Bella Longo had to scramble to make her race Saturday at Mt. Carmel. (File photos by Clark Kranz)
SAN DIEGO -- When track coaches and administrators lobbied to have all-weather tracks built, they argued events like the Mt. Carmel Field and Distance meet Saturday could be held under any conditions.
And so it was. In the cold, in the rain, in the wind.
There were some remarkably solid performances considering the conditions and the fact for many athletes this was the first outdoor competition of the season.
Mission Vista sophomore Bella Longo, for example, came in hoping for a 5:10 in the 1600 and ran away with a 5:06.17. That's not going to scare the numerous sub-5 1600 runners in the state but again, considering the conditions, not a bad performance at all, besting Rancho Bernardo freshman phenom Jacey Farmer's 5:11.70 in second place.
As if she didn't have enough challenges, Longo almost missed her race altogether.
"My coach thought the race was at 11:30 a.m. and when we saw 10:30, I didn't have much of a warm up," said Longo, who counted solid runners like Canyon Crest's Carlie Dorostkar and Ramona's Amy Brown among her victims.
Longo battled for the lead early, pulled away from Dorostkar at 800 and was far enough ahead to hold off the fast-finishing Farmer who was in fifth starting the last 400.
"I love running in the rain," said Longo. "Running in the rain beats running in 90-degree weather any time.
"Mentally and physically, cross country made me a much stronger runner. This was a good race because I'll be focusing on the 3200 this year."
Longo's fastest 1600 last year was 5:05.73 and she's looking to use runners like La Costa Canyon's Kristin Fahy, to drop a lot of time off her 3200 best of 10:53.27.
"When I race against Kristin I'll just try to hang on for dear life and see what my time might be," said the ever-smiling Longo.
The top boys' performance wasn't a single race but a tough 800-1600 double by Crawford's Nader Ali, who explained his sudden collapse at the State Cross Country Championships after winning the section title.
"The week before the section meet I started passing blood," said Ali, a senior (pictured at right). "I don't know how I did so well (at the CIF-SDS meet) because I couldn't train. I didn't know what was wrong and I waited a long time before I saw a doctor.
"They discovered the problem and fixed it but I lost so much blood, I was weak."
It's called anemia and Ali's body simply couldn't handle any kind of distance training. Finally, 10 days before Mt. Carmel, he was given the green light to up his mileage, so the relatively slow times of winning the 800 in 2:04.57 and placing second in the 1600 at 4:30.75 were understandable.
Defending state long jump champion Alysah Hickey, bowing to the conditions, limited her long jumping and completely pulled out of the high jump. Wise moves for the Oregon-bound senior.
In the long jump, she got a wind-legal 19-foot effort before retiring, still winning by almost two feet. At this meet a year ago, in far better conditions, she had a wind-aided 19-5.50.
Another state finalist, Scripps Ranch's Julia Morales, opened her season with a victory in the 800 at 2:21.23, a full five seconds slower than she ran a year ago.
"Like last year, I'm pointing toward the meets at the end of the year," said Morales, who clocked a 2:12.92 to finish ninth last June in Clovis.
"I have Redondo next week and then we're going to Mt. Carmel, Arcadia, the Texas Relays and Mt. SAC. We're just making sure I face good competition, so I'll be ready for the big meets at the end of the year.
"I hate running in the rain, so I was just looking to break 2:20 anyway."