Floyd's Zariel Macchia races during the 2023 state championships at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill...

Floyd's Zariel Macchia races during the 2023 state championships at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School in Verona on Nov. 11, 2023. Credit: Bryan Bennett

Zariel Macchia proved once again that she’s one of the top distance runners in the country, even when not feeling her best.

The Floyd junior, who dominated courses around the Northeast this fall, placed 10th at Foot Locker Nationals on Saturday, running the 5-kilometer course at Balboa Park in San Diego in 17 minutes, 49.3 seconds

“I’m happy with it. I put in a good effort today,” Macchia said. “If you run hard and you don’t place as high as you want, that’s just because other people ran better than you or they felt better that day, it’s not that you ran badly.”

Macchia placed sixth at the same meet last year and won the Foot Locker Northeast Regional two weeks ago at Boston’s Franklin Park in 17:13 to qualify for Saturday’s national race.

The temperature reached as high as 73 degrees in San Diego on Saturday, according to accuweather.com. Macchia said her legs felt tired and tight at times as she ran around the two-loop course.

“I wasn’t feeling quite as good as [state] federations and regionals, so I kind of felt it a lot sooner than I was hoping for,” Macchia said. “The hill the second time was pretty difficult. I definitely felt that a lot.”

Still, Macchia passed two runners in the last mile and earned a Top-10 finish for the second straight year.

She finished 12th at the same meet as a freshman two years ago and remains the only runner to have placed in the Top-15 at Foot Locker Nationals in each of the last three seasons (the race was competed under different names in 2021 and '22) .

“I could see she didn’t feel her best, but hey, that happens,” Floyd coach John Ryan said. “Even when she doesn’t do what she wants to do, she still ends up doing well.”

Macchia said her cross country season isn’t done. She’s eyeing the USATF championships in Virginia in January, where she hopes to qualify for the U20 United States national cross country team for the second year in a row.

“It’s rare to find a kid as nice as she is but still has that competitive edge that you need to be so successful,” Ryan said. “She knows if you want to be the best you have to run against the best, and you have to beat the best. That’s what she’s looking to do ultimately. That’s part of what makes her so special.”

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