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Garcia 15th at Foot Locker nationals

By: Staff Report
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Oakmont High freshman Karlie Garcia joined 39 other qualifiers Saturday to run in the rain at Morley Field in San Diego. The event was the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals and it featured the 10 fastest runners from each of four regions based on last week's regional finals. Garcia, who finished fourth at the high school Division II state finals, captured third at her regional event to earn her spot in San Diego. “It was a very fun weekend,” said Garcia’s coach at Oakmont High, Ryan Nugent. “Karlie was rubbing elbows with former Olympians and many future Olympic hopefuls. It was a very intimidating situation that had her a bit rattled prior to the race (who can blame her?), but we calmed her down, got her focused, and watched her do her thing.” The weather was less than ideal Saturday morning, but the show went on through the raindrops, and the youngster from Oakmont High raced to a 15th place finish. A bit of a slow start put Garcia in catch-up mode the rest of the way on a narrow course that made passing difficult. “The level of competition was very high,” Garcia said. “Everybody was the best and it was intimidating. I wasn’t so much surprised of the strength of the leaders as I was about how fast everyone took off from the starting line.” She was the second fastest freshman as she finished 15 seconds behind a ninth-grader from North Carolina. Garcia's 5-kilometer time of 17:59.7 was 53 seconds behind the winner, senior Megan Goethals from Michigan. “Karlie had a slower start, and on a very narrow course had to pick and choose when to move up,” Nugent said. “The freshman that finished ahead of her got out with the leaders, faded throughout, but was able to finish before a charging Karlie could catch her. A wider course, or a different first mile by Karlie, and I truly believe she would have gotten her. There's always next year, I hope.” One piece of information that eluded Garcia until after the race was the prize that awaited the top 15 finishers in the competition. By reaching that level, she earned All American status. “She was about 26th in the race at one mile, and moved up to 16th by the two-mile,” Nugent said. “With about 400 meters to go, she kicked down a senior from Cedar Park, Texas to claim 15th place and become an All-American. We had no idea that 15th was such a magical number, but the girl from Texas knew exactly what was at stake. She fought Karlie as hard as she could, but didn't have enough to hold off our little Viking.” The result puts an impressive cap on a sensational first year at Oakmont for Garcia. “The overall race experience was really good for me because I got to see what it was like to race with some of the best runners in the country and I know what to expect in future races,” Garcia said.