Nico Young placed third at the 2018 Clovis Invitational running 15:09.40. (Credit: DeAnna Turner)
The 41st Clovis Invitational goes off on Saturday morning where teams from across the golden state get a mid-season test on the CIF-State Meet's 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park in Fresno.
There are 16 races on the schedule but two that will draw the most attention. The Championship Girls Race is scheduled for 8:55 a.m. with the Championship Boys Race to follow at 9:30 a.m.
It's the boys race that has drawn the most attention in the days and weeks leading up. And, if all of the marquee entrees take the line, it could be an epic and historical race.
Newbury Park senior Nico Young, who set a national record for 3 miles with his stunning 13:37.9 solo effort to win the Woodbridge Invitational on the fast track at SilverLakes in Norco, is unquestionably in the crosshairs of the likes of Matt Strangio of Jesuit, Christopher Middleton-Pearson of Dublin, Isaiah Galindo of Clovis North, Newbury Park teammate Jace Aschbrenner, and Leo Daschbach of Gilbert (AZ) Highland, the current national leader at 5K following his 14:14.26 at Desert Twilight, Arizona's version of Woodbridge. (Apologies in advance to the runner(s) who place top-six not listed above. We see you gearing up!)
Draschbach has only raced twice this season and not since that Sept. 27 race. Similarly, Young has only raced twice and not since his Sept. 21 jaw-dropper. Same for Aschbrenner, whose 14:04.80 from Woodbridge sits as U.S. No. 2 for 3 miles.
Strangio, the defending Division I champion, has a bit more mileage on his legs heading to Fresno, and course destruction in his wake after setting new standards at Oakmont (11:54.10 for 4K), De La Salle (14:42.26 for 3M) and Capital Cross where his 14:39.90 course record PR for 5K currently sits U.S. No. 8. Afterward, clearly cognizant of the national conversation around the likes of Young, Daschbach and Colorado's Cole Sprout, Strangio didn't mince words in saying essentially, Hey, don't forget about me!'
Middleton-Pearson ran his 5K PR of 15:14.40 on the Woodward Park track at the State Championships late last November and has already run PRs for 2.x and 3 miles, his 14:18.70 at Amanda Garcia Memorial ranking CA No. 4.
The best home course advantage may go to Galindo, who went 15:19.50 for 5K to win at the Nike Portland XC Invite (Sept. 28) and ran his 5K PR of 15:12.60 on the Woodward Park course at the 2018 State Meet.
Young said early in the year that the plan was to go hard on the Woodward Park course here and hold back a bit at the State Meet -- where he is the returning champion for Division II -- knowing Nike Cross Nationals looms the following week in Portland. We'll find out soon enough if the plan is to go after another record run here or pull back to one degree or another.
Whatever is decided, Newbury Park coach Sean Brosnan wrote of Young in a text this week: "He is really fit and healthy. Workouts have been unreal."
Young was third at this meet last year, running 15:09.40. Strangio last ran this meet in 2017 where he was fifth in 15:16.70. Not to be overlooked is Capistrano Valley JSerra senior Anthony Grover, a Wake Forest commit and two-time CIF-State Division IV champion, who was fifth at Clovis last year in 15:17.80.
Again, if all are at full health and take the line with intentions of chasing history, the following just might be relevant information:
- Course Record: 14:24 - German Fernandez (Riverbank/SJ) 2014
- Meet Record: 14:50 - Luis Grijalva (Armijo/SJ) 2016
In the team competition, the boys from Great Oak (SS) were a disappointed runner-up to Newbury Park (SS) at Woodbridge but are coming off an impressive victory last Saturday over another national power, Purcellville (VA) Loudoun Valley at the Great American Cross Country Festival held at Cary, N.C.
So, good news, potentially bad news? How well will the Wolfpack recover from two cross-country flights with a hard race in between?
A year ago, Great Oak beat Newbury Park here 41-142. Woodbridge indicated the gap had narrowed significantly. That was then, this is three weeks later.
Wolfpack coach Doug Soles wrote in a text that his team will be ready to "give everyone the show with Newbury Park they are hoping for, win or lose."
For the record, the team time course benchmark is 76:10 set by Great Oak at the 2015 State Meet. The meet standard is 77:09 set by Arcadia in 2010.
All inserted photos from the 2018 Clovis Invitational by DeAnna Turner.