In a grueling battle to the line, Tam Gavenas ’25 finished the final 200 meters of the 5K race in 33 seconds, securing a podium finish by 0.9 seconds. With a time of 15:16.6, Gavenas was the top-ranked 11th-grader at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals on December 9.
Held annually at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, Foot Locker Nationals brings together 40 runners across four regions to compete for the national title. Gavenas was among ten runners from the Northeast region to attend, all of whom qualified through a regional meet held on November 25.
Last year, Gavenas placed 31st at the same meet with a time of 15:49.8. Teammate Max Huang ’24 reflected upon Gavenas’ training during the year, which ultimately contributed to the 33 second improvement on the course this season.
“Tam is one of the most committed runners I have seen. He shows up everyday and puts in the hard work. He doesn’t talk about it a lot but he always gets the job done. He puts his best into every single workout. He has done a really good job trusting the training and it has taken him really far,” said Huang.
Coaches Garrett Richie and Patrick Rielly both traveled with Gavenas to Foot Locker Nationals. The three flew out to California three days before the meet, using the following days to develop race strategy and identify tangents on the winding course.
Richie said, “Two days before the race we went and ran the course when no other athletes were there. We talked and Coach Reilly asked him if there were two places he wanted to make a move regardless of what else was happening in the race. Tam picked those places and stuck to that …his strategy…and [his] moves really allowed him to put himself in a position to try to go for the win from the beginning.”
Riche shared similar sentiments with Huang, highlighting how Gavenas’ mental strength and focus have played a crucial role in his success in distance running.
Richie said, “Tam’s always been an incredible runner from day one. He is incredibly hard working and incredibly tough and it was great to see all these pieces we have worked on over the years come together. We have always worked on tactics, metal focus, and strategies, and to see him do the course run two days beforehand with me and work on tangents he was just so focused on what he needed to do.”
Gavenas opened up the race with a 2:18 800 meter split to sit at the front of the lead pack. In his finish, Gavenas demonstrated grit, passing a Senior opponent in the final ten meters to secure third place.
Gavenas said, “We started to go on to the finishing straight, the last part, with about 400 meters to go. We started going up this small incline and I could feel my legs slowly, slowly dying but I knew I had some kick left. I was in fifth place at the time. I had dropped back from second and third, which was my position throughout the race… I was like, ‘This is the last time I’m running cross country my [Upper] Year, I just got to give it my shot.’ I didn’t really see Berkeley Nance until the last 50 meters.”
Huang was one of many teammates to watch Gavenas’s race through a livestream. Huang highlighted the amount of effort that Gavenas put into his finish.
Huang said, “I had a watch party with about ten people. We were all gathered around my computer… During the race, towards the end, Tam was battling in fifth place coming up on the last 200 meters. We had seen him in fifth on the video and all of a sudden he was finishing in third. I went back and timed his last 150 meters and compared it to a bunch of other runners across the years. He ran the last 150 meters in 22 seconds and the fastest I had seen it before was 24 seconds. That just shows how fast he closed and how much he wanted it.”
Gavenas’ performance has earned an automatic spot at New Balance Nationals Indoor this winter.