Mason Gatewood has lived in five states, but has never been to San Diego. That’ll change in a little under two weeks. Gatewood, a senior at St. Anthony’s, finished 10th at the Foot Locker Northeast Cross Country Regional, running the 5-kilometer Van Cortlandt Park course in 15 minutes, 54.8 seconds Saturday morning in the Bronx.
The finish qualified Gatewood for the Foot Locker National Championships, scheduled for Dec. 9 at Balboa Park in San Diego. The meet will pit the top 40 Foot Locker qualifiers in the country, pulled from the northeast, south, midwest, and far west.
Gatewood needed a top-10 finish to qualify and, by the end of the race, was in no real danger of missing the cut. He clinched his ticket by nearly 10 seconds, showing he clearly is among the cream-of-the-crop.
“There were people calling out places, so I knew I was tenth,” Gatewood, who lives in Garden City where his mother, Dr. Christine M. Riordan, is the president of Adelphi, said. “It was a tough race, so I was just trying to get in the top-10.”
Tristan Shelgren, of Massachusetts St. John’s Prep won in 15:32.8. Nathan Lawler of Pittsford-Mendon was the only New York runner to finish ahead of Gatewood. Lawler, who is the top runner in the state according to tullyrunners.com, was fifth in 15:40.7.
“Mentally, it’s always a big race,” Gatewood said. “The first mile was fast. This was the first time I was running the 5K course [at Van Cortlandt]. That was definitely another challenge that I wasn’t quite used to. Obviously, you just have to roll with it. But, it definitely unnerves you.”
The performance capped an exciting, and grueling, three weeks for Gatwood. Last weekend, he won the state Federation championship in Wappingers Falls. Two weeks ago, he took home gold at the CHSAA Intersectional Championship, commonly referred to as the ‘catholic state championship.’
Gatewood was incredibly successful on Van Cortlandt Park’s 2.5-mile course this season, but said he did notice a few differences when it was extended to the 5K distance.
“The main part of the course is the back trails, and that stays the same throughout,” Gatewood said. “The main difference is just that you have about a mile until you enter the back trails. In the 2.5 mile-course, you have about half a mile . . . Having about a mile build up to the back trail was different but, once again, you just have to roll with it.”
Gatewood’s been California dreamin’ for quite a while. This season, he kept a post-it note on the door of his room with the letters ‘FL’ (as in, Foot Locker) written on it, a constant reminder of his ultimate goals.
“Every time I walk in my room, it reminds me,” Gatewood said. “I’ve been looking at that all year and the fact that it happened is pretty neat.”