By Leonard COUTIN
This past weekend Azusa Pacific University and Arroyo High School joined forces to hold the annual Meet of Champions High School Distance Classic. Unfortunately adidas, which had been a solid sponsor in the past, failed to make it to the negotiating table this year. It was left to APU/Arroyo to pull the event together.
Although it is still early in the season, at the Meet runners got a chance to test their strength and conditioning while facing some of the most talented runners in California. Sponsoring more than 141 races during the day and giving spectators a night to remember, fans watched the elite invitational and rated races that have traditionally posted some of the best marks in the country.
“This is a great meet for us. Almost everyone had personal bests or close to personal bests,” said CVHS Coach Mark Evans. “It really gives kids a chance to compete against athletes of similar ability. Athletes not in front in our dual meet races are in races where they can compete for the top places and medals.”
CV senior Grace McAuley ran early in the morning in heat No. 1 of the 3200m races.
“Grace just needed a fast race to drop the 3200 time and she got it. She ran at the front most of the race and got out kicked at the end. We just need to work on more strength and some finishing speed. This was a great race for her,” said Evans.
Running a promising time of 11:27.24, McAuley’s efforts looked to be paying off.
Though the day was long, as the evening events unfolded one couldn’t ask for better weather conditions or a better track on which to run. Falcon Kyle Dickerson was seeded in the 800m rated race, Colin FitzGerald in the rated 3200 and Philip Thomas in the 3200 invitational. Dickerson, who ran a PR time last week (sub two minutes), was ready to match his speed against the strong contenders. Getting out fast, the leaders brought the pace around for the first lap. Dickerson stayed on the inside of the leaders and made a powerful showing coming off the final turn. Noted for his remarkable finishes, Dickerson battled Bishop Amat’s Robbie Santoyo right up to the finish line running a PR mark of 1:56.9.1 to place fifth. Zavala Michelangelo won with a time of 1:54.89.
FitzGerald, who had been nursing a cold, looked more like himself as he took command of the lead early on. Running first, he carried the pack through the first mile and battled others as they tried to take his lead in the second half of the race. Taking the win was Rancho Cucamonga’s Joey De Valle (9:27.48) followed by Canyon (Ana) Dalton Tanner (9:30.71) ahead of FitzGerald (9:31.57) with a PR mark.
The invitational 3200m was seeded as the last race of the evening. Following a strong off-season program, Thomas wanted to have a positive showing. Getting seeded comfortably in the middle of the pack, Thomas had a clear view of the top runners. Knowing that many had run close to a nine-minute mile (pace) would make the race interesting.
Running 70 second laps pushed the pace to a record time. Breaking out on his last lap, Thomas made a grand effort to cross the finish line with a PR mark of 9:20.46 to finish 12th. The top 10 runners finished with a time of 9:10 or better. The winner was Eduardo Herrera from Madera South (9:02.95) followed by Saugus’ Ryan Tate (9:04.60) then Madera South teammate Villar Miguel (9:04.89).
At the end of the competition, Evans looked satisfied with his runners.
“Kyle, Colin and Philip all were in good fast races and they took advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “They should have a lot of confidence coming out of Saturday’s meet. Each had huge PRs and is ready for another big drop in the next few weeks. They need to build on this and carry it into the CIF competitions.”
The invitational boys’ mile brought the crowd to its feet as they watched last year’s winner Austin Tamagno take a commanding lead for the first three laps of the race. At his heels were Connor Dunne of San Clemente and Eduardo Herrera of Madera South. All three made a remarkable sprint to the finish line. Dunne took a long stride ahead of Tamagno to win with a time of 4:04.59, Tamagno broke his last year mark of 4:06.26 to place second (4:04.83) followed closely by Herrera (4:04.99).