Foot Locker Northeast Boys’ & Girls’ Preview (Updated)

Two days after feasting on some turkey, mashed potatoes, and all the fixings as well as an overabundance of high-calorie desserts with your families and friends, several of our top runners from throughout the region will be hoping to feast on the competition at Saturday’s Footlocker Northeast Regionals.

As been customary with the post Thanksgiving Day event, which will be held at historic Franklin Park, the top-10 finishers in the boys’ and girls’ Championship races will punch their ticket to San Diego for the FL Nationals at Balboa Park.

Get ready for plenty of excitement and close races this weekend with loaded fields expected to toe the starting line in both competitions.

In the girls’ race, the odds-on-favorite is Belmont native Ellie Shea of Emerging Elite. The now senior, one of the all-time best distance runners runners from MA (and the country), is the defending champion in this race. She followed that performance last year by taking runner-up honors at the nationals. To our knowledge, this will be Shea’s first competition since the Pan Am U20 Championships where she swept the 3K and 1,500-meter run, clocking an outdoor best of 9 minutes, 5.78 seconds in the former. On the trails, Shea has a best of 16:55.10 from last year’s Nationals. She’s capable of a lot faster if pushed this weekend. Keep in mind, the gifted runner ran 19:48 for the 6K at the USATF National Cross-Country Championships, an effort that placed her second overall and computes to a low 16 minutes for the 5K distance.


The race will feature three other returning finalists from 2022, including Maine’s Ruth White, New Jersey’s Emma Zawatski and New York’s Zariel Macchia. The trio all come into the meet with outstanding credentials. White, who won her third straight New England title two weeks ago, has twice gone under 17 minutes this season, both times on a quick 5K terrain in Belfast. She has a best of 16:56.92 from her victory at the Maine Festival of Champions on Sept. 30. The Boise State commit was fourth at the regionals last fall and placed 17th at the national meet. Zawatski, a senior at Freehold Township, won the NJSIAA XC Meet of Champions a couple of weeks ago where she was timed in 17:52. She’s got 2:11 speed for the 800m and 4:48 for the mile. The University of Colorado-bound senior was tenth at the regionals last year. Zawatski was a runner-up in the Class A race of the NYSPHSAA New York State Championships and captured the NY Federation Championships. She ran a best of 17:01 to win the Nike XC Town Twilight Invitational in Terre Haute, In., earlier this season.

The Bay State will be sending a solid contingent to FL Northeast, led by Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s Aoife Shovlin, who won her second consecutive Div. 1 title at the Meet of Champions this past weekend. Shovlin certainly has the ability to punch her ticket out west. She coming off two dominated performances at the MIAA Div. 1A Championships and the MOC where she was timed in a season-best of 18:06.29. Westfield’s Megan Moran, Holliston’s Maggie Kuchman, Oliver Ames’ Katie Sobieraj and Marblehead’s Marri O’Connell are among other top runners. At MOC, Sobieraj and Moran went 2-3 in the Div. 1 and Kuchman and O’Connell were 1-2 in Div. 2.

Connecticut has at least a half dozen runners that could fare well this weekend with Newington’s Katie Bohlke having the best chance to secure a top-10 placement from the Nutmeg State. She was a winner at the CIAC State Open and finished fifth in the New England’s.

Don’t count out Chase Gilbert of Old Lyme. She did not compete at the State Open due to an injury. Prior to the early November meet, she captured the CIAC Division S Championships. She was also third in the Championship race of the Ocean State XC Invitational where she went sub-18 with a 17:49.80 clocking.

There’s other runners like Glastonbury’s Brooke Strauss, Conard twin sisters Tess and Liv Sherry and New Canaan’s Charlotte Moore. Straus was a runner-up at the State Open and placed third at New England’s. Tess and Liv were third and fourth, respectively, at the State Open and were fourth and ninth at the NE meet.

On the boys’ side it could be a banner day for MA in their own backyard. At last year’s regional meet, the state had four harriers flying out to San Diego. There’s a chance that could be matched (or exceeded) this weekend.

Leading the way is Westford Academy’s Paul Bergeron, who is among three other FL-NE returnees, a list that includes defending titlist Drew Griffith (Butler PA), Colin Whitaker (Lancaster PA) and Tamrat Gavenas (Andover MA). Bergeron, who was third last year, has stated since the start of the season that his goal is to win the Nationals and he didn’t change that tune after the MOC this past weekend where the Stanford-bound senior claimed his second straight title at Fort Devens. A slight back injury kept Bergeron sidelined for about a month this season, but the 8:51 two-miler proved he’s ready to do some damage at Franklin Park after his convincing victory in the Div. 1 race where he was timed in 15:06.43, nearly 20 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer, Boston College High’s Chris Larnard.

Joining Bergeron on the line from MA with the chance to make an impact are Gavenas, Larnard, Nashoba Regional’s Adam Balewicz, Westford Academy’s Jack Graffeo, Greater Lowell Tech’s Devin Moreau, Littleton’s Timothy Rank, Northbridge’s Marcus Reilly.. Gavenas, who competes for Philips Academy, was ninth in this race last year. This season, the talented junior was a runner-up at the NEPSTA Division 1 Championships on Nov. 11. He also was second at the Manchester (NH) Invitational. The remaining five harriers were among the top three finishers in their respective divisions at the MOC with Balewicz capturing the Div. 2 crown and Rank the best in Div. 3.

Connecticut’s top entries are Isaac Mahler of William Hall and Soheib Dissa of Newtown. Mahler was third at the CIAC State Open and a runner-up at the New England Championships. Dissa took the silver at the State Open and finished eighth at the New England’s.

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