Ella Hagen punches ticket to Nike Cross Nationals with 7th-place finish at Southwest regional cross-country meet
After winning the 4A girls state cross-country meet at the end of October, Summit High School sophomore Ella Hagen is now focused on impressing folks on the national stage.
Like other cross-country athletes across the state of Colorado, Hagen and several of her Summit High School cross-county teammates continued to train after the state meet in order to race at the Nike Cross Southwest Regional meet in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Most athletes attend this race to participate in a final cross-country race before preparing for track, but Hagen came into the race with slightly higher expectations.
“I knew it was going to be a hard race going in,” Hagen said. “I knew it was one of the hardest regions and that I would have to go for it. I was actually sick the few days leading into it, so I knew it was going to be an everything-on-the-line type of race.”
Hagen was expected to be at the front of the pack. When the starter’s gun went off, that is exactly where Hagen put herself.
Once comfortable in the lead pack, Hagen found herself surrounded by familiar faces. Out of the top 10 finishers in the women’s championship race, eight of them hail from high schools in Colorado.
Hagen knew the competition was going to be fiercer than the 4A state championship meet, but she showed how experienced of a racer she is despite only being a sophomore.
Midway through the race, Hagen continued to hang with some of the fastest women in the nation, vying to be one of the top five individuals to punch a ticket to the Nike Cross National meet.
Hagen sprinted across the finish line in a time of 17 minutes, 28.3 seconds to finish seventh overall on the Coyote Run Golf Course.
Although Hagen was outside of the top five, Lone Peak High School and Air Academy High School both qualified for the national meet as a team, moving Hagen up into a national qualifier spot.
“After finishing the race, I kind of thought I didn’t make it because seventh place wasn’t high enough, I figured,” Hagen said. “But then I found out and was beyond emotions. It was really exciting. I just wanted to celebrate with my team and celebrate their amazing performances.”
Junior Andie Aagard of Lone Peak High School in Utah won the women’s championship race in a time of 16:51.1, while Colorado’s Isabel Allori placed second in 16:58.2.
Colorado’s Brooke Wilson, Bethany Michalak and Emma Stutzman placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively. American Fork High School’s Avalon Mecham finished nearly three seconds in front of Hagen to place sixth in 17:25.8.
Hagen was the first sophomore to cross the finish line, and Colorado’s Keeghan Edwards was the next sophomore to finish. Edwards crossed the line in 17:36.7, which was enough for eighth place overall.
Summit High School senior Dom Remeikis was also at the regional meet. Remeikis raced in the men’s championship race and placed 105th in a time of 16:14.9.
The men’s championship race was won by American Fork’s Daniel Simmons in 14:44.8.
Carter Niemkiewicz, Joshua Shriver and Cain Steinweg competed in the men’s medium school race. Niemkiewicz — a freshman — had a breakthrough race, setting a new personal-best time of 17:23.2, which was good enough for 69th place overall.
Shriver finished in 18:17.1 to take 117th place, and Steinweg placed 128th in 18:38.3.
In the women’s medium school race, Summit High School freshmen Lauren McCalla and Claire Jackson had some of their best performances of the season. McCalla finished in fourth place overall in a time of 19:01.5, while Jackson placed 67th in 21:41.9.
Jackson’s mark was seven seconds faster than her personal-best time that was set at the Pat Amato Classic on Oct. 7.
In between McCalla and Jackson were Cecelia Miner in 45th place and Avery Eytel in 49th. Rounding out the performances for Summit were Adaline Avery in 78th place, Darby Leffler in 81st and Paige Wescott in 88th.
The girls team placed fifth overall in the medium school race with 132 points.
“They all did so amazing,” Hagen said. “They all really raced their hearts out out there. I am so proud of them. Claire and Carter ran PRs which was unexpected. Everyone really made it an amazing trip to Arizona.”
Hagen will now extend her sophomore cross-country season by another two weeks and will spend the Thanksgiving break continuing to train hard for the Nike Cross National meet.
“It’s never going to be over. There is always going to be a next step,” Hagen said of staying motivated for another two weeks. “I am lucky to run. I am lucky to be able to continue to train for a meet like this.”
The Nike Cross National meet will take place at the Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon. The meet will be the most competitive of Hagen’s young running career, featuring 22 seven-athlete teams and 45 individuals from across the country.
“I want to take it all in and really learn more about the sport that I am in,” Hagen said. “I know that it is going to be an incredible experience, so I just want to run as hard as I can and have fun racing.”
The Nike Cross National meet will begin at 10:05 a.m., Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, Dec. 3. The event will be livestreamed on NXN.RunnerSpace.com.
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