SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, December 10 — Being the only returner toeing the line from last year’s top 28 finishers at this meet, Kole Mathison (5th in ’21) knew the newly renamed Champs Sports National Championships title was there for his taking.
Placing 4th at the prior weekend’s loaded Nike Cross Nationals gala — and with the NXN top 3 bypassing this meet— the Colorado-bound prep from Indiana even enjoyed a most peculiar home-crowd advantage.
Among the dignitaries performing meet functions were former Buffaloes Emma Coburn, Jorge and Eduardo Torres, Danielle Jones, Steve Slattery and several others.
“Having so many great runners with ties to Colorado… That was a big plus,” Mathison admitted. “There was definitely extra adrenaline in the tank.”
Altogether, the shaggy-blonde 6-foot, 4-inch Mathison (pronounced muh-Thee-sen) wasn’t about to fold on his stacked deck, delivering a decisive surge just past race’s midpoint to whittle the 39-runner field down to him and North Carolinian Rocky Hansen of Christ School.
Mathison then scaled the big hill a final time along the double loop course in impressive fashion to gap eventual 11th-placer Hansen just inside the final kilometer, bursting to an 11-second victory over runner-up Noah Breker of Minnesota (Armstrong HS).
Mathison, Breker and South Dakota’s Simeon Birnbaum were the only entrants in the boys’ races at both meets to finish as First-Team All-Americans at NXN and here.
Mathison’s winning time of 14:56.6 also was the fastest since Drew Hunter’s 2015 triumph in 14:55.
“I knew the time would be fast… Everyone is taking down course records everywhere it seems,” said Mathison, the latest in a long line of talents from the Carmel HS program recognized as among the sport’s blueblood teams nationally over the years.
“Once the race got out pretty quick (4:37 for the opening mile), I felt that played to my advantage. I’m a strength runner and the hill here is where I could take advantage of anyone that was already having any trouble.”
According to Mathison, the cornerstones to victory here would be taking a calculated gamble and riding on his course experience: “My plan was to stick with the leaders until it felt right to make a move, but I wanted to be sure my move would keep me in the lead for good.
“This can be a tricky course and I felt I knew it better than anyone else here, so I wanted to make them pay when it was time.”
With both Mathison and girls’ winner Karrie Baloga, the Buffaloes will welcome in a pair of national champions next year to spearhead strong recruiting classes.
Mathison’s victory marked the fifth time in a row that the San Diego winner hailed from the Midwest Region, a sign of the times with many top West Region and Northeast male harriers sticking to the Portland meet.
Due largely to scheduling conflicts, only 8 runners qualifying for both meets, with the top 6 all hailing from the Midwest.
“Midwest is best,” said Mathison with a big mile. And on this day, he was too.
CHAMPS SPORTS XC BOYS
Teams: 1. Midwest 18; 2. Northeast 61; 3. West 65; 4. South 87.
Individuals (5K): 1. Kole Mathison (Midwest) 14:56.6; 2. Noah Breker (Midwest) 15:07.5; 3. Samuel Hansen (West) 15:07.7; 4. Simeon Birnbaum (Midwest) 15:11.3; 5. Connor Ackley (Midwest) 15:11.8; 6. Cameron Todd (Midwest) 15:13.0; 7. Sam Burgess (Northeast) 15:13.6; 8. Drew Griffith (Northeast) 15:14.4; 9. Landon Heemeyer (West) 15:14.5; 10. Hunter Jones (Midwest) 15:21.1;
11. Rocky Hansen (South) 15:22.0; 12. Ryan Pajak (Northeast) 15:22.9; 13. Nathan Atchue (South) 15:23.1; 14. Connell Alford (Midwest) 15:25.9; 15. Paul Bergeron (Northeast) 15:26.8; 16. Seth Norder (Midwest) 15:27.5; 17. Benne Anderson (Midwest) 15:28.8; 18. Grant Morgenfeld (West) 15:28.9; 19. Joshua Bell (West) 15:31.9; 20. Maxwell Hardin (South) 15:33.1;
21. Brian DiCola (Northeast) 15:34.7; 22. Broen Holman (West) 15:35.3; 23. Brayden Marshall (South) 15:36.1; 24. Spencer Bradshaw (West) 15:38.4; 25. Micah Sanchez (West) 15:40.9; 26. Tommy Rice (Midwest) 15:43.7; 27. Milo Skapinsky (West) 15:45.4; 28. Angel Sanchez (South) 15:45.6; 29. Nathan Lopez (Northeast) 15:46.3; 30. Trey Caldwell (West) 15:47.8;
31. Tamrat Gavenas (Northeast) 15:49.8; 32. Colin Whitaker (Northeast) 15:49.9; 33. Tj Roden (Northeast) 15:50.2; 34. Jeffrey Lewis (West) 15:51.1; 35. Riley Novack (South) 15:57.3; 36. Ayden Granados (South) 15:58.9; 37. Antonio Camacho-Bucks (Northeast) 16:02.1; 38. Marcelo Parra (South) 16:03.6; 39. David Mora (South) 16:19.6. ◻︎