The warm-up period is slowly coming to a close for Staples High's cross country star Hannah DeBalsi. The junior sat out the regular season to build towards a strong postseason and national circuit. It's almost time to discover whether or not the revised schedule will pay off.

DeBalsi will compete in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional on Saturday morning at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx. Race time is scheduled for 11:10 along the five kilometer course.

The top 10 finishers from each of the four regional races will advance to the national meet, which takes place Dec. 13 in San Diego. Runners from 11 states and Washington D.C. will be represented in the regional.

"I know one of the things (DeBalsi's) talked about is each time she's raced she's felt better physically and more eager to push herself as hard as she can," Staples cross country coach Amanda Morgan said. "She will have more people near her in the race; she does well in those high-pressure situations."

DeBalsi has spent the last several weeks doing base work in hoping to be in top gear over the next few weeks. She's run competitively four times this season, and has comfortably won all four.

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"The hardest part about coming back is getting my mind into it," DeBalsi said.

According to Morgan it's difficult to scout the other possible contenders, given the nature of cross country and the immeasurable variables such as course length, training schedule of the top runners and weather on a particular day. DeBalsi remains one of the favorites to win the race, but a runner could emerge from anywhere to win the title.

"I think in terms of attitude mentally she seems to be benefiting (from the early season rest)," Morgan said. "She's excited and fired mentally. I guess with any race as competitive as the regional meet any number of girls sneak in there or surprise someone or challenge."

DeBalsi comfortably won the FCIAC, Class LL, State Open and New England championships, the latter three of which came at Manchester's Wickham Park. DeBalsi won the New England race Nov. 8 by 25 seconds.

"I still in my building phase," DeBalsi said after the New England race. "I'm coming back stronger and stronger and that should be beneficial for me going into Foot Locker."

DeBalsi finished third at the Northeast regional last year, clocking in at 17:39.4 and finishing behind race-winner and eventual national champion Tessa Barrett, who graduated.

DeBalsi admitted she struggled to get acclimated to the course last year, but Morgan believes the experience will pay off this time around.

"Over the past couple weeks we've worked on her getting hilly running in," Morgan said.

After finishing third at regionals, DeBalsi went on to finish second at the national meet at San Diego's Balboa Park, the site of this year's championships.