No distance runner in the last decade has entered college with expectations higher than those placed upon Jordan Hasay.
The wunderkind from California’s Central Coast was very much a product of the Dyestat-driven internet age, capturing the hearts of prep followers with her signature flowing blonde hair and bubbly personality.
But despite the promising future many saw in Hasay, she’s been unable to break the infamous Foot Locker curse – no female Foot Locker champion has ever claimed an individual NCAA cross country title.
Hasay’s career at Oregon thus far certainly hasn’t been a disappointment. She’s finished third and second, respectively, at the last two NCAA cross country championships, the victim of a stalwart opponent in Villanova’s Sheila Reid.
On the surface, Reid’s graduation would indicate Hasay is the national title heir apparent in 2012.
Not so fast. A number of Hasay’s opponents made major statements on the track last spring about their own prowess.
Abbey D’Agostino not only won her first NCAA title in the 5000 meters but nearly snuck onto the Olympic team in the same event. Her 5000 personal best of 15:19.98 bests Hasay’s time by 17 seconds.
Although Iowa State’s Betsy Saina redshirted last track season, she had a huge breakthrough while winning the prestigious 10,000 meter race at the Payton Jordan Invitational. Saina has proven herself this cross country season with consistently strong performances in each of her races.
Hasay may have caught a break with D’Agostino missing time with a hip injury but the emergence of fellow Golden Stater Laura Hollander of Cal Poly serves as yet another barrier to her dream of standing atop the medal stand in Louisville.
With all these obstacles in her way, how can Hasay possibly win this Saturday?
In my mind, the question should really be, how can Hasay NOT win?
Sure, she started the season off slowly with a subpar race at the Dellinger Invitational and a mediocre performance two weeks later at Pre-Nationals.
Since then, she’s been stellar. Hasay bravely fought through a case of food poisoning at the Pac-12 championships to finish just seconds behind winner Kathy Kroeger and lead the Ducks to their first team title since 1995.
Last Friday at the West Regional, Hasay patiently hunted down the front-running Hollander to claim a six second victory over the super frosh in a blistering 19:16 for six kilometers.
Much like the Georgetown women’s team that peaked at precisely the right moment last year, Hasay appears primed to run her best on November 17, the only day of the season that really counts.