Sean McGorty placed second at the 34th Foot Locker nationals on Saturday, tying the top finish ever by a high school boy from Northern Virginia.
The Chantilly senior, who will compete for Stanford in the fall, led for most of the race at sunny Balboa Park in San Diego before being overtaken by Edward Cheserek (N.J.) in the final stretch. McGorty finished the painfully fast five-kilometer race in 15 minutes 5 seconds.
Cheserek raised his arms as he broke the tape in 14:59. It was the Kenya native’s second straight national title.
The 40 boys racing in San Diego got there by finishing in the top 10 at four regional qualifiers: the West, Midwest, Northeast and South. McGorty, who lost for the first time this season on Saturday, won the South region championship on Nov. 24 in course-record time.
Lake Braddock senior Sophie Chase had on the red singlet worn by all South region representatives when she finished the girls’ race in sixth place in 17:42. It was a significant improvement for the three-time Foot Locker finalist and reigning All-Met Athlete of the Year, who was 11th last year.
Sophomore Anna Rohrer (Ind.) was the champion in 17:25.
Caroline Alcorta just missed out on earning all-American honors. The West Springfield junior was 16th (17:57) in her first time in San Diego, one second behind Florida’s Bridget Blake.
Erin Keogh of Langley is the only female from the Washington area to ever become a Foot Locker champion, winning in 1985 and ’86. Sherwood’s Solomon Haile became the only area boy to win in 2008.
Northern Virginia, however, long on distance talent, has never produced an individual male winner. Bobby Lockhart (Handley), Sharif Karie (West Springfield) and Alan Webb (South Lakes) were runners-up in the country’s most prestigious season-ending race.
McGorty, whose mother, Vicki, was a Foot Locker finalist in 1983, wasn’t thinking about challenging Cheserek last year when he finished 10th at Foot Locker finals. But after a breathtaking season that included winning the Virginia AAA championship in course-record time — McGorty also led Chantilly to the school’s first-ever team title — he flew to San Diego thinking that this could be his chance.
McGorty burst to the front of the pack Saturday and applied early pressure on Cheserek and the rest of the field. With two miles to go, four runners were bunched in the lead pack. A short time later — on the second charge up the course’s steepest hill — only McGorty and Cheserek remained.
The pair traded the lead with about 400 meters left, but it was Cheserek, who hasn’t lost a cross-country race in two years, who had the most left, using a final surge to break away and cruise to the finish line while waving his index fingers in the air.
“Knowing Edward had a great kick I wanted to do the best I could of taking it out of him. Obviously it didn’t work,” McGorty said. “I did all I could but he did a great job.”