Finnane Tops Improbable Season at Nationals

Colin Jones, Staff Writer

Rookie cross country star Toni Finnane finished 22nd at the Footlocker high school National Championship on December 13.  The senior clocked 18:26 on the 5 kilometer course in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

According to cross country head coach Chuck Woolridge, Finnane’s performance was a success. “Toni was ranked 28th in the country going into the meet, so finishing 22nd is definitely an accomplishment for her,” he said. “But even more impressive is the fact that three months ago, she had never run a competitive race.”

Finnane had previously been involved with club and high school soccer, but had not participated in any form of competitive running until joining the cross country squad in early September.

Woolridge attributed the success to an “amazing competitive spirit and unmatched work ethic.”

Athletic director Tom Renno added,  “Any time you have an athlete that’s new to a sport the expectation is not that they’re going to compete on a national level. What Toni did is exceptional.”

Renno also compared Finnane’s success to former Campolindo standout Carrie Verdon, who won the individual state title in cross country in 2010 and 2011, as well as Aidan Goltra, who won state titles in 2012 and 2013.  Both went on to compete at the national championships and are now members of top NCAA division 1 programs.

According to Woolridge, Finnane was extremely coachable in her debut season. “[She had] an openness to constructive feedback from coaches,” Woolridge said.

Finnane herself said that she was “very happy” with her progress during the season.  She finished 2nd at the DFAL championships, the NCS championships and the state championships.  She followed that with a 5th place finish at the Western Regional championships to qualify for the national meet.

Finnane handled the magnitude of her accomplishments and the pressure of the national spotlight well, in spite of her inexperience. “I knew going in that I was racing against the best in the nation and everyone would be big competition,” she said.  In addition to the race, athletes attended a panel discussion with several Olympic athletes, a special preview screening of Disney’s upcoming movie release McFarland, several press conferences and media interviews, and an awards banquet.

Finnane’s West team, comprised of the 10 Western Regional qualifiers, was captained by American record holder Ryan Hall and Olympic marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi.  Finnane also had an opportunity to run with Olympian Kara Goucher and American record holder Molly Huddle during the course preview.

Finnane will continue to participate in running on the track and field team this spring, and looks at her rookie year in the sport as the beginning of a long-term commitment. “I want it to be a part of my life,” Finnane said.

Renno believes that Finnane’s cross country prowess will translate into a successful spring season on the oval. “Generally speaking, success in cross country translates pretty well to track, and so as Toni continues to train, she should continue to have a high level of success.”

Finnane recently committed to run for Notre Dame next year.