In her first event wearing the Crescenta Valley uniform, senior Mia Barnett dropped a state-best 2:09.49 for 800 meters at the Don Green Invitational in March. (Josh Barber photo)
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Mark Evans has overseen the Crescenta Valley distance program for more than 25 years. With his son Rob moving back to teach English at his alma mater in 2016 and combining forces with his dad -- the two have continued to mold the program into one of the best in California. Along with a winning culture that always puts the kids first, the primary focus being the student-athletes developing into runners of all distances along with molding themselves into successful young adults.
Then came the phone call in December of 2019 ...
Local distance-talent, Mia Barnett, who lives not too far from Crescenta Valley High School, had decided to transfer from Village Christian, a small private school in nearby Sun Valley, to her home school!
In joining the Falcons' distance program, the one thing that both coaches were clear on was that Barnett would only compete in the uniform if they were her coaches. It just so happens that THIS was exactly what the Barnett family was seeking -- a team atmosphere along with a consistent training regime that would tap into Mia's talents as a distance runner.
Now, mind you -- Barnett was a two-time State Meet medalist for 1600 meters on the track with a best of 4:46.12 along with earning a spot at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in winning the Western Regional race in 2019. Along with three CIF-SS Division 5 Cross Country championships, Mia also earned two runner-up finishes at the Division V State Championship while also qualifying for the State Meet in track for the 3200 meters in 2019 with a seasonal best of 10:22.51.
In short, the Crescenta Valley coaches were getting an already highly accomplished athlete.
Barnett was enrolling into a program with one of the most respected prep coaches in the distance running community. Mark Evans had coached five girls teams to the State Cross Country Championships and his past three boys squads all qualified to the State Meet.
Mark Evans is as humble and gracious as you will find out there and his sons have embodied those same qualities as well.
Along with sons, Rob and Chris -- the trio has continuously traveled all over, attending clinics to absorb training techniques from some of the best coaches in the world. Chris Evans has recently concluded a seven-year stint coaching at UC Irvine while many will recall that the two brothers orchestrated the Golden Valley program that qualified for the cross country national finals in 2011, yielding an 11th-place finish along with a State Meet title in Division III. Their training methods also directly influenced other top programs throughout the state.
Providing that context -- the Evans family is exactly the boost Mia Barnett was seeking and the results have made it obvious that the new relationship has been a huge success!
At times, Barnett was in the shadow behind other great prep talents in California in 2018 and 2019. The Evans' training regime has provided Mia the additional aerobic strength, combined with her natural talent and background that has elevated her to one of the best in California ... EVER!
Many have not quite grasped exactly just how special and enduring Barnett's 9:52.23 performance was last Saturday at the Laguna Beach Distance Invitational!
Obviously, we had seen the 2:09.49 solo performance in March at the Don Green Invitational on the track at Moorpark High, along with the 4:43.11 victory and personal best for the mile dropped in Arizona at the Sundown Track Series.
Second place was more than 50 seconds behind her!
Mia, who had no one to work with, gunned it out with a 69-second first lap and was forced to navigate around runners as she lapped all but seven in the field of 21.
In what is now the fourth-fastest performance in California high school history, let's put it in perspective in comparison to the other seven girls that have eclipsed the coveted 10-minute benchmark of prep lore in California!
- #1 - Kim Mortenson (9:48.59) - run under the Friday night lights at the 1996 CIF-SS Masters Meet. 10:40.00 was second-place but not put in the position of lapping most of the field. Mind you - we are NOT diminishing this one as it remains THE standard of excellence!
- #2 - Bethan Knights (9:53.54 two-mile) - run at the 2014 Brooks PR in Seattle, with second place providing her with a 9:55.05 push and five others under 10:20 for the full two-mile.
- #3 - Jordan Hasay (9:52.13) - run at the 2008 State Meet in THE best 3200-meter final of any State Meet with Davis' Laurynne Chetelat dueling her all throughout in finishing second with 9:52.51!
- #4 - Mia Barnett (9:52.23) ... (see above)
- #5 - Laurynne Chetelat (9:52.51) - 2008 State Meet battle with Jordan Hasay as referenced above
- #6 - Destiny Collins (9:53.79) - 2015 State Meet Final where she was pushed by Fiona O'Keefe's 10:01.14 and six others under 10:25.
- #7 - Claudia Lane (9:57.52) - Under the lights of the Arcadia Invite in one of the most epic prep battles ever as she and Brie Oakley were never more than a foot apart from the gun to the finish! 9:57.52 to 9:57.59!
- #8 - Caitlin Chock (9:58.51) - Run at the 2004 Golden West Invitational under the championship atmosphere of Sacramento's Veterans Stadium along with three others running in the 10:20s.
What Mia Barnett accomplished last Saturday is so much more than head-turning when placed in this perspective! But, it comes as no surprise to coach Rob Evans. After watching her last spring when she was unable to wear the Crescenta Valley uniform before the COVID-19 shutdown, he was amazed that she had never gone under 10:25 and that she simply 'did not see herself as a two-miler.'
The Evans team described how her previous training had evolved primarily around shorter, interval sessions. In complimenting her abilities, they referred to it as 'adding the new stimulus' in building up her aerobic strength to match what she had been achieving in her previous years.
Both coaches emphasized that she is truly the one that drives all of this and has been a role model to the rest of the program. The elder Evans referenced that the emergence of Rowan Fitzgerald (4:13.53 last weekend with his previous best being 4:22.32) has been influenced by Mia's determination in her own training. Mia's approach to racing has also been a key to her success in that recently before competing in Arizona, she described to her coaches how she was 'curious' to see what she could achieve before going onto the track for the victory for 4:43.11 victory for the full mile.
Whereas Mia may have run between 30-40 miles a week with 20-mile weeks inconsistently thrown in, Mia has upgraded to consistent 50 miles a week, peaking with 60-mile weeks at several points. Adding longer threshold runs into the regime has also paid dividends as Mia is only the second girl (Jordan Hasay being the other) in California prep history to break 2:10 for the 800 and 9:55 for the 3200 meters.
What awaits Barnett?
She has committed to the University of Virginia this Fall. The program is overseen by collegiate coaching legend, Vin Lanana. Barnett and UVA assistant coach, Nicole Blood, formed a strong connection in the recruiting process. For those that recall, Blood was an All-American athlete under Linana at the University of Oregon but beforehand, placed fifth at the California State Meet in the 1600 meters while attending Royal High in 2006.
But before that all takes place -- Barnett and her coaches have their eyes set on the Arcadia Invitational in several weeks. All indicators of the 2:09 leg speed and the 9:52 aerobic capacity point to Mia's ability to break 4:38 for the 1600 meters. This would elevate her from 15th on the all-time California list up to third!
Barnett brought the natural talent, ability, mindset, and discipline to Crescenta Valley but the coaching staff of Mark and son, Rob Evans have provided the consistent training platform that is allowing her to truly tap into those attributes!
As Mia described in Arizona to her coaches ... I think we are ALL a little curious about what lies ahead!
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Because media was not allowed at the Laguna Beach race, a video of Barnett's historic accomplishment is not available.
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Inserted photos courtesy of Rob Evans.
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Mark Gardner, is a high school teacher and former track and cross country coach who is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.