For a lot of distance runners who reside in Northern California, the season does not officially start until the 3rd Saturday in March. Previous meets/invitationals are used to set up fast times at the Rolls Royce of distance invitationals, the Dublin Distance Fiesta (DDF). The numbers for the meet are now mind boggling including 92 teams and 2061 athletes. The meet is now officially linked to the top invitational in California, the Arcadia Invitational. Along with T-Shirts, bags, sombreros and plaques, the real prized result for a top finish at this meet may be the automatic entry to Arcadia with a top 2 finish in the fastest heat of the 1600, 800 and 3200. The winning Distance Medley Relay teams will also qualify to the Arcadia Invitational section. We are in store for some terrific races throughout the day and it's amazing the type of effort you will see as novice and experienced runners battle to the wire in order to win one of those prizes mentioned above.
Meet Record - Hannah Fishlow - Miramonte - 2016 - 5:02.79
The 5 minute barrier has proven to be elusive at this meet as many of the top distance runners have chosen to pursue the more popular 8 lap event. The current meet record holder, Hannah Fishlow of Miramonte (Thomas Benjamin photo), returns to defend her title and perhaps dip under the 5 minute mark which she did three times last spring season. She also had an improved cross country season this past fall and will be the favorite here. She will be challenged by two competitors from the just completed K-Bell Invitational. Sierra Brill, Lowell and Elena Kamas, Homestead ran 5:05.26 and 5:06.51 respectively and will look to lower those times here. San Ramon Valley's dynamic duo, Kate and Emma Tavella have recorded 5:06.57 and 5:07.99 times so far this season respectively. St. Francis, Sacramento junior Sydney Vandegrift has also dipped under the 5:10 mark with a time of 5:09.53. The runner entered in the field with the fastest PR is Miramonte sophomore, Cassidy Haskell (4:52.29). Her participation is uncertain at this point but if she was to race, you can add her as one of the favorites. 800 specialist Gillian Wagner, Redwood, might also lace them up here and should not be counted out.
Meet Record - Erik Olson - Novato - 2009 - 4:17.28
The boys' 1600m will be quite competitive this year with many challengers ready to step forward for the event victory. I am not sure if the meet record is within reach as a race this large may turn into a tactical affair with the kickers biding their time before unleashing their final burst to the finish line. The favorite will be Liam Anderson of Redwood who ran 4:18.39 as a frosh and had a mercurial sophomore cross country season in the fall. His main challengers will be two 800 runners who will look to impress in the four lap event. Ben Micallef of Bellarmine is the fastest returning 800 runner in the state with his 1:52.29 PR. Niki Moore of Campolindo (Thomas Benjamin photo above) had a best of 1:54.49 and ran cross country for the first time this past fall as a senior. Brendan Jones of Jesuit barely missed making the state meet last year from the SJS with a 4:18.73 PR. If the pace is slow, watch out for Stuart Hall senior Elijah Horwitz who can kick with anybody in the race down the homestretch.
Meet Record - Kendall Derry - Bella Vista - 2015 - 2:12.84
The clear favorite in this field will be California junior, Alyssa Brewer (Doug Duran photo). She burst on the scene last year with several impressive 400/800 doubles and culminated her official high school season by capturing the state title in the 800 with a best of 2:06.86. Her main competitor will be Gillian Wagner of Redwood who had a 2:12.91 PR last season. She was even more impressive this past fall pursuing eventual section and state champion teammate, Glennis Murphy. The next girl in line is Molly Neach of San Ramon Valley (2:14.97) who will try to hold off Hannah Fishlow of Miramonte (2:15.24) who will more than likely be doubling back from the 1600. The best runner out of the SJS will be Anitha Graves of Woodcreek who ran a personal best of 2:18.19 late last season.
Meet Record - Sebastian Sam - Oak Grove - 2008 - 1:54.21
1:53.89, 4:18.56, 9:27.55 and 15:14.3 on the Crystal Springs course. Those times all belong to Bellarmine junior, Alex Scales (Steve Fuller photo), who has shown a very impressive range. The 800/1600 times both took place last week at the K-Bell Invitational. I also witnessed Scales run 1:55.97 last year at the Serra Invitational wearing only one shoe. He will be the favorite here and the meet record that dates back to 2008 may be in danger. He will be challenged by Redwood senior Andrew Thomas who qualified for the CA state meet last year with a 3rd place, 1:55.07 effort at the NCS MOC final. Niki Moore of Campolindo will be doubling back from the 1600 but you cannot count him out and his 1:54.49 PR. Mesgnai Neghasi of Tamalpais (1:56.19) is another NCS contender who will be aiming for a personal record chasing the early leaders.
Meet Record - Kristen Leung - Lowell- 2016 - 10:33.71
Last year, a trio of senior girls led by Kristen Leung all dipped under the meet record that was previously held by Campolindo runner Brighie Leach. This year's field appears to be quite strong and Leung's record may be short lived. The fastest runner in the field is Harker senior, Niki Iyer. She was the Central Coast Section champion last year and finished in 3rd place at the state meet with a PR of 10:24.39. She will have plenty of competition here with two 2016 state XC champions, Glennis Murphy of Redwood (Division III/10:40.60) and Kiera Marshall of St. Joseph Notre Dame (Division V/10:41.80). Other girls in the field who need to be accounted for are much improved Alexandra Beitia of Granite Bay (10:56.77), Davis senior Sofia Castiglioni (10:43.25), St. Francis, Sacramento junior, Sydney Vandegrift (10:41.49) and Granada sophomore Colleen McCandless (10:49.80). If you are looking for an underdog, check out Healdsburg sophomore Gabrielle Peterson. She recorded 5:05.18/11:09.20 PRs at the Big Cat Invitational under less than ideal conditions.
Meet Record - Cooper Teare -St. Joseph Notre Dame- 2016 - 8:56.07
The boys' 3200 race will be missing perhaps the two best distance runners in California, Cooper Teare, St. Joseph Notre Dame and Luis Grijalva, Armijo. They both participated at last year's DDF with Teare claiming the victory as well as the meet record, while Grijalva posted his lone sub 9 effort of the season. They will both be taking part in the Texas Distance Festival 5k but don't fret distance fans. This year's field is still quite potent and under the right conditions, I believe the winner could challenge Teare's meet record. Leading the way, literally, will be Michael Vernau of Davis. He is a fearless front runner who will not be afraid to push the pace. The surprise entrant this year is Callum Bolger, San Luis Obispo (file photo), who recorded the fastest 3200 time in the state last year with his 8:51.58 PR at the Arcadia Invitational. The rest of the field will include several of the best CCS runners, Bellarmine's junior Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau and senior Dylan Doblar, Willow Glen junior, Zach Walker and Menlo junior Robert Miranda. Other notable runners in the field include miler Neil Braganza of Dougherty Valley who will be aiming to lower his 9:25.21 PR significantly. The best runner from the Northern Section, Andrew Skoy of Shasta, as well as the lone freshman in the field, Matt Strangio of Jesuit are two other notable names in the field.
Girls Distance Medley Relay
Meet Record - Bella Vista - 2015 - 12:14.03
The final event of the day for the girls will be the Distance Medley Relay. The top entered teams in this event appear to be North Coast Section teams San Ramon Valley and Miramonte although the Matadors may be missing a key runner. SJS teams Davis, St. Francis and Bella Vista will all be in the mix and have proven over the years capable of shining in both individual and team events at such invitationals. Defending champion Monte Vista might not be at full strength at the moment but they have the depth to race near the front of the field. Carondelet and Mission San Jose may be two more teams capable of dipping under the 13 minute mark.
Boys Distance Medley Relay
Meet Record - Davis - 2016 - 10:23.93
One of the most impressive performances at last year's meet belonged to Michael Vernau of Davis. He led most of the 3200 race and recorded a then lifetime best time of 8:57.70. With a small amount of rest after such a performance, Vernau stepped on the track and anchored the DMR with an unofficial split of 4:21.0h. The Davis team stopped the clock at 10:23.93 surpassing the previous record of 10:29.89 held by Bellarmine from 2011. The 2nd place team last year, Bellarmine, also dipped under their previous mark with a time of 10:26.92. This year, Bellarmine should be the favorite once again as they take great pride in their distance relay teams. Their team members should all be doubling back from a previous event but all are quite talented and will be looking to add to Coach McCrystle's growing sombrero collection. Davis lost quite a bit of talent from last year's team but you can never count them out with Vernau anchoring once again. Other teams that may try to take advantage of runners doubling back include Dublin, Monte Vista, Lowell and Heritage.