SFC Senior Mark Trammell has tried every strategy to beat Francis Parker cross country standout Kenan Pala.
Trammell is 0-7 and not that worried about it as he heads into the Eastbay National Championships this Saturday — the old Foot Locker Nationals — over the always challenging 3.1-mile Morley Field course.
“Let’s see, league meets, section, state … yes, 0-7,” said the Santa Fe Christian senior.
Saturday, Trammell hopes to put himself in position to break the streak in the last cross country race of the season before trying to reverse that placement on the track where he has had great success.
“Kenan congratulated me right after the finish at State and now we’re on the same team,” Trammell said, referring to the regional competition at nationals. “So I’m hoping he does well.”
There were times during the season when Trammell thought for sure he could figure out a way to beat Pala, who suffered his first loss of the year last week when he finished second in the West Regionals at Mt. SAC.
Trammell, who believes he’s a distant relative of Kearny High baseball great and Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, learned a lot from the regional, not the least of which is that the race winner, Tyrone Gorze of Oregon, could very well win again Saturday.
Trammell finished eighth in the West Regional, where the top 10 qualified for the Nationals.
“I saw Gorze warming up, and I thought he was one of the pros who’d run earlier,” said Trammell, who is headed to Wake Forest. “He ran effortlessly. In the race, he stayed with Kenan, then went by him. Afterward, he didn’t even look tired.”
Trammell saw the whole thing as he finished just eight seconds behind Pala.
Trammell was seeded 21st going into the race, which had most of the best runners from California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Idaho. He survived some early jostling to sit 10th with a half-mile remaining, then passed two runners to make it safely into the top 10, running 15:30.
“It was like a wrestling match,” said Trammell of the pushing and shoving. “The first mile was slower than I expected and there were like 30 runners trying to stay with it while conserving energy. The first eight finishers broke the course record, so that tells you how fast it was.
“I knew people faded at Mt. SAC after going out too hard. And to make it worse, the air quality was bad. I know I was ninth at 1.5 miles and 11th at the bottom of Poop-out Hill, so I decided to push up the hill and was 10th at the top. I knew I was eighth and I looked back and couldn’t see the No. 10 runner, so I knew I made it.”
With only 40 runners in Saturday’s race, Trammell and Santa Fe Christian coach Damien Kloer haven’t really discussed strategy, but Trammell said he’d probably not scorch the first 800 meters like so many national finalists do.
“I’m optimistic and confident that Mark will run well,” said Kloer. “For the section championships and even at state, he had dead legs from some really hard workouts. I think he’ll not only do well, but I believe he’ll close the gap on Kenan. He finishes really strong.
“Kenan absolutely has a chance to win the race. He’s a lot like Mark in that neither one really has a bad race. Since Kenan likes to get out in front, he’ll be right where he needs to be.”
In the past few years California hasn’t fared that well because the Nike Nationals in Oregon, canceled this year, took the top teams.
And while Newbury Park, the top boys team in the country, won’t be in San Diego after dominating the Garmin RunningLane Championships in Alabama last Saturday, both Trammell and Kloer think the West, along with the Midwest, are the teams to beat.
“This is the biggest national championship meet, even bigger than some of the track meets,” said Trammell. “I’ve never been to the old Foot Locker championship but I’ll be staying at the Hotel Del (Coronado) with all the others.
“I’ve looked at the other regionals and I think a top-15 finish would be about right for me. I know the course and the crowd will be cheering for me and Kenan, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The girls start at 9:15 a.m. with the boys following at 10.
Next year Trammell will be on scholarship racing for Wake Forest.
GOD IS SO GOOD. GO EAGLES