The Finish Line

by Marc Narducci | Dec 15, 2023
The Finish Line
Woodbury senior Peyton Shute was hoping to extend his cross country season well beyond Nov. 11 when he placed second in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. 
Competing for the combined Gateway/Woodbury team in high school, Shute saw his season extended nearly a month, finally ending while competing against some of the best cross country runners in the county on a warm day in San Diego.
On Saturday (Dec. 9) Shute placed 32nd among 40 runners in the 44th annual Foot Locker Cross County Championships National Finals at San Diego’s Balboa Park.
His time was 16:03.9. The winner was senior Drew Griffith, a Notre Dame commit from Butler (PA) High, who ran 15:06.9.
While Shute was hoping for a better finish, he said there was so much positive about his trip to San Diego.
“It was a great experience and they put on a show and treated us great,” Shute said in a phone interview. 
Shute admitted that the 70-degree temperature was difficult to deal with.
“When we raced in the regionals it was 30 degrees and to go from 30 degrees to 70 degrees, it felt like 100 degrees,” he said. “I felt tired after a long flight Thursday, but I was happy to make this meet and to be able to compete.”

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There were four regional meets and the top 10 finishers in each of the meets qualified for the national championships.
Shute placed fifth in the Northeast Regional Meet on Nov. 25 in Boston. His time in that meet was a personal best 15:08. That topped his previous best time of 15:09 that he achieved while winning this year’s South Jersey Group 3 championship. 
Another byproduct of reaching the nationals was that this was Shute’s first trip to California.
“It was amazing, beautiful, the sites here are unbelievable,” he said. 
This ended a truly extraordinary final cross country season for Shute, who will continue his education and cross county/track career at Cornell.
This season Shute won his second straight South Jersey Group 3 championship. He then claimed the state Group 3 title.
Shute then capped his season (in New Jersey) by placing second in the Meet of Champions. His time of 15:33 was six seconds behind winner Joe Barrett of Christian Brothers. 
After that he went to regionals to extend his season and then finished in San Diego.
Shute was the lone New Jersey runner competing in San Diego, while Northern Burlington junior Liliah Gordon was the only New Jersey girl who qualified. The fact that both were from South Jersey wasn’t lost on Shute.
“It was awesome for both of us to represent South Jersey in such a big meet,” he said. 
Now he will prepare for the winter track season, but he’ll always look back fondly on the cross country season and his final meet in San Diego.
“I am super happy that the Foot Locker nationals exist because I was able to train and race much longer after I performed well in the regions,” he said. “The entire experience was something I really enjoyed.”


Photo Courtesy: for Foot Locker Cross Country

Author: Marc Narducci


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