La Costa Canyon's Karson Lippert worked on speed at the Bronco Invite. (Clark Kranz photo)
BY STEVE BRAND
SAN DIEGO -- When San Marcos' Caitlin Cornell inched past Martin Luther King's Lauren Peurifoy just two laps into the Bronco Invitational 3200-meter run Saturday at Rancho Bernardo High, some in the stands wondered if maybe Cornell had confused the distance of the race with a 1600.
No, Cotnell knew exactly what she was doing and, of course, expected Peurifoy, the meet record-holder at 10:44.88 en route to a season-best 10:23.10 last year, to mount a counter-attack.
"This is Lauren's first meet," said MLK head coach John Corona before the competition plagued by rain. "She's a little behind."
A lot as it turned out.
Peurifoy would not be able to mount any kind of challenge, slipping out of contention before placing third in 11:50.05. She shrugged off the slow time after also running an 800, finishing a distant seventh in 2:32.29.
Not that she's concerned.
"I missed two weeks of training when I caught a cold," the junior explained. "I'm two weeks or more behind, but I'm not worried. I just have to be patient. My asthma made the cold even worse and sometimes this sucks.
"I'd rather it happen now than at the end of the season. We're looking forward to the nationals, so maybe this is a good thing.
It allowed Cornell, who won the event in a PR 11:04.69, to celebrate an unexpected victory.
"Her times are so intimidating," said Cornell. "At 800 meters I decided to see what would happen."
Cornell was struggling a year ago when Peurifoy was virtually unbeatable. At the San Diego Section finals, she was the one who was sick, finishing fifth in the 3200.
"My goal this year is to run 10:50 or 10:45 and make state," said the sophomore. "Winning today validates all my hard work I'd never run in the rain before but I didn't even notice it."
Once Cornell passed Peurifoy, she ran off a string of 80 second laps to win the race by 33 seconds.
"I just wanted to get a good time to qualify for Arcadia," said Cornell. "I was really hoping to get under 11 minutes. I have a friend who told me 'ambitious goals make ambitious runners' and I know competition will help lower my times. This section (San Diego) is crazy competitive."
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The wet, cold weather clearly had an adverse effect on the performances but there were more than a few early-season psychological victories.
In the boys' 100-meter dash, for example, Mt. Carmel's Quoi Ellis was not particularly thrilled with his time of 10.82, but he did collect a gold medal ahead of two of his biggest rivals, Madison's Kenon Christon (10.85) and La Costa Canyon's Karson Lippert (11.06), whose specialty is the 400 where he was second in the state last year.
"I'd rather run a good time than win," was how Ellis, a senior, put it while walking back to get his sweats as the rain soaked everyone not under cover. "A 10.82 is not a good time."
Ellis was hoping to get a little closer to his personal best of 10.60 seconds, but the cool, rainy weather certainly didn't help.
"I'm looking for a 10.4 and a 20.8 (in the 200 which is not contested at Bronco)," said Ellis. "By the Mt. Carmel Invitational (March 24), I'll be very serious. I have lots of stuff to work on before then."
Eliis said he wanted a good start and a powerful finish and he did get a jump out of the blocks. Holding that lead proved tougher than expected as Christon closed to finish second in 10.85 while Lippert got some speed work and was clocked in 11.06.
Asked if track was still fun, Ellis had to laugh. "If it's not fun, I'll make it fun," said Ellis, his smile returning.
Some of the events were seriously affected by the rain, none worse than the boys and girls' pole vaults which were halted when it was determined the conditions were too dangerous to continue.
With three 15-footers in the boys' field, it was a major disappointment despite being the right call.