Amelia Paladino Headed to San Diego (Again) with 2nd at FL South (updated)

Amelia Paladino, the 2012 and 2013 Class AAA champion in West Virginia, qualified for the Foot Locker National Finals for the second consecutive year, finishing second in the South Regional in Charlotte, N.C.

“This is a dream of mine so it’s a blessing to be here,” Paladino said after the race of being a 2013 qualifier.

The senior from University High School finished in 17 minutes, 4 seconds, with champion Caroline Alcorta of West Springfield, Va., crossing in 16:55. In 2012, Paladino claimed the 10th and final qualifying spot for the national event in San Diego.

"The start is always pretty brutal, (and) I saw Caroline go out ahead of me and followed her lead through the mass of people," Paladino said of Alcorta, who is ranked eighth nationally in the Saucony Elite 50. "But then all of a sudden I was in second, and it didn't feel wrong. I didn't feel like I went out too fast and was gonna die so I just tried to hold that spot.

"Then just after a mile, the third-place qualifier and the fourth-place qualifier passed me and we ran in a little pack until about 1K to go when I passed them for second again. They were perfect competition for me, they definitely pushed me forward."

The nation's top 40 boys and girls will run for national honors on December 14 at Balboa Park.

"Going back to San Diego is a blessing," Paladino exclaimed. "When I went last year, it was a goal of mine just to make it back. My qualifying race this year was obviously a better accomplishment for me in terms of numbers, but each race has their own merit, as I was younger last year and didn't even think I was going to make it to San Diego in the first place. I just had to focus on making it back because it was such a wonderful experience."

Also in the girls' race, Hurricane's Tori Dent was 56th in 18:21, while Class AA-A champion Alicia Parsons of Grafton was 74th in 18:32.

In the boys' race, Andrew Milliron was the top finisher from West Virginia. A senior at Jefferson, Milliron was 36th in 15:30, while state champion Matthew Brafford of George Washington was close behind in 47th at 15:35 and University's Andrew Paladino was 84th in 15:50. Abe Merinar of Bridgeport was 124th in 16:04, while Austin Hamrick of Elkins was 214th in 16:42, and Jefferson's Rhett Zillinger and Jackson Jacobs were 222nd and 223rd in 16:46.

Check back for more coverage of this year's Foot Locker and NXN races.