BOONE — Watauga cross-country runner Avery Cannon finished ninth in the South Region of the Footlocker Championships and will compete in the national championships in San Diego on Dec. 14.
The race, which will be held at Balboa Park, begins at 1 p.m. Cannon is the fifth Watauga runner to participate in the event. Four Watauga boys — Mike Clinebell in 1985, Joe Lion in 1997 and Ricky Brookshire in 1999 have previously run in the event.
One Watauga girl, Kathleen Mansure, ran in the event in 2014.
Cannon, who won the state 3-A championship cross-country meet held in Kernersville on Nov. 9, ran a time of 15 minutes, six seconds, during the 5K regional race, which was held at McAlpine Park in Charlotte. Cannon improved his best time by 21 seconds in the race, and had run the Wendy’s Invitational earlier this season at McAlpine Park. Watauga coach Randy McDonough said Cannon is gaining confidence every time he goes out. Cannon’s performance at a two-mile race called the Dash for Doobie, a scholarship fundraiser to honor former Reagan runner Nick “Doobie” Doub, who died in 2011, gave Cannon the confidence that he could post an outstanding time at the Footlocker regional, according to McDonough.
“His idea going down there was to just run a good time,” McDonough said. “That time he ran at the Dash for Doobie, a two-mile race when he ran a 9:14, I told him at that point that puts him up in the conversation of qualifying for Footlocker because 9:14 is the third-fastest time in Watauga history (for a two-mile race). The way he’s been coming on at the end of this season, I thought he could do it and darned if he didn’t go out and do it.”
McDonough said Cannon kept up with the front of the pack at McAlpine for most of the race. McDonough said Cannon was in fifth place close to the finish line, but came across the finish line in a crowd and ended up finishing ninth.
“He still kept that ninth place and he was pretty pumped with that,” McDonough said.
In San Diego, Cannon will be in an event that involves the top 10 finishers of four regions. McDonough said the course in San Diego is not as clean as the ones Cannon has seen in North Carolina. McDonough said Mansure will give Cannon some pointers on how to navigate the course.
“It’s a lot hillier course,” McDonough said. “It’s not as a clean-cut course as the one he ran. It’s got roots in it, and it will be more of a competition thing, so he will go out and do what he can do competition-wise. It’s up to him if he wants to treat it as an experience or go out there and really compete.”