REGION — Two North County rising stars competed in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship meet on Dec. 8 at Balboa Park’s Morley Field Sports Complex in San Diego.
Jonathan Velasco, of Mission Hills High School, and Kristin Fahy, of La Costa Canyon High School, were among 40 student-athletes from across the country who qualified for the prestigious race after strong individual finishes on Dec. 1 at the West Regional at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
Velasco finished 20th in the boys’ 5000 meters in 16 minutes and one second, while Fahy finished in 18:20 to place 25th for the girls.
Participants in the competition often go on to compete in the NCAA and more than a few Foot Locker alumni have gone onto become Olympians, including San Diego’s Meb Keflezighi.
Fahy, who recently claimed the CIF Division II championship title, has already committed to running at Stanford University.
Velasco is currently deciding between San Jose State, Cal State Fullerton and California Polytechnic State University, according to statements made during a post-race interview.
After a rare two straight days of rain in San Diego County, Fahy remarked that the mud on the course at Balboa Park wasn’t too much of an obstacle.
“They did a pretty good job clearing up the course by putting down wood chips and stuff, so it wasn’t too muddy,” Fahy said. “It was my first time racing in spikes because Californians can’t race in spikes, so that helped a little bit.”
Fahy, whose brothers Darren and Steven also went to La Costa Canyon and went on to run at Georgetown and Stanford respectively, said she was grateful for the overall experience and chance to compete in the event.
“As a senior here for my first time, it was just an awesome experience to be able to compete with the best in the nation,” Fahy said. “It was so cool. Obviously, I would have wanted to do a little better, but it’s just so hard to stick with that pace right off of the gun.”
Fahy noted that frontrunners at the national meet went out harder for the first mile than she ever had during her high school career.
“If I had more experience running in this type of race, I might’ve done better, but it’s just now a new beginning to my college career,” Fahy said. “I get to run at Stanford for another four years and I’m really excited for that.”
Both Fahy and Velasco had a legion of people supporting them at what was virtually a home meet.
Velasco’s support included both friends and a group of nearly two dozen immediate and extended family members.
When the going got tough and things started to hurt, Velasco said, their support inspired him to push through the pain.
“The last mile it definitely helped to have all of the support because I was able to push through it a little bit, through the pain and catch four guys,” said Velasco. “One guy caught me the last 50 meters, but it was a good race and it was a strong finish.”
Velasco said he learned new lessons from the Foot Locker race which he plans to apply during the spring prep track season and his collegiate career.
“You can’t always win every race and sometimes, in a national race like this with the top 40 in the nation, to me getting top 20 is a big deal, but I still have more for myself in the future, as well,” said Velasco. “I couldn’t ask for much more. I gave it my all and when you give it your all, there’s not much more you can do.”
One of Velasco’s family members, Eduardo Medrano — the husband of Velasco’s grandmother — expressed the pride everyone felt for him and what motivated the crew to come out en masse to Velasco’s late-season meets.
“We’ve been supporting Jonathan since he began this adventure and we’ve been going pretty much every week from San Diego to Los Angeles and in between supporting him,” Medrano said. “Before, he was doing this quietly on his own and many in the family at first didn’t realize the grandiosity of his accomplishments, but now he is in the top 20 in the country and we are super proud of him.”