SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, December 10 — The race proved mere formality; the outcome as far as the winner was concerned having been decided weeks earlier.
The Karrie Baloga Family t-shirt on the day said it all. Along the front: “Karrie 3:16”, a catchy variation of the biblical verse from John 3:16, referencing unwavering faith.
Across the back: “Cause Karrie Said So”, completing their adaptation of the two-phrase takeaway from brash WWE wrestling legend Stone Cold Steve Austin’s match-day confidence and wardrobe of choice.
Riding a zen-like nirvana and with her family donning matching shirts while feverishly cheering, the highly focused Cornwall Central High star delivered her own “stone cold stunner” finishing move to storm to victory at the newly christened Champs Sports National Championships at Balboa Park’s famed Morley Field.
The Colorado-signed senior avenged her only loss of the season by dumping Northeast Region foe Ellie Shea on the final ascent to win 16:49.2, the third-fastest time at the meet in the last two decades. Shea took 2nd in 16:55.1 in one of the fastest non-winning times in decades as the recent windfall of historic clockings continued as a byproduct of breakthrough performance footwear developments.
The showing capped Baloga’s near-perfect season ledger and marked her third consecutive All-America performance at the San Diego-based meet, having placed 11th in 2019 when Foot Locker served as the title sponsor, and then fourth in 2021, when Eastbay held the naming rights; the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the meet in 2020.
It barely outshined Cornwall Central alum Aisling Cuffe’s own résumé; she placed 12th, 4th, and 1st in her three outings at nationals, capped by her crown in 2010.
Baloga credited her two prior outings here with laying the groundwork for her title as a senior. Her frosh trip was about gaining the experience traveling to a national meet. Junior year was about dipping her toes in the water with the middle of the race pack on the first loop, then closing strong to improve her final standing.
Now, it was all about going for the win.
“I have so much confidence in myself so I knew that it was going to be my race,” she said. “We were running the course [on Friday] and I said ‘This is going to be awesome.’ I felt it seriously in my heart that it was going to be really quick. This year, I knew everything that I wanted to do. I just really trusted my training and I kept everything in mind that I thought about beforehand,” Baloga explained. “I ran with 100 percent confidence in myself and in the ability that I have.
“Breaking the tape, that was my main goal. If I didn’t think that way, then what was I doing here?”
The difference this time? It could be found between the ears. Ever since placing a close second at the Northeast Regional while running controlled, she knew nationals was hers for the taking.
“[I had] one hundred percent confidence,” she quipped. “I visualized so many things and starting the race, I knew that I can’t hold back anymore. This is my time to just go out and really take charge and run my race. If it was me taking the lead and really kind of separating, I knew that I was going to be fine late in the race and I don’t know if other people were going to be, so I just kind of had to take the chance.”
And the t-shirt design gleaned from the braggadocio nature of wrestler Austin? “It shows a little bit of fight,” she said with a big smile. “And that was the main word that was in my head today was ‘fight.’ ’’
Could it have gone any better?
“Everything was perfect,” Baloga concluded. “I worked so hard to make it perfect so that’s the way it works.”
CHAMPS SPORTS XC GIRLS
Teams: 1. Northeast 32; 2. South 38; 3. Midwest 66; 4. West 96.
Individuals (5K): 1. Karrie Baloga (Northeast) 16:49.2; 2. Ellie Shea (Northeast) 16:55.1; 3. Paityn Noe (Midwest) 17:01.5; 4. Abby Faith Cheeseman (South) 17:13.4; 5. Ciara O’Shea (South) 17:21.5; 6. Zariel Macchia (Northeast) 17:33.9; 7. Leah Stephens (Northeast) 17:37.0; 8. Allie Zealand (South) 17:38.8; 9. Alyssa Sauro (South) 17:39.2; 10. Sadie Engelhardt (West) 17:41.4;
11. Jessica Jazwinski (Midwest) 17:43.4; 12. Mary Bonner Dalton (South) 17:45.9; 13. Isabel Conde De Frankenberg (South) 17:48.8; 14. Chiara Dailey (West) 17:51.7; 15. Sara Mlodik (Midwest) 17:52.1; 16. Angelina Napoleon (Northeast) 17:52.4; 17. Ruth White (Northeast) 17:55.5; 18. Allison Arnsman (Midwest) 17:56.3; 19. Gretchen Farley (Midwest) 17:58.7; 20. Maddie Gardiner (South) 18:06.3;
21. Nicole Humphries (South) 18:09.1; 22. Katie Clute (Midwest) 18:11.0; 23. Emma Zawatski (Northeast) 18:11.4; 24. Gillian Bushee (South) 18:14.6; 25. Thais Rolly (South) 18:18.2; 26. Allie Bruce (West) 18:26.7; 27. Meg Madison (Northeast) 18:28.2; 28. Katie Kopec (West) 18:28.6; 29. Gioana Lopizzo (West) 18:30.2; 30. Natalie McLean (Northeast) 18:32.8;
31. Olivia Murray (Northeast) 18:36.1; 32. Cailey Bracken (West) 18:46.2; 33. Holly Barker (West) 18:54.1; 34. Allura Markow (West) 18:56.5; 35. Ashlyn Leath (West) 19:12.5; 36. Hailey Low (West) 19:21.1;… dnf—Sophia Kennedy (Midwest). ◻︎