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Weitz places third, Gardner sixth at Foot Locker

SAN DIEGO – At the beginning of the Foot Locker National Championship race on Saturday, Spokane’s Nathan Weitz found himself toward the back of the pack.

Just the way he wanted it.

Weitz spent the next 5,000 meters picking off runners and then made his push coming down the one hill on the second and final loop of the course to take third while Mead’s Andrew Gardner grabbed sixth.

Weitz finished in 15 minutes, 21 seconds and Gardner in 15:24. The race for first was a two-runner affair with Edward Cheserek (14:52) of Newark, N.J., and Futsum Zeinasellassie (14:53) placing 1-2 way out in front of the pack.

Weitz, a senior who attends The Oaks Classical Christian Academy while competing during the high school season for Shadle Park, was understandably pleased with his finish, which tied him for the best finish by a Washington runner in this event with Mead’s Matt Davis in 1993.

“I was toward the back at the beginning,” he said by phone. “I was working up, catching guys, working up. The last half of the race I was in eighth place and at the top of the hill I was in a similar place. The last 600 meters at the bottom of the hill I really moved in and had a good finish. I used the final push to push past a lot of guys.

“I didn’t know I was third. I thought there were many others I didn’t catch.”

As it turns out there were only two.

“It was a lot better of a race this year,” said Weitz, who placed 31st with a time of 15:52 over the same course last year. “I wasn’t as fresh last year. And I just knew what to look for, and what the race was like, and I knew what that hill would do.”

Gardner finished a bit off his fourth-place time of 15:18 of a year ago but still felt pretty good about the race.

“It’s nothing as special as last year, but coming down here, running pretty well … I’m honored to run here,” he said

“Hopefully, next year I can come back and win it,” said the Mead High junior.

There were no area runners in the girls race, won by Molly Seidel of Hartland, Wis., in 17:22, 2 seconds in front of Erin Flinn of West Bloomfield, Mich.