Hickman High School junior Nicole Mello had the best race of her career Saturday placing seventh in the Girls Seeded race at the Foot Locker Cross Country Midwest Regional and qualifying for the 40 girl field of the 33rd Foot Locker National Championships. The seventh place finish comes as a surprise from the Kewpie from Columbia.
With her overall season performances, I think most would judge her as one of the top 3-5 lady harriers in Missouri. She had convincing wins at Districts and Sectionals, cruising to victories over Jefferson City’s Conradette King and Branson’s Bridgette Caruthers. But a ninth place finish at the state meet three weeks ago made a seventh place at the Foot Locker Midwest meet hard to envision before the race. Mello was one of the six ladies listed on the footlocker website as top contenders from Missouri, but her state time of 19:41, was tied for fifth among those listed, a minute and 12 seconds behind Eureka super freshman Hannah Long’s state time.
Mello becomes just the 14th girl and 23rd Missouri boy or girl to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals. The Foot Locker series consists of four regional meet around the country where the top ten boys and girls from each qualify for the National Championships, held in Balboa Park in San Diego, California on December 10.
With more post-season meet options than ever, including Nike Cross Regionals, the Foot Locker series may not be as competitive as ten years ago, to have a top ten finish among all-comers from 13 Midwest states with a trip to sunny San Diego on the line, is still an amazing feet. Mello keeps the Missouri girls streak going. This is the fourth straight year a Missouri girl has qualified for Foot Locker Nationals. Last year it was Nerinx Hall’s Colleen Quigley while in 2008 and 2009 Parkway Central’s Emily Sisson and Diane Robison.
Also Saturday, two other Missourians just missed earning trips to Balboa Park and San Diego. Underclassmen with bright futures came oh so close to earning beach vacations during December. Eureka’s freshman Hannah Long just missed a qualifying spot with her 11th place finish in 17:47, 3 seconds back of 10th. The Class 4 State runner-up who ran a 5:08 mile last June as an 8th grader, almost joined Megan Thompson as the only Missouri freshman to qualify. Thompson was the Hazelwood Central standout who qualified for four Foot Locker finals.
On the boys side, Marquette’s Noah Kauppila was 10 seconds back of becoming the 10th Missouri boy to qualify for the national meet and the first Missouri underclassman male. The sophomore, who ran a 9:2X 3200 meters at the state track meet last may as a freshman, finished 14th Saturday in 15:30. Chances are pretty good that if Kauppila stays healthy he’ll join Marquette’s Greg Speicher as a national finalist. Speicher qualified and finished 17th at the 1995 national meet.
Congrats to Nicole!! Hannah & Noah!!
To be updated later.