Simon Holden didn't come in first place, but he had his fastest cross country race ever Saturday morning in Charlotte, N.C. when he finished ninth in the FootLocker South Regional race here at McAlpine Park.
Holden had been trying to break 16 minutes all fall and did so in a smashing fashion Saturday with a time of 15:04. Maybe it's somewhat ironic that the last four digits of Holden's cell phone are 1-5-0-4.
"I went out hard because coach Gautier told me I needed to do that if I wanted to do well," Holden said via his cell phone after the race had ended.
"I was in the lead group, but got passed as we went up this long hill. I wasn't worried because I knew I could catch them on the downhill. At that point, I was just trying to hold my spot.
"People were cheering for me as we started the final mile and that helped, but I was just trying to keep my legs moving at that point. I knew I was going to break 16.
"There was a lot more pressure in today's race just to qualify for the nationals, but now I can relax a little and just enjoy the experience in two weeks," he added.
Holden will be headed to Balboa Park in San Diego on Dec. 8 for the FootLocker National Championship, but he was headed to the U.S. National Whitewater Center with his father and grandfather to do a little kayaking before heading to Atlanta later Saturday night.
"Simon went out in the lead group, but the leader was well ahead after the first mile," coach Jan Gautier recalled, noting that Holden passed that first mile around 4:30.
"He was 17th at the halfway point and just kept moving up. His highest place was seventh.
"I'm so proud of Simon as he's been working all year for this race. It all fell into place for him today as this has been one of his main goals. I don't think I've ever seen him as nervous as he was before it started, but he ran a perfect race," Gautier praised.
Sean McGorty, a speedster from Virginia, was the overall winner in 14:28, which just happens to be a course record.
Baylor's John Carlson posted a personal-best time of 17:49 in the freshman race on Saturday.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)