who have been behind me this entire year and have allowed me to reach this meet. It was an unforgettable experience. Thank you!