Colin Sahlman (485) sprints to victory in the elite mile race with Isaiah Givens (469) in chase at the Sundown Track Series Meet #3 at Queen Creek (AZ) High School. (John Hays photo)
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The three-meet Sundown Track Series wrapped up Saturday night in grand style.
As was the case in each of the three distance-only meets, each one produced faster and faster times across mile and 3,200-meter races.
Sean Brosnan, coach at Newbury Park High as well as the Newbury Park Athletic Club, in search of more competitive opportunities for his elite distance crew, found a partner in the Queen Creek (AZ) Unified School District, and the Sundown Track Series was born.
Meets held February 13, Feb. 27, and March 27 at Queen Creek (AZ) and Mesa (AZ) Eastmark high schools, attracted distance runners from multiple states looking to be pushed to personal bests by some of the country's elite runners.
Saturday night's series finale at Queen Creek HS, didn't disappoint, as both Mia Barnett (Crescenta Valley/SS) and Colin Sahlman (Newbury Park/SS) posted U.S. No. 1 times in the mile (both marks also convert to 1,600-meter times that rank No. 15 in CA history), sophomore Lex Young (Newbury Park/SS) ran a U.S. No. 4 time in the 3,200, and a handful of California girls battled to the end in a Golden State showcase 3,200.
In her past three races, Barnett, a senior headed to the University of Virginia, has run what now ranks as U.S. No. 4 for 3,200 (10:15.82), a U.S. No. 4 for 800 (2:09.49), and now a U.S. No. 1 for the mile (4:43.11). Not a bad start to a senior season!
Sahlman, a junior who has been one of the state's elite distance runners since his freshman season, ran what was at the time a U.S. No. 1 time in the mile at the first Sundown meet. Two weeks later at the second Sundown meet, he ran what remains U.S. No. 1 for 3,200 (8:47.05). On Saturday night, he regained his U.S. No. 1 in the mile with a 4:04.86, a 5.0-second drop from his aforementioned best.
Young, Sahlman's teammate and the younger brother of former CA Runner of the Year Nico Young, was challenged by Sage Creek (SD) junior Bryce Gilmore in winning the 3,200 in 8:57.27. Gilmore crossed in 9:00.43, with Newbury Park junior Daniel Appleford third in 9:04.03.
The women's 3,200 was a battle at the front among junior Dalia Frias (Mira Costa/SS), junior Riley Chamberlain (Del Oro/SJ) and senior Harper McClain (St. Helena/NC) with freshman Payton Godsey (Oaks Christian/SS), junior Cate Joaquin (St. Francis/SJ), sophomore Sydney Sundgren (Buchanan/CS), and senior Sierra Burror (Bishop Union/CS) in chase.
Frias used a 70.41 final lap split to hold off Chamberlain (72.76 final lap) to win with a time of 10:24.79. Chamberlain, who had previously set the U.S. No. 1 time in the mile at 4:52.51 at Sundown #2, crossed here in 10:27.22. McClain, headed to the University of Oregon, was third in 10:35.57 followed by Godsey (10:39.92), Joaquin (10:44.76), Sundgren (11:06.30) and Burror (11:09.85).
In the championship girls mile race, Barnett ran at the front with eighth-grade phenom Sadie Engelhardt for most of the first lap before taking a lead she would never relinquish. Phoenix (AZ) Desert Vista sophomore Lauren Ping, who won the 3,200 at Sundown #1, wasn't about to let Barnett get too far ahead.
Running in Barnett's shadow, Ping appeared poised to make her move after the bell. Barnett would have none of it, surging with about 300 left and again down the home stretch to pull away, running a 67.02 last lap to cross in 4:43.11. Ping closed in 68.56 to cross in 4:44.94. Newbury Park junior Samantha McDonnell closed in 71.13 for third (4:48.21).
Basalt (CO) sophomore Katelyn Maley, winner at this distance in Meet #1 in 4:54.24, dropped in at 4:49.03. Ping's teammate, junior Katie Sigerud, runner-up at this distance in Meet #2 (4:55.64) improved to 4:52.83. Engelhardt, the AAU star on the track last summer and on the cross country course late last fall, crossed sixth in 4:55.16.
In the men's mile, Sahlman went out in 62.08 and held cloce behind the pacer for about 1K before striding out on his own, running a 62.44 third lap and 57.43 close to cross in 4:04.86. Pasadena junior Isaiah Givens ran a 62.35 third lap and closed in 60.12 to cross in 4:08.43. Jesuit (SJ) senior Ajani Salcido was right there a stride back of Givens after running consistent 63s to cross in 4:11.96. For Givens, it was quite a drop from the 4:18.00 he posted at Sundown #1 and the 4:16.52 previous PR from last summer.
Matthew Smith, Angus Fitzgerald and Caleb Boutelle were next all in the 4:13s. For the Boise State-bound Fitzgerald, a senior from Simi Valley (CA) Royal, it was another PR in an impressive series of races, that has included previous 1,600-meter and mile PRs at Sundown #2, a cross country league title, and a 1:55.72 PR fo 800 meters at the Don Green Invitational track meet the previous Saturday. That 800 time, by the way, sits CA No. 1.