Foot Locker Nationals: Wolfe Howls Late, Stewart Goes 2-2

I've seen the best athletes of any generation rise to the occasion to achieve great things, given the right amount of adversity to overcome. 

A near-miss fuels a future bullseye, as if defeat is sometimes needed to achieve victory. 

Three weeks ago Parker Wolfe missed qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals by less than half a second, before nabbing the final qualifying spot for the Foot Locker National Championships a week later. 

As great of a run that was, he upped the ante Saturday morning in San Diego, Cali., as the Cherry Creek junior saved his best for last, finishing 15th on the biggest stage of his young career at Foot Locker Nationals (which was fourth among Midwest runners).

"I was definitely surprised," Wolfe explained of his finish. "I wasn't expecting too much, but the goal was to get All-American, and I got that last spot which was pretty awesome."

Wolfe took a more patient approach, cruising through the opening mile in 4:50 in the midst of the giant lead pack. 

He hovered between 25th and 28th through the first half of the race before gradually pressing the pedal to the floor in the final mile, where he ate up nearly a dozen people. 

"I wanted to wait until the second lap so I wouldn't die on the hill," he explained. "I closed pretty quick that last mile."

The strategy paid off big, as each stride brought another competitor to pass, and when Wolfe entered the final straight, he found himself within reach of his goal of an All-American finish.

The Cherry Creek junior finished 15th in 15:37.

"It was definitely nerve-wracking to toe the line in a race like this," Wolfe explained. "It's great experience for next year, and for track season."

Claiming the national title was Josh Methner, who was the runaway winner in 15:08 - an eight-second victory.

Adding to Wolfe's experience this year was traveling with Cherry Creek teammate, Riley Stewart, who was toeing the line at Foot Locker for the second consecutive year, and her fourth national championship race.

"It was great to know someone who has been here (Foot Locker ) before," Wolfe shared. "She share a lot of what to expect, which really helped."