Read About Will Merritt's Experience In San Diego At The Foot Locker XC Nationals!

Photo by Jorge Ramirez

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Thursday: I woke up at 3 a.m. to make the drive down to BWI Airport for the beginning of the trip to San Diego. I remember being excited for the flight because I had only flown twice prior in my life. Furthermore, it was going to be my first trip off the eastern half of the United States. On the way to the airport [Foot Locker Northeast runner-up] Sam Affolder sent me a music of him bumping music in his car, which was nice to see because it helped to ensure me that I wasn't the only Northeast guy that had to be awake so early in the morning.

    I had a layover in Phoenix, AZ before reaching San Diego. Once I arrived I met up with the rest of the Northeast boys team and we explored the hotel as we waited for our gear pick up time. The gear pick up was by far the most exciting part of the day, as the uniforms and the rest of the breathtaking gear were given to us by the Team New Balance athletes.

    During the gear pick up my fellow Maryland runner Dalton Hengst and I had a moment to talk to Boris Berian about his rise to fame. Not only did he have a very inspiring story to tell, but he was also a very nice guy! Then I went to my room where I met my roommate - Daniel Viegra, from Texas.

Photo by Clark Kranz

Friday: With the three hour time difference in full effect I woke up at 3 a.m. once again. I took this time to meet up with my dad and walk along the beach, and we had a conversation that ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip. Friday's main event, however, was the course preview. I was amazed when I first got to Balboa Park to see that the course was not a permanent figure of the park. The people who set up the course did an outstanding job making the atmosphere feel special.

    Friday was a pretty relaxing day, as are most pre-meet days, and all of the runners just hung out with each other and enjoyed the amazing Hotel Del Coronado. Later in the evening there was a trivia contest at dinner which the Northeast boys ended up winning, so we all received iPod Shuffles!

Saturday: Saturday was all about the race. When I woke up I went down to the lobby and starting eating breakfast with Emily Sisson and Finn Gessner as other people started to come and join us. All of the runners seemed to have an energetic nervousness about them and you could definitely tell they were taking this race seriously. One thing I picked up on right away was the mutual respect every runner had for each other; I think everyone knows how difficult it is to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals.

    My race did not go the way I had originally hoped. I had gotten out strong and was sitting somewhere between 25th and 30th as we hit the mile mark; unfortunately, at a mile and a half I fell and fell back to last place because of it. Over the final 2,000 meters I was able to recover and ended up in 33rd place.

Photo by George Green

    I was initially disappointed in my placing but I knew that I had given the race my best effort. I was reminded by my ever-supportive coaches and family of the rarity of a kid from a small school like Smithsburg to make it to Foot Locker Nationals. The Northeast boys collectively had a rough day during the race; whether or not it was due to the lack of sleep, weather change, or the long flight on Thursday, we all did our best to shake it off and keep our heads up. I spent the rest of the day enjoying the warm weather and continuing to make great friends in the people I met.