SAN DIEGO – For consecutive weeks, John Dressel was a runner-up.
But Saturday’s second-place finish was No. 1.
Dressel, of Mt. Spokane High School, just missed claiming the boy’s national title at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in Balboa Park.
Dressel had a precarious hold on the lead with about 150 meters remaining in the 5,000-meter run before being passed by Michigan’s Grant Fisher. The two led the 40-runner field, trading off first-place, for the final 300 meters of the race.
Fisher’s time of 15:07 was three seconds faster than Dressel’s.
It was at the base of the daunting Upas Street hill that Dressel, who was second in last week’s West Region, found another gear and separated himself from the pack.
“All week I had been preparing myself for that, planning in my head what that moment was going to be like to make a charge,” Dressel said.
But on the hill’s backside, Fisher (Grand Blanc High) surged past Dressel.
“I could hear him coming,” Dressel said. “But I just kept pushing and I wasn’t going to let him go.”
Dressel retook the lead, then relinquished it in the final 150 meters during the flat-level finish.
“I was able to keep the pace and we battled, neck-and-neck, that last straightaway,” said Dressel, who finished 14th here last year. “Grant is a great runner and I gave it my all.”
The stretch run on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s featured some jostling as the boys, both juniors, positioned themselves to the inside.
“I stumbled a little bit with about 100 meters to go and that threw off my rhythm,” Dressel said. “You try to protect your running space and when he surged he hit the back of my arm a little bit.”
It was a dramatic finish which also saw Oregon’s Matthew Maton (Summit High) finish third at 15:19. Joe Hardy (Seattle Prep) was fifth in 15:22.
“The last 150 meters were crazy,” Fisher said. “We were both trying to get the lane coming around the corner and there is going to be some bumping. It wasn’t intentional on either side and that is sort of part of the sport. It’s nothing we aren’t used to.”
Dressel is getting accustomed to shining at one of the sport’s premier prep events.
“I knew I was good enough to possibly win the thing,” he said. “I really wanted a top five and to get first-team team All-America.
“I’m pretty happy with myself and how I finished.”