Graham leads New Yorkers at National Junior Olympic Championships in Alabama

On Saturday, thirty five (35) athletes and two teams from New York competed at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Hoover, Alabama. A total of 3,061 athletes and 250 teams from all 50 states competed in the championships.  The races were conducted under cold and sunny conditions with temperatures for the early races in the high 20s and later races in the low 40s. 
Athletes earned spots on the starting line by either finishing in the top 30  (or as a member of a club that finished in the top 5) at the region 1 championships on November 20.
Races were contested in 6 age divisions (8 & under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18) for boys and girls.  The top 25 finishers in each age division earned all-American status and the top 3 teams were presented with championship recognition during the post event awards ceremony.
Six (6) New Yorkers earned trips to the awards podium to collect championship medals and all-American hats for finishing in the top 25.  
The storyline for the day was the dominating performances turned in by the New York athletes in the 9-10 girls race.  Individually, local athletes took four of the top 11 places in the race and the New York Novas TC surprised everyone, including themselves, with a third place team finish.  Leading the charge was Alissa Graham (Club44 - pictured above) who finished second in the race running 11:57.  She had the highest finish of all the local athletes, finishing just three seconds behind race winner Bethany Michalak of Colorado.  New York Novas teammates Jianna Molin and Brianna Lindo ran the entire race together and finished eighth and ninth, respectively, both finishing with a time of 12:14.  Just six second later came Sahar Victoria (The Camp) with an 11th place finish in 12:20.  “The four of us have been battling all year and it is just awesome to be on the podium with them,” stated Lindo after the race.  Also earning a top 50 finish was Rihanna Defreitas (New York Starz) in 48th place.  Coming into the meet NY Novas coach George Taylor was eyeing a  top 10 finish for his team.  They outperformed his expectations with an amazing 3rd place team finish.  Led by the top ten finishes by Moline and Lindo, the team scored 157 points.  Rounding out the team scoring for the Novas were; Brianna Rucker (97th), Amirah Lindsay (144th), and Destoni Smith (145th).  The team edged Region 1 rival Nashua Pal Striders by 14 points to earn the third and final spot on the awards podium.  The top two teams were Valley United TC (California) and Bowerman TC (Oregon).  A total of 300 athletes and 19 teams competed in the race.

The meet kicked off at 9:00am with the 8u girls race.  Competing in the coldest conditions of the day,  Melanie Romero (Notre Dame TC - pictured right) finished 19th running 8:59 on the 2 km course.  Having only finished 11th at the New York championships and 7th at the Region 1 championships she was not projected for a top 25 finish but she ran a smart race and moved up through the pack to earn her all-American hat.  Also finishing in the top 50 was Annalisa Sabatino (The Camp) who crossed the line in 35th place running 9:16.

post race interview with Melanie Romero
In the 8u boys race Wilem Wikstrom (unattached) ran to a strong 11th place finish stopping the clock at 8:19.  Pierce Siegel (unattached) finished 30th, just missing all-American honors by 5 places and 5 seconds.  The New York Starz, led by Kenneth Bryan (64th) placed 10th as a team. 
Amos Pres (Chelsea Greyhounds - pictured right) had the top finish in the 9-10 boys race in 22nd place running 11:56.
Juliette Salazar (New York Starz) finished 26th in the 11-12 girls race; just missing all-American honors by one place.
Also grabbing top 50 finishes were Grace Lillis (30th, 13-14 girls, unattached), Nolan Defreitas (34th, 15-16 boys, New York Starz), and Abigail Melican (42nd, 15-16 girls, BENSWIC).

The 2017 national championships are slated for December 9 in Tallahassee, Florida. 

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