Photos by Margot Kelly
Friday's events at the Arcadia Invitational saw cooler temperatures for at least SoCal standards in a relay heavy first day of competition. A total of six US #1's were produced nonetheless and the boys decathlon national record was simply destroyed by Curtis Beach of New Mexico with his point total of 7909. It was a historic performance thanks to his incredible output of 14.42 clocking in the 110 meter hurdles, over 150 feet throw in the javelin, 14'6" pole vault, and 4:09 1500 to complete the multi-event.
Eleanor Roosevelt girls added a US #1 in the 4x200 to their national leading times in the 4x100 and 4x400 from last weekend at the Florida Relays with a 1:36.55 victory. Despite cooler temperatures than most would have hoped to run fast in the sprint relays, the Eleanor Roosevelt girls viewed it as an advantage since they have been training in much colder weather back home in Greenbelt, Maryland since December. "We had figured the weather was going to be hot. But when we got here and it cold, we were like 'Okay. This is to our advantage because we train in this kind of weather. Everyone tried to stay positive," commented 4x200 first leg Doris Anyanwu.
If weather is not a deterrent to slow down the Roosevelt girls then neither does the willingness to travel seem to be as they have already traveled quite extensively to major meets this season including the Florida Relays last weekend in Gainesville, Florida and will be making their annual trip to Penn Relays soon.
While the 4x200 and US #1 time in the event was a nice accomplishment, Eleanor Roosevelt really looked to use the event to setup themselves for their races on Saturday. "We are really shooting for the 4x100 and 4x400. We ran the 4x200 today to set the tone for the meet that the times will be fast." Anyanwu, who will be replaced on the 4x100, humbly admitted that her team tomorrow could run even faster than their 4x100 performance last weekend at Florida. As one of their top quarter milers, she will certainly be one of their top legs on their 4x400 meter relay.
Eleanor Roosevelt was unable to win a second event of the day later in the 1600 sprint medley relay though as they were turned back by the Long Beach Wilson girls who refused to be defeated in their backyard with a US #2 time of 4:02.31.
The Long Beach Wilson girls were thrown a bit of a curveball before the race though as the Eleanor Roosevelt girls were a late race day addition to the 1600 SMR field. While the Eleanor Roosevelt relays may be feared by most on the East Coast and around most parts of the country, the Californian powerhouse LB Wilson girls were not phased at all. "We did not really let it get to us. We prayed and knew we would do good. We just went out there and did the best we could do," said 800 meter anchor leg Christina Smith.
Smith and her teammates will have some momentum heading into the 4x100 meter relay against the US leaders from Eleanor Roosevelt, who ran the fastest time last weekend in high school history by a school not from the two great states of California and Texas with their 45.38 performance at the Florida Relays. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, there will be another opportunity for Long Beach Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt to match up again as it will be the Wilson girls traveling across the country for the Penn Relays in two weeks.
The Long Beach Poly girls are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the 4x800 meter relay not only in 2009, but in 2010 with no seniors in their lineup. With a team from Australia featured in the race, the current US leaders were hoping to have more competition than in their previous races to go after a sub 9 minute time. The Long Beach Poly girls certainly wanted to make sure that an American school was the first to cross the line. "We knew we had to beat them and were hoping they would help push," said third leg Tia Leak.
Leak, who runs opening leg usually for their 4x800 including their US #1 time of 9:07 at the Texas Relays last weekend, was moved to the back end of the relay on Friday along with Neausha Logan. The team decided to switch the regular order up to give their usual third and fourth legs on the back end more competition to push them to faster splits since they have grown accustomed to running alone with great early legs usually from Logan and Leak to get them out to large leads. "The plan was to push them because our Neausha [Logan] and myself are pretty much ahead of our times [this season]. So we wanted to give them a chance to be pushed running the first two legs since they are use to running by themselves."
The plan worked as they chopped six seconds off their previous US #1 time to win by 13 seconds in 9:01.89. Leak at 2:16 and Logan at 2:14 still ran fast splits running by themselves.
Two other East Coast schools picked up relay wins on Friday at Arcadia with Monsignor Farrell boys in the 4x800 at 7:51.24 and the Sheephead Bay boys in the shuttle hurdle relays in a US #1 59.50. Farrell has been a factory for producing great half milers including a 1:54 on their anchor leg just as Sheephead Bay has been in finding strong hurdlers.
It has become an annual trip for Monsignor Farrell (NY) coach Tom Cuffe to bring a 4x800 meter relay out to Arcadia. Its also a nice departure for his team from the cold early season outdoor weather of New York, which can make the meets up until this point almost a wash in attempting to run any fast times in the less than ideal conditions. Corey Orzam, who ran leadoff for Monsignor Farrell definitely noticed the difference in performances for his teammates and himself when given the opportunity to run in better conditions. "Running in better weather apparently improves our times by a lot. We ran 7:51 today and thats the fastest time we've run together. Track is fast, great competition and environment. Can't expect anything better."
Coach Cuffe brought an "A" and "B" team to reward his next tier group of half milers, while possibly using the meet also to take another look at who might end up being on his "A" team. Despite bringing a decent-sized contigency, they still had to earn the trip and prove themselves in practices leading up.. "Its a competition to make the trip. You can see in our results from the work that we have done in the practices. Its a great time to come out west and we work hard to get here," said Orzam.
There was a lot of familarity for the New Yorkers in the race with Iona Prep and Warwick Valley also making the trip to Arcadia to compete in the 4x800 meter relay. It benefited Monsignor Farrell to have some competition in the race which they have grown accustomed to racing against. "We are very use to how they race, their runners, and their times. We run them often at the Armory indoors. It was really nice to have the other New York schools in the race with us."
However, their relay was also looking forward to facing new competition from the Western states. "You always read about the teams out here like Desert Vista and Long Beach, but its nice to see physically see these teams and be more than just whats on pen and paper and the internet."
Upland High School of California was the team who gave them the best battle at the end with their anchor leg going by Farrell's anchor James Farley at 400 meters to go. When it looked like Upland was going to pull away, Farley rallied back for a final 200 meters kick. Orzam was estatic to see his teammate respond back to give them a big win at Arcadia. "With just over 200 meters to go when he started to close the gap down, I cried a little bit. When he finally went by, it was a beautiful euphoric feeling coming out of me. He ran great and so did everyone else." Monsignor Farrell had 1:58 splits across the board except for their final leg Farley who went 1:55.0 to compile a US #5 time of 7:51.24.
Sheephead Bay junior Naquan Alexander and his hurdling teammates were anxious to make a statement in their opening race of the 2009 outdoor season. "We came all the way from the East Coast looking for the best competition. We proved ourselves on the East Coast at Boston in the Nike Indoor Nationals, so we had to come to the West Coast to see what its all about."
For many in the group from Sheephead Bay, it was their first trip out west. It was also their first outdoor race of the season after taking a break following the Nike Indoor Nationals in which they won the shuttle hurdles relay. "It feels to fly out to California, do some sight seeing, and then win big and put our name up there," said second leg Alexander who helped his team build a good lead over the two Arizona schools and California squad in the invitational division of the hurdle relay with them.
Rancho Verde had a boys and girls squad win a sprint medley race with the boys winning the 1600 meter version quite convincingly in a US #2 3:27.49 and just off their own meet record. The Rancho Verde girls had already own the nation's fastest time in the 800 meter SMR and simply dropped it down a half second on Friday in a time of 1:45.08.
The Rancho Verde boys, California's fastest in the 4x400 currently at 3:18.99, were returning champions in the SMR event and had set the meet record last year. The first three legs on Rancho Verde almost did too good of a job for their 800 meter anchor leg Ruben Danielsen, who ran 1:53 in the open last year as a sophomore. Danielsen was given the baton with a sizeable lead and had to try push his team under the meet record time without a competitor close. "It is a lot of pressure because there was no one to push you out there. I am just glad that I made my time." Danielsen, who split a 1:53 on his leg, felt that he could have went a little faster with a less aggressive start. "My first lap I went kinda too fast with a 51 split and had no one to push me [on the next lap]."
He will be competing individually tomorrow in the invitational 800 meter race and hopes to be running a 1:50 point in the event by season's end. Danielsen intrusts his coaches to get him to that goal time this spring. "It is up to my coaches, because they are having me do a lot more speed training."
Part of the reason for the increased speed training is to prepare Danielsen for their #1 ranked 4x400 meter relay in California. "We want to break our school, which is 3:14." They are aiming 47 and 48 second splits for all of their legs, which looked more realistic based off how well their first 3 legs did in front of Danielsen on Friday night's SMR.
Dana Hills boys and Saugus girls have been two of California's most successful cross country programs in recen years and certainly relish any opportunity to showcase their depth in the distances when given the opportunity to compete in 4xmile relay.
Dana Hills, who had ran US #1 times in the DMR and 4x800 several weeks ago at the California Relays, took aim at a top time in the 4xmile. They were challenged for much of the race by a Seattle Prep squad from Washington, but the Valdez twins (Ryan and Tyler) with 4:19 and 4:16 splits as the final two legs allowed them to pull away with a US #1 17:27.75 win. Despite already posting such strong times early in the outdoor season, the Dana Hill boys are confident of running much faster this season.
Third leg Ryan Valdez definitely felt that way. "We know we can run faster than the times that we have already ran. And especially today, we wanted to run faster than we did." Their second leg Jesus Molina ran about 10 seconds slower than they had hoped he would run.
The boys from Dana Hills will get another chance to run a fast time tomorrow as they are entered in the distance medley relay and aiming to break 10 minutes, which would be a 11 second drop from their US #2 time of 10:11 at the Calfornia Relays last month. Their next opportunity to run another fast 4x800 will be at Mt. Sac later this month as their 7:45.42 performance on March 21st as still stood as the national leading time through this week.
With three solid relay times in the 4x800, DMR, and 4xmile, the Dana Hills boys will have a touch decision to make on which relays to focus on if they decide to compete at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in June which is a strong possibility. "The DMR will depend on if our sprinter decides to continue on and train that much longer [after the state meet), but all three are capable of doing well [at nationals]."
Since California does not have an official indoor season, the Dana Hills only got to see the top relays in the country did this indoor season through checking out the results online. It was a great indoor season for the distance boys relays with the 4x800 (Albemarle VA 7:36.99) and 4xmile (West Windsor-Plainsboro North NJ 17:21.58) national records going down.
The Dana Hills boys were anxious to show early in the outdoor season that they would be a force to be reckoned with on the national level ths spring and remind the East Coast schools of their presence. "We'll definitely do better with a lot more competition. On that 4x800 (7:45 at California Relays), we ran mostly by ourselves. We will all be running faster by the end of the year"
At Mt. Sac, they will add Zak Phillips to the 4x800 relay and looking for his addition to knock off several seconds. Phillips, who did not run on their relay at the California Relays, ran a 1:54-1:55 800 recently according to teammate Ryan Valdez. Phillips ran opening leg on the 4xmile on Friday night for Dana Hills and opened with a 4:21.9 split.
Usually a signal of a good team is how strong their "B" team is the Saugus girls certainly exhibited their depth with their "B" relay leading much of the seeded 4xmile race and finishing fourth in the race with a time of 21:29 for an average of 5:22 mile per leg. However, disconcerting for the Saugus "A" girls had to be rivals Dana Hills and their "B" team winning the seeded division in a time of 21:25.
Pride and history was not going to let the Saugus "A" girls suffer a defeat though as the 4xmile relay is an event which the team has excelled and look forward to in recent years. "We know that the 4xmile is our domain. The longer the races, the better we do. We are not so much a sprinting team. Especially at an event like Arcadia where there is so many people, we feed off the energy and give it our all," said anchor leg Anne Randall.
For most of the first three legs, Saugus had company though with Dana Hills and the Australian school Ruckland. Randall and her teammates enjoyed getting some international competition. "I thought that was so cool. I didn't even know they were going to be here until I got here and they ran good!"
Randall was able to open up a gap on anchor leg though and ended up splitting a 5:04.6 to give the Saugus girls the win in a US #1 time of 20:38.75. "I knew I had to get out there because there are a lot of good girls on anchor. I knew if I didn't run fast, they would probably catch me." Dana Hills finished 8 seconds behind as runners-up at 20:46, while the Ruckland girls of Australia were also under 21 minutes at 20:51.
More to come from Arcadia including photos from Margot Kelly, videos and interviews from Brandon Miles
Below are the performances entered for the meet that met the national silver standard.