THE LEGENDS OF CROSS COUNTRY 5K HISTORY
By Phil Lawton
The purpose of the Legends of Cross Country has always been to honor the best high school cross country runners in Southern Nevada, past and present. Established in 1997, Legends of Cross Country initially included the top 50 Southern Nevada high school cross country runners from the 80’s and 90’s. All state champions and southern zone winners from those years, plus a few other outstanding runners from area high schools chosen arbitrarily by me. Since that beginning in 1997, the list has been expanded and broadened annually by adding athletes from as far back as 1972 (for boys) and 1978 (for the girls), since those are the first years that a Nevada State Championship was held in cross country. Those selected were again chosen by me after consultation with other local-area cross country coaches.
In 2001 I turned the Legends selection process over to a committee of current and retired coaches and past Legends. I used the Baseball Hall of Fame (HoF) selection process as a guideline and came up with criteria for selection that required 75% of the votes for induction from a list of nominees that included current graduating high school seniors who had been cross country standouts. The only automatic selections now are State Champions. I will continue to fine tune the selection process as necessary, possibly having a Veteran’s Committee consider past overlooked potential Legends as they do with the baseball HoF, but I want selection as a Legend to remain something special. As of the end of 2018 there are 174 Legends, which averages out at two boys and two girls per year.
Criteria for Selection
1. State Champions (all classes). Making all state champions Legends was a decision I made when I created this so-called Southern Nevada Cross Country Legends Hall of Fame. It does allow some athletes to get in “through the back door,” so to speak. Some athletes who would probably not get “elected” otherwise qualify because, arguably, they won their state meet against a weak field. So be it. To me, a State Champion is deserving regardless of the classification. Possibly, in the future, we can revisit that decision. But for now, if you win state, you’re a Legend.
2. Footlocker and Nike Team Nationals: recognized athletes. Both Footlocker and NXN are ultra competitive, even more so than our state meet. If an athlete achieves recognition (Seeded races only), at either the Footlocker West Regional or NXN SW qualifier, he or she is given special consideration for immediate Legend status. That recognition is subject to change but currently is defined as All-West at Footlocker (top 24), or a top-10 finisher in the Seeded race at NXN SW and/or one of individual qualifiers for the NXN finals.
3. Graduating senior from a southern Nevada high school who has run cross country in Nevada for at least two years, but more likely three or four years.
To be recognized as a Legend implies that the athlete stood out from his or her peers as an outstanding runner, within the time frame of his or her high school years. Some Legends have been outstanding from the beginning: as freshmen all the way through their senior years (Abby Miller, Sydney Badger, Patrick Swick, and Nick Hartle come to mind). Others have shown steady progress and don’t excel right away (often the case with boys). However, almost all Legends will have excelled among their peers in Nevada for at least two years. (The exception would include a runner who is a state champion regardless of longevity.)
a. Primary selection is based on how well an athlete has achieved at the Nevada State Meet and secondarily how well the athlete has performed in other championship meets such as Frosh-Soph, Conference or League, and Zone or Regionals. Footlocker, USATF JO’s, Nike Team Nationals and any other cross country achievements occurring after the state meet but before the end of the calendar year could also be taken into account, if applicable.
b. In considering runners who ran for 1A schools or smaller schools (D-2/3), their achievements should be judged in direct comparison (both time and place) with the top class (D-4 at the present time) runners. For example, how did the 1A or D-3 runner’s time at the state meet compare with the times of runners who ran the D-4 race over the same course on the same day?
c. Injuries and special circumstances should be considered as well. If an athlete misses all or most of a season due to an injury/illness and performs “not-so-well or not-at-all” at Region or State it should not disqualify out of hand. The “body of work” must be the prime consideration. This is another reason that to be elected as a Legend the running resume’ should be more than two years long in most cases. Also, too, how you get to state counts. A runner who qualifies for state as the sixth or seventh runner on the team—because his or her team qualified— probably doesn’t have the same value as a runner who qualifies as an individual.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
1. State Champions are added as Legends in the year in which they win a Nevada state championship.
2. Following the completion of the cross country season each year, two ballots (boys and girls) of graduating seniors who have had “noteworthy high school careers” will be prepared by the Legends Selection Committee. This committee is made up of current and retired coaches and Legends (must have completed high school career) and is subject to change from year to year.
3. There is no limit on the list of nominees (or inductees) from year to year; however, the selection committee may only vote for up to three boys and up to three girls for selection in a given year. In order to be selected, a nominee must be named on at least 75% of the ballots. Any runner who is named on at least 50% of the ballots will be automatically carried over to the next year.
The Legends of Cross Country are honored at an annual 5K run held in late summer before the start of the high school cross country season, usually the first Saturday in August. The event has been held continuously since 1997. The first Legends Run was held at Pueblo Park in Summerlin. From 1998 to 2000 Legends was held at Lorenzi Park. Thereafter it has been held at Sunset Park, Old Silver Bowl Park, and Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The two most notable multiple winners of the Legends 5K are Jeremy Sudbury, a five-time winner and JJ Santana a four-time winner.
In 2006, Jeremy, while still in high school, finished 2nd (behind fellow Legend Solomon Bennett). The next year 2007, and for next four years (as a college runner at Paradise Valley JC and the University of Oklahoma), he finished as the first male runner.
JJ Santana first won in 2015; finished second in ’16, and has been the top male finisher the last four years: 2017-2020.
The top female to have won Legends more than once is Legend Sydney Badger, who won four times: 2012-2014 and 2016. Another Legend Amanda Gramly Henriques, has won twice: in 2003, while she was still in high school, and eight years later, in 2011.