Dobyns-Bennett’s Sasha Neglia — who qualified as an individual last Saturday by winning the Southeast regional in a torrential downpour with a time of 17:37 — will be making her second consecutive trip to Oregon, where she finished 24th a year ago in 18:14.
The Glendoveer Golf Course has hosted the meet since 2014 and is known for its rolling hills along with several long straightaways.
Last year’s race was won by New York’s Katelyn Tuohy, then a sophomore, in 16:44. She dominated the race and won by 41 seconds over a national-caliber field. This year, the junior returns to defend her title and has already set the national record for 5K on a cross country course by winning the Ocean State Invitational in Warwick, Rhode Island, with a 16:06.
The top five qualifiers not on either of the top two team qualifiers in eight of the nine regions along with five other individuals invited via committee reached the national meet. The ninth region is California, which chooses its qualifiers based on merged state meet results.
Five of the eight regional races were run before last weekend and the Southeast regional had by far the worst conditions.
Neglia’s winning time was the third slowest of the eight regional champions, but she does have one of the fastest season bests in the nation at 17:18, ranking inside the top 25.
The weather she faced at the regional race will be quite similar to the impending rainstorm in Oregon. She ran quite fast in last week’s downpour, so perhaps this weekend’s adverse conditions will work in her favor.
“The whole point of the season was to try to get a fast time in the middle of the season and then try to get back to Portland,” D-B head coach Bob Bingham said after Saturday’s race. “We knew when the rain started to come down pretty hard that it was going to be a mentally tough race. That’s one of the reasons she did so well is because she is so mentally tough.”
Out of the eight regional champions, Samantha Schadler (Rio Rico, Arizona) had the fastest race at the Grande Sports Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, out of the Southwest with a 17:06.1. That course is widely known for fast times and ideal weather in early November.
The field on Saturday will be loaded with a multitude of top-notch teams and athletes.
The first 21 runners will be called “All-Americans.” Last year, Neglia was only five seconds away from the last All-American spot.
The race can be live streamed on www.nikecrossnationals.com, and the webcast begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. The championship girls race will go off at 1:05 p.m.