Alyssa Aldridge began the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship on Saturday as New Jersey’s best runner.
The Mainland Regional High School junior finished the race as an All-American.
Aldridge finished 13th in the 40-runner field. She ran the 3.1-mile course at Balboa Park in San Diego in 17 minutes, 55.2 seconds. Claudia Lane of Malibu High School in California, won in 17:04.8.
The race’s top-15 finishers earn All-American honors. Aldridge is a third team All-American. Her goal was to finish in the top 15.
“It’s such an honor to be an All-American,” Aldridge said in a phone interview from San Diego on Saturday afternoon. “It’s something that stays with you forever.”
This was the second straight year Aldridge competed in the National Championship and her performance Saturday was a big improvement over last year when she finished 23rd in 18:20.
“I’m really excited I was able to improve,” she said. “I knew what to expect this year. I knew the ins and outs of everything.”
Lane, a sophomore, led the race from start to finish. Aldridge challenged Lane for the lead early in the race.
“I didn’t want to sit back,” Aldridge said. “I wanted to give it everything I had.”
Saturday capped a historic season for Aldridge. She qualified for this year’s National Championships by winning the Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York, on Nov. 26. The Northeast race was one of four regionals held around the country that day. The top 10 finishers in each region qualified for Saturday’s race.
Aldridge this season became just the ninth New Jersey girl to win consecutive cross country Meet of Champions races. She also defended her Atlantic County, Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey and state Group III titles.
Aldridge will now take some time off before beginning the indoor track and field season. She will use part of her mini-vacation to reflect back on her time in San Diego.
Aldridge has been in California since Wednesday. The National Championship is about more than Saturday’s race. There were plenty of outings and chances to interact with the other runners. Before the race, each runner was individually introduced to the crowd.
“Everything that happens out here,” Aldridge said, “is just an amazing experience.”