Wappingers Falls - It might be the tail end of the cross country running season, but Gianna Frontera is showing no signs of winding down.
For the second weekend in a row, the standout Newburgh Free Academy sophomore harrier spent both days competing in high stake races. The result: a seventh place showing at Saturday’s Federation Championships and a first place performance at Sunday’s Junior National Qualifier. The hefty race load, along with stepped up competition is a recipe resulting in dipping times, course records, season peaking and perhaps even an elusive shot at the Nike National Championships.
Frontera got a small taste of that "Nike flavor" Saturday at Bowdoin Park, as she ran in the Federation Championships. Tackling the hilly and challenging 3.1 mile course, Frontera eclipsed yet another NFA course record, clocking an 18:41.9 split. She will again face a similar field of some of the most talented scholastic girl runners in the state, along with others in the mid-east region, when she traverses the Bowdoin Park course this Saturday at noon, seeking one of five prestigious individual qualifications for the Nike National race in Oregon.
"The atmosphere is just so intense here; listening to the music and announcer and looking at all of the Nike signs here was really getting me excited for next week," said Frontera following her Federation finish. "This week I let the pack get away from me a little at the start and had to play catch up, but next week I’m going to try harder to try to stay with them; I really want to make the top five, so I can qualify for Nationals.
It’s that willingness to evaluate her races, learn from her mistakes, and make a game plan for the following race based on those adjustments, that is leaving her coach, Blair Balogh confident that anything is possible for his young running charge.
"She ran a very strong race, showing great determination and desire today, and really doing what she has to do to get noticed," said Balogh following Frontera’s Federation race. "She is one of the best runners NFA has ever had; at this point there really isn’t much more she can do."
Next Saturday the stage for a Nike National Qualification will be set at Bowdoin Park, a course quite familiar to Frontera. She will have her ticket to Oregon punched if she can be one of five girls to cross the line after the top two qualifying teams.
"She has a good, realistic shot, better than ever of making it happen," said Balogh. "It’s really going to come down to how bad she wants it."
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Frontera is guaranteed an extension on her close to three month cross country racing season. Sunday, she captured the Junior Olympic Region 1 Qualifier, finishing first in the 22 runner field at Queensbury High School in a time of 18:45.12, earning her a spot in the Junior Olympic Finals.