San Diego, CA - Very few states can brag about having three athletes compete at the Foot Locker National Championships in one year. In fact, only Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and Texas can make claim to the accomplishment in 2011. When compared based on population, the feat is even more pronounced, and the quality of Massachusetts distance running was truly on display Saturday in San Diego.
Jonathan Green (St. John’s High School Shrewsbury), Chris Allen (King Philip High School), and Joel Hubbard (Marshfield High School) represented their state with pride as the three made their first trip across the country to compete in the prestigious individual competition.
Green, who is just a junior, led the Massachusetts contingent by finishing 22nd overall with a time of 15:54. It was an impressive end to a breakout season for the star from Saint John’s. Green started the season by finishing second at the Ocean State Invitational, and then he really began to ratchet-up the quality of his performances.
Following a win at the Catholic Memorial Invitational, Green entered the post season as one of the favorites to win the Massachusetts Division I State Meet. And he would live up to that billing.
Green dismantled a very talented field at the Central Massachusetts Championships, and then won his first State Championship with at 15:41 season best time at Franklin Park.
All of this was tremendous progress from an athlete that finished 15th (9:46.85) last year in the two mile at the Massachusetts All-State Championships. If this season is any indication, his future is very bright.
Chris Allen finished 24th overall (15:46) and was the only athlete in the field making their cross country debut. The King Philip senior spent the previous three fall sport seasons on the soccer pitch, but reconsidered his options after a stellar season on the oval. Allen finished second in the two mile at the Massachusetts All-State Meet (9:09.46), and won the 3200m at the New England Championships (9:05.97).
Cross Country and Track are two very different animals, and the learning curve required to be successful at both is a steep one. Allen entered the season pegged to be a contender, but his ability to grasp the concept of technical course running was yet to be seen.
He took a conservative approach to the early season by focusing on league contests, but the Hockomock League is no cake-walk, and Allen quickly established himself as a force. The lessons learned along the way carried him into the league championship as the favorite. Once there, he proceeded to break from the field early and retained a sizeable gap for the win in 15:46.
Allen would return two weeks later to win the Division 3 race at the Eastern Massachusetts Championships, but then struggled slightly at the Division 1 State Championships; finishing 5th. The experience only served as motivation, and Allen rebounded nicely to finish 10th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional.
Joel Hubbard made is presence known in 2011 by finishing second at the Brown Invitational. But how can a second place finish establish an athlete as a favorite to contend for a state championship? Because he held off several of the best runners in New England, and the winner that day was the eventual National Champion Edward Cheserek. Second place at the Brown Invitational was a coveted spot in 2011, and a pivotal accolade to collect for the remainder of the season.
All doubt about Hubbard’s ability to withstand a grueling mid-race pace was erased that day as Cheserek dragged the pack through the two mile point en route to a new course record. Hubbard showed that he not only had the strength necessary to compete at this level, but he also had the foot speed to close out big races. He barreled down the final 400 meters; displaying the lethal 4:14.52 speed that won him a podium spot in the 1600m at the 2011 New England Track and Field Championships. Thus, establishing himself as a contender for a state title in the process.
Hubbard backed-up that performance with a series of second place finishes; one at the Catholic Memorial Invitational, the EMass Championships, and the Division 1 State Championships. But his biggest day was yet to come.
Hubbard finished 4th at the Foot Locker Northeast Region Championships (15:49), and once again, showed the country that he had all the tools necessary to be a major player. For the second time this season, he successfully managed the blistering pace of Edward Cheserek, and scorched the final stretch to punch his ticket to San Diego.
A trend was started last year when Shayne Collins, John Murray, and Josh Lampron reestablished Massachusetts as a national contender in male distance running. Green, Allen, and Hubbard appear to have taken notice, and did a fine job upholding that tradition this fall.
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