Each year, the MC cross country (XC) team hosts the renowned Mt Carmel/ASICS XC Invite at Morley Field. Schools big and small, East and West, well-known and new to the running world make their way over to San Diego, California to toe the line next to some of the best athletes in the country. Over 3,300 runners from 97 high schools raced to the finish the nearly 3 mile course in 2019, but many more have run the same loop over the past four decades; some racing simply to enjoy the experience and others using it as a stepping stone to becoming icons in the American running community.
MC’s Cross Country Invite began in 1979 under the direction of MC head cross country coach Dennis McClanahan, making this year’s race the 41st annual race, after not taking place in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Not long after the birth of the MC Cross Country Invite, the first ever Footlocker Cross Country Championships competitors raced to the finish of an almost identical course.
Footlocker Cross Country Championships, originally known as the Kinney Cross Country Championships (KCCC) National Finals, brings together a collection of the best teenage runners from each U.S. region to compete for a national title. The countrywide race takes place each year at the end of the typical cross country high school season and contains 100% of the MC Invite course in its 5k race. Since its creation in 1979, Footlocker Nationals at Morley Field has hosted a variety of talented runners, many of whom have gone on to develop a reputation for the U.S. Cross Country community.
Bronze medalist in this year’s Olympic marathon, Wisconsin-born Molly Seidel powered up the same tough hill and sped along the identical grass stretch as every other MC Invite participant has, winning the 2011 Footlocker Nationals in the time of 17:22. San Diego’s very own Meb Keflezighi who finished the 2004 Olympic marathon in a silver medal position additionally raced at Balboa Park in 1993 as a high schooler.
Other well-known U.S. runners who qualified for Footlocker Nationals include Sara Hall who ran the second-fastest American marathon, and her husband Ryan Hall who holds the American half-marathon record; Molly Huddle, America’s fastest 5k and half-marathon runner; 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon Deena Kastor; Galen Rupp who won bronze at the 2016 Olympic games in the marathon; as well as Alan Webb who holds the title for the fastest American mile.
80 talented individuals, ten boys and ten girls from each of the four regions, qualify for the Footlocker Finals each year; 37 of the total 3,280 participants who have run the 5k Morley Field course over the past 41 years, not including 2020, have gone on to become American Olympians. The Balboa Park course which hosts the Footlocker National race as well as the annual MC Cross Country Invite has seen the stride of many talented runners and is sure to see much more as thousands of athletes from just about 100 schools arrive at the scene to toe the line and make history once again.