Claudia Lane took off sprinting at the gun. Racing up the southern-most rail at the three mile Riverside Championship Course a minute after 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, in just a few frenetic strides to the front of the pack, the Malibu junior put everyone on notice of the magic that was to come.
The mostly flat and fast early morning track was a treadmill cranked to the limit to the comparative mudbog for the rest of the field. Lane was roughly a minute ahead of the pack a mile in and that little-engine-that-could churn never lost steam over the final two, crossing in a record 15:49.4, 109 seconds ahead of the next competitor in the field.
The first finisher behind Lane was a struggling runner trying to finish from the PREVIOUS heat. It was a rare sight to see Lane charge up on the runner in front of her with 100 meters to go. She simply blew past her in a blink and sprinted to the finish. After crossing the line, Lane awaited that first finisher to offer a smile and a sweet hug.
Lane's time was announced to have shattered her previous course best of 16:30. A day after King junior Lauren Peurifoy set a Division 1 course record of 16:35.7, this was, well, simply epic.
"It was super fun," Lane said after a long post-race warm-down run. "Today was supposed to be a hard tempo effort. I wanted to get out fast. It's a flat course and I wanted to get a good workout in. It was super fun.
"I kind of wanted to break 16 today because I wanted to do a hard tempo. I didn't know what time I was going to get. I was happy with it."
Lane, the defending Section, State and Foot Locker National champion, said she plans to "go easier" on the Riverside course next week at the Southern Section Division 4 final as she sets her sights toward the Nov. 25 State Final and the championship meets to follow in December. She also has her eye on an international race in Scotland in January.
"The goal is beyond State," she said. "Foot Locker."
Lane's race was the second of two heats for Division 4 girls among 14 heats on Saturday, the second of the two-day prelim schedule for the 600-plus school Southern Section. There were 24 heats across the five divisions over the two days.
And now for the rest of the story from Saturday ...