ORLANDO, FL - Amber Trotter came through as expected and pulled off the unexpected all in the race. To nobody's surprise, Trotter, the California state champion who has dominated every cross country race she's been in all season, did it once again on Saturday, winning the Footlocker Cross Country National title at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. However, the ease and manner in which the Ukiah High senior toasted the star-studded field left everyone in attendance standing in amazement.
Trotter smashed the course record set last season by Montgomery's Sara Bei and posted the second-largest margin of victory in the meet's 22-year history, covering the 5000-meter in 16 minutes, 24 seconds, to capture her first national title. "It just feels great to win," said Trotter, who outdistanced runner-up Erika Odlaug of Illinois by 40 seconds. "It doesn't matter if it's by five seconds or 40, it just feels great to be the National Champion."
The victory was never in question. Trotter took the lead from the opening gun, opening up a sizable lead within the first 400 meters. She came through the mile mark in 5:05 and already had a 22-second lead on the next pack. By the halfway point, her lead was 36 seconds and it was clearly obvious that the real race was for second place. In fact, her race was so dominant that race officials had to call for a second golf cart to pace the group of 32 of the nation's finest female runners. One for Trotter, and one for the rest of the field.
"I was feeling a lot of pressure because everyone was saying that I was the one to beat," said Trotter. "I wanted to end that early in the race."
"I didn't plan on going out THAT fast, but I did plan on taking it out hard because I knew that I had put in the work and it'd take a lot for someone to stay with me. I love to take it out hard and push my body and mind to the limits." Then, with a slight smile, the senior added, "Plus, I don't have much of a kick, so I knew that I'd be toast if it came down to the last quarter-mile."
She never had to worry. It was apparent as she crossed the two-mile mark in 10:20 that the only thing Trotter had left to race was the clock and Bei's course record. As she reached the final half-mile, the question changed from whether or not she'd break the record to by how much.
"I was trying not to focus on how much I was winning by or breaking records," said Trotter. "I was just trying to stay focused on how much I love running and love competing in this wonderful sport. I wanted to keep it simple out there and I told myself that throughout the race. Just run fast and keep running as fast as you can." Though Trotter's philosphy seems simple enough, she did add that the win and the records are a bit of a payoff for her hard work and the determination of her coaches and family.
She said that their support during last spring when she was forced to miss track season because of her physical condition caused by an eating disorder was what enabled her to get back to this point. "This race was really for my coaches and my family," said Trotter. "Coach (Jerry) Drew and my friends and family have stuck by me through all the hard times, and their support is what made the difference. Really, things started to go downhill last season after this meet, so it's nice to come back here and accomplish this.
"It's very satisfying."
She also said the course-record will give her a bit of confidence as she puts the stamp on the final pages in a fine carreer.
"To run as fast or faster than Sara and Anita (Siraki, last year's runner-up who was also from California) shows me what I can do," said Trotter after adding that she'll run for NCAA Division III National Champion Middlebury College in Vermont next fall. "I've always looked up to those girls and thought that there's no way that I could do what they did. Now here I am with a time that's faster."
"It's definitely exciting to me and gives me a lot of confidence."
Equally as exciting - albeit in a very different fashion - was the boys' race. Michigan's Timothy Moore outkicked and outlasted Bobby Lockhart, of Virginia, to win the closest race in the meet's history. The two were head-to-head over the last 100 meters before Moore edged in front of Lockhart with less than 30 meters to go to escape with a one-second victory in a time of 14:50.
Written for the Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA)