Local runners excel in San Diego race
You can't trust the old adage that it never rains in California, but you can be sure of this:
When Rad Gunzenhauser and Ryan Gil get together on a 5K course, only a few seconds will separate them at the finish line.
Mt. Lebanon's Gunzenhauser and North Allegheny's Gil ran Saturday in a steady rain in the 31st annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. Gunzenhauser finished 24th in 15 minutes, 48 seconds — 24 seconds off his personal best and 40 behind the winner, Lucas Verzibicas of Orland Hills, Ill.
But when Gunzenhauser looked over his shoulder at the end, there was Gil, this year's WPIAL champion, finishing 31st in 15:53 — 23 seconds slower than his best.
"I was happy with (his time) because it is so late in the season," said Gil, a junior who finished third in the PIAA meet to Gunzenhauser's second. "It is tough to maintain good times toward the end."
Gunzenhauser, a senior, said he was able to overcome the "very, very, very muddy" terrain, because he was pushed by the talented field, which included 40 of the best high school runners in the nation.
"There was no way I could have run a sub-16-minute (in any other race)," he said.
Gunzenhauser passed six runners near the end, but two of them recovered before the finish line to end up ahead of him.
"I waited too long to make my final push," he said.
Nonetheless, both runners were pleased that they kept their feet on a course that was nearly destroyed by rain.
"Going down hills was tough," Gil said. "I had to be careful. A few people did fall."
The top 15 runners in the boys and girls events earned an All-American distinction, and Gunzenhauser noted that he was 6 seconds away from that — and just 18 behind the fourth-place runner.
"It was easily the best field I ever ran against," he said.