Watch the video of Macdonald's winning race! Key viewing: 9:43: Macdonald emerges from the woods as the leader at the 1.5 mile mark; 20:40: the final stretch to the finish line; 24:04: the post-race interview
GFS Cross Country runner Anna Macdonald '22 finished first at the Nike Cross Country Northeast Regional 5K Championship on Saturday, November 27, held at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, NY. The run featured 122 elite athletes from eight states' qualifying teams, including GFS. Macdonald is the first athlete in GFS program history to win the Nike Regional Championship, a remarkable feat in her rookie season.
A former Tiger soccer player who traded in her cleats for running shoes, Macdonald hit the hills as a GFS Cross Country athlete for the fist time this fall. With laser focus and hundreds of training miles on those shoes, she captured the PAISAA Girls Cross Country Championship and the Nike Regional Championship, and led her team to another winning season, finishing second at the FSL Championship and third at the PAISAA State Championship.
Reflecting on a remarkable season, Coach Conrad Haber noted that Macdonald's road to victory began in late June, when her cross country training kicked off on hilly running routes, frequently at Belmont Plateau. Her training, along with her positive mindset, coachability, determination, and enthusiastic demeanor, all factored into the landmark season, Haber said.
"Today specifically, at the Nike Regional Championship, Anna's racing strategy was relatively simple, with a large amount of direction geared towards navigating the nuances of the course," said Coach Haber. "All of the athletes on the team were instructed to get out quickly due to the extensive funneling and narrowing that occurs on the course during the first 600m of the race, keep a constant effort up the hills, and open up to take advantage of the downhills. Anna ran the hills to perfection, separating herself from the competition on each downhill and not getting caught up in people making ill-advised surges during the first few hills of the race."
"Anna is always given a lot of latitude to make moves based upon how she's feeling and to time those moves based on the competition around her. The racing strategy is always relatively simple to ensure that it is malleable. I thought it was likely she might be in the Top Five, so we discussed what that might look like, and what she would need to do to potentially beat the competition. Ultimately, she was going to need to run the hills well (especially the downhills), respond to any major moves, and be willing to dig deeper over the last 800m to win."
The Nike Regional Championship was the final cross country run for Macdonald as a Tiger. In the past, the victory would have automatically qualified her for the most highly regarded high school cross country race in the nation: the Nike National Championship, which was cancelled due to COVID-19.
"Anna's success sends a message to the current and future members of the program that they can dream big," added Haber. "We've been fortunate to have had a history of athletes that have consistently had success at the regional and national level. Anna continues that trend by adding her own unique chapter to that story by accomplishing something that no one at GFS has been able to achieve prior to this weekend. Her performance will serve as the inspiration for future generations of GFS XC/Track athletes as they aim to add their own unique accomplishments to the program's legacy."
"Anna went into this race with the confidence and focus that you would see in a veteran cross country athlete. She prepared thoroughly and trusted her training and went for it!" said Director of Athletics Katie Bergstrom Mark. "It was really fun to see her brother, teammates, and coaches cheering her on each step of the way, each being able to share in her success, allowing everyone to enjoy the awesome aspects of the sport of cross country. It was a magical day for GFS Cross Country!"
Also competing at the Nike Cross Country Northeast Regional 5K Championship were Emma Nam '23, Katya Henisz '23, Jane Keenan '25, Cora Rosen '23, and Naomi Shaffer '26 in the Girls race. Simon Donovan '23, Mason Kresloff '25, PJ Kresslof '24, Shuford Kirk '23, Sam Rekulak '22, Charles Brodkin '22, Jiasheng Shi '23 took park in the Boys race.
Photos courtesy of runnerspace.com.