North Xtra: Shaler Area junior sixth at U.S. championships


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Instead of being stuck in the snow Saturday in Pittsburgh, Shaler Area junior Brianna Schwartz was running in the sun in San Diego.

But it wasn't all fun and games. Schwartz was in a serious competition on the biggest stage for a high school cross country runner, and she came through with a great performance.

Schwartz ran a 17:43 5K to finish sixth at the Foot Locker Cross Country national championships in Morley Field at Balboa Park.

"I was pretty happy with how it went," Schwartz said. "I was hoping to finish in the top 15 and I did that."

Schwartz is the two-time reigning WPIAL Class AAA cross country champion and a PIAA champion in track in the 1,600 meters. She's been unable to capture the cross country state title yet, finishing third in 2012 and fifth this season.

Following the state meet in early November, Schwartz kept her practice mileage up preparing for the Foot Locker meet.

To qualify for the national event, Schwartz had to finish in the top 10 of the seeded race in the Northeast Regional, which took place Nov. 30 in New York City. Schwartz placed fourth with a time of 17:42.8.

It turned out that the Northeast was the toughest regional, as the three girls who finished ahead of Schwartz -- Tessa Barrett of Waverly, Pa., Anoush Shehadeh of Larchmont, N.Y., and Hannah DeBalsi of Westport, Conn. -- all finished in the top four of the national meet, with Barrett winning the title.

"I was hoping [the meet] was very strong because they all beat me," Schwartz said. "I thought after the regional we would all do pretty well and our region ended up winning the national meet, which was good."

Schwartz said the Morley Field course wasn't as difficult as the Hersheypark course where the PIAA race is run. Her plan was to save most of her energy for the second half of the race.

"I wanted to start conservatively," Schwartz said. "I didn't want to beat myself up during the first half of the race and then hopefully I could start passing runners as the race went on."

Schwartz estimated that she was around 20th place heading in the final mile before climbing her way into the top 10.

"It was awesome," Schwartz said about competing in the race. "It was a really cool experience to get to meet all the best runners from across the country."

It also should help her reputation among college recruiters.

"Just making it to Foot Locker is a big deal and I think colleges will be impressed that I can put that on my resume," Schwartz said. "It will definitely help."

Schwartz now plans to take some time off to rest before she starts preparing for the indoor track season.


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