Dallas junior Regan Rome proved she could keep up with the best high school distance runners in the country.
Concluding her season in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Finals in San Diego on Dec. 8, Rome finished 19th out of the 40 girls who had qualified through regional competition after finishing high in their various state meets.
The race went out super fast, Rome said in a post-race telephone interview from her hotel while looking over the Pacific Ocean. I kind of got stuck behind.
I had to work my way up. A little after the mile, I was in the spot I finished, then for the rest of the race, I was between about 16th and 20th.
Rome finished the 3.1-mile course in 18:04, the same time as 18th-place finisher Marisa Ruskan from Bridgewater-Raritan, N.J.
Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka, Ind. won in 17:25. Catarina Rocha of Peabody, Mass. finished second, four seconds later.
Rocha was the champion of the Northeast Regional in the Bronx, N.Y. where Rome finished fourth – needing a top 10 finish in one of the four regionals – to qualify for the trip to San Diego.
Although Rome made her way to nationals as an individual, the Dallas team shared in her accomplishment.
Rome made the trip along with her mother and her younger sister Ally, also a state medalist for Dallas, and coach Matt Samuel.
As Rome ran, other teammates followed live video coverage of the race online from home.
My teammates were all texting me, she said following the race. They were all watching the race. I'm really lucky to have the teammates I have.
They also helped Rome prepare for regional and national competition after their high school seasons ended.
My teammates really helped me train, Rome said.
In a journal she wrote for milesplit.com about the Foot Locker experience, Rome credited her sister Ally, Bryanna Dissinger, Allison Grose and Maggie Fannick for running with her every day prior to the Northeast Regional.
With another year ahead for Rome and her teammates, there are more achievements to chase.
Rome finished third in the state individually and the Lady Mountaineers were second as a team in Class AA at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships.
Rome will take aim at becoming a four-time District 2 cross country champion – not counting the junior high championship she won in eighth grade – then try to lift herself or her team to the state championship level. She will also pursue the possibility of becoming an NCAA Division I scholarship runner, something she made progress on by making it to San Diego.
I hope to return next year and improve on my place and time, she said. … I was just looking around down there and seeing coaches from 50 Division I colleges walking around.
Rome, who was also a state bronze medalist in track season in the 3200-meter run, spent six days a week running a total of 45 miles a week throughout the summer to prepare for a season full of accomplishments. After fighting an illness during her third-place state finish to complete the Dallas High School portion of her season, she was ecstatic to make it to the top half of the field at nationals.
In addition to the competition, qualifying for the race gave Rome the chance to meet and seek advice from elite runners like Deena Kastor, the American women's marathon record holder and a silver medalist in the event at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and Ryan Hall, who was 10th in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
They had the Foot Locker alumni there and they had a panel where we got to ask questions of the Olympians, people that were in the same place I am just 10 or 15 years ago, Rome said. Being around all the top runners in the country and being part of the Foot Locker history is just such an honor.