Walter Johnson Junior Finishes 21st at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals
Abigail Green became only the second Montgomery County female to compete in prestigious competition
Abigail Green races in the national cross country meet
Walter Johnson High School junior Abigail Green said she went into Saturday’s Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals, hosted by Balboa Park in San Diego, prepared to encounter a primarily unfamiliar scenario. As one of Montgomery County’s all-time best distance runners, the two-time reigning county cross country champion and state runner-up typically finds herself leading the pack—by a lot—or in a tight battle with one, maybe two, competitors down the stretch of a race toward the finish line.
But everyone at Foot Locker Nationals is used to being the best—only the top 10 finishers in each of four regional competitions held Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 qualified for the prestigious meet.
“I knew everyone would be closely packed and it would more crowded,” Green said. “All the girls there are used to being in the lead pack and out in front. I was more in the middle than right in front.”
While Green did work off those around her and used the competition to propel herself forward, she said she also directed most of her focus inward, focusing on her own race plan and the factors within her control, rather than concern herself with the talent that surrounded her.
Just the fourth county athlete—and second female—to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals, Green finished 21st in a field featuring 40 of the country’s top distance runners. Her time of 18 minutes and 2.2 seconds, on a difficult course with two major hills, was just 57.4 seconds behind the leader, Claudia Lane of Malibu, Calif.
“I heard in the past that people had gone out fast in the first mile…I stayed somewhat conservative, there are two big hills and I wanted to make sure I had enough left to push on the hills and finish strong,” Green said. “I’m happy with the way I was able to finish and control myself in the first mile. I’m happy with my time, it was a tough course. And I’m a junior, so hopefully I can come back next year and have more confidence [on the course].”
Though Saturday was the biggest race in which Green has competed, she said she felt prepared and relaxed as she approached the starting line. As expected, the meet took on a different shape than most of Green’s races. Rather than working to maintain a lead, she moved about in attempt to maneuver herself into the best position possible.
“Running in the middle of the pack makes you push yourself more, there’s always someone coming up on you or ahead of you and you’re trying to catch them,” Green said.
Green benefits from a strong combination of natural ability and work ethic, Walter Johnson cross country and track coach Tom Martin said. She has been a force in state cross country and track since she was a freshman, but a more rigid training regimen this summer helped her reach new heights in the fall, he said. Green won her third straight Class 4A West Region title by 1 minute, 34 seconds and her season-best time of 17:44.45 topped the county by 51.66 seconds.
Green said she’s always looked up to the first county female to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals—1996 Walter Johnson graduate Sally Glynn, who finished runner-up at the 1994 competition, according to mocorunning.com—and hopes she can provide similar motivation and encouragement to teammates and other county athletes to set their sights on such high goals.
“It was an honor to be able to compete,” Green said. “It’s not very often you’re able to race against runners from all over the country, I got to see all the different strategies everyone uses. Being part of a big pack makes you race differently and I learned a lot. It was definitely a cool experience and I’m glad I was able to qualify, that was my goal for the season.”