MEETS ON TAP APU Meet of Champions is Hotter than Ever

Newbury Park's record-setting senior Colin Sahlman and his teammates are looking to put on a show Saturday night on the fast oval at Azusa Pacific University. (Joe Swift photos)

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Annually, the Distance Meet of Champions at Azusa Pacific University boasts some of the top distance marks in the nation heading into April!  After the meet was canceled in 2020 and a much-condensed version took place at Arcadia High a year ago, it is back in its traditional and quaint setting of APU.  With some of the top talents in California assembled ready to reconfigure the top marks lists!   The electric atmosphere of the Azusa Pacific facility has yielded some of the fastest distance times, whether it be at the prep, collegiate, or national levels, in the nation as the track has become a distance mecca of sorts in recent times!

With the meet starting at 7:30 am, over 2,200 entries are scattered out over the 800, 1600, and 3200 meters at all levels and will conclude with the Boys Invitational section of the 3200 meters at 9:30 pm!   

With that, let's dive in!

GIRLS 800 METERS (6:30 pm)

Meet record:
Mia Barnett (Crescenta Valley) 2:07.31 (2021)

With several of the top half-milers opting to compete in the mile here, Newbury Park's Samantha McDonnell (Harold Smith photo) will make her 2022 outdoor debut. With the goal of breaking 2:10, she is going after the top time in the state of 2:08.89 (La Canada's Arielle McKenzie). Is the University of Alabama-bound senior in 2:07 fitness and ready to take down that record, set just last year?  Katelyn Matarese of La Canada steps in with a lifetime best of 2:15.36 en route to qualifying for the Div. 3 finals in 2021.  Also with sub-2:16 best, Erika Nyberg of Clovis East ran 2:15.81 in 2021 while Vista Murrieta's Analeiah Mendoza and Palos Verdes' Anna Terrell are both fresh off sub-2:18 performances last weekend.  Vista Murrieta's Fiona Holloway  will also look to join the sub-2:20 club this Saturday evening!

GIRLS MILE (7:23 pm)

Meet record: Rylee Bowen (Sonoma Academy) 4:48.18 (2016)

To claim that the meet record will go down would be an insult against all of the great ones that have competed at this invitational over the past 25 years!  But... the meet record will go down here in 2022!   Only a freshman, Ventura's Sadie Engelhardt is already friendly with this same track as she rolled to 4:38.24 for the full mile here a month ago!  She improved with a 4:37.40 indoor performance two weeks ago, improving upon her already freshman national record, and is currently third on the all-time California State lists.  On Thursday, she exploded to a 2:09.36 solo effort in the 800 meters!  But, a familiar rival will line up next to her in Dalia Frias of Mira Costa (Raymond Tran photo).  The Duke-bound senior and Engelhardt matched up for some memorable clashes this past cross country season while Frias will look to use the freshman in improving upon her lifetime best of 4:47.58 for the mile. Frias is the national leader for the 3200 meters with Engelhardt right behind her.  Meanwhile, La Canada sophomore Arielle McKenzie is coming in off a huge breakthrough in the 800 meters (2:08.89 - CA #1) two weekends ago and poised to also break 4:50 as she ended her 2021 campaign with a 4:48.96 for the 1600 meters. Canyon's Emma Hadley is off to a great start in 2022 as she owns a lifetime best of 4:51.01 for the 1600 meters.  Clovis East's Erika Nyberg ended 2021 with a 4:54.20 effort for the 1600 meters while also keeping your eyes open for the vastly improved Aishling Callanan as she ran 4:55.79 last month. She has carried that talent, evident from her making the Eastbay Nationals in Cross Country, over to the oval this past month! The Buchanan dual of Grace Hutchison (4:55.46 lifetime best) and Sierra Cornett (4:57.58 two weeks ago) along with Oaks Christian's Payton Godsey (4:57.50) also owns sub-5:00 minute bio!  This event is STACKED!!!  Do not be surprised to also see the Newbury Park trio of Tiffany Sax, Morgan Nygren, and Ailish Hawkins all in the mix, looking to go under 5:00 for the full mile along with Buchanan freshman Elle Lomeli and Alexis Fernandez of West Ranch!

GIRLS 3200 METERS (8:40 pm)

Meet record: Claudia Lane (Malibu) 10:12.21 (2017)

With most of the top talent focusing on the mile,
Sydney Sundgren of Buchanan (DeAnna Turner photo) is the favorite heading into the 8-lapper!  Coming in with a 10:25.25 lifetime best, the junior makes her season debut in this event after as she was the Central Section Masters runner-up a year ago.  Off to a great senior campaign, the Boise State-bound Isabella Frisone of Anaheim Canyon looks to go after her lifetime best of 10:37.65 as she most recently posted her personal best in the mile (4:53.79) a week ago.  Claremont's Denise Chen (10:46.56) and Agoura's Georgia McCorkle (10:55.11) will look to keep pace while La Costa Canyon's Kyra Compton (10:55.35) was third at the 2021 San Diego Section Masters Meet.  But, another reminder of Buchanan's distance dominance from this past cross country season will be in the form of Caroline Mendyk who comes in hot, fresh off a 40-second 10:55.82 improvement last weekend. After what we witnessed this past Fall, expect Vista Murrieta's Isabella Smith to be battling up front while Redondo Union's Lyla Fedio, Claremont's Maddie Coles, and Glendora's Maia Fernando all look to break the 11-minute barrier for the first time.  

BOYS 800 METERS (6:43 pm)

Meet record: Sean Krinik (Valencia, Pl.) 1:50.10 (2010)

Continuing to cement his legacy as California's greatest prep distance runner ever, Newbury Park's Colin Sahlman is going after the meet record!  The University of Northern Arizona-bound senior is coming off a 1:50.90 performance indoors two weekends ago after recording a sub-4:04 split to anchor his crew as they shattered the national record for the 4xMile relay.  Of course, he broke the 4-minute barrier for the mile after rolling to an 8:33 on this same track in February!   Aaron Sahlman (Raymond Tran photo) will use his older brother's vapor to improve his lifetime best as the junior opened up his season with a 1:53.03.  Thacher's Ellis Delvecchio captured the Redondo Invite two weekends ago with a lifetime best of 1:54.06 while Ethan Florez of Canyon (Anaheim) is coming in, fresh off a 1:54.88 performance last weekend.  Sage Creek's Bryce Gilmore looks to drop under 1:55 for the first time while Cathedral's Ambodai Ligons laid down a step-up effort last weekend with his 1:55.89 clocking.  Others looking to go under 1:56 for their first time include Buchanan sophomore Zach Weaver, Menlo's Justin Pretre, and Santiago's Dylan Deloyola. Keep an eye out for Newbury Park former 'sprinter' Adam Olsen, who debuted in the event with a 1:58.25 two weeks ago! 

BOYS MILE (7:49 pm)

Meet record: Connor Dunne (San Clemente) 4:03.13 (2016)

THE marquee event on the agenda is right there while the meet record is looking over its shoulder!   This could very well rival the 2016 edition of this event where three boys all crossed under 4:04 for the 1600 meters. Setting the meet record would equate to breaking 4:04.53 for the full mile and the Twin Towers of distance running, Lex Young (Raymond Tran photo) and Leo Young are ready to get after it!  Both laid down 4:07 splits two weekends ago when they helped destroy the national record for the 4xMile at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. Meanwhile, University of Colorado-bound Isaiah Givens of Pasadena makes his season debut and will ride the pace up front in working to improve upon his 4:07.00 lifetime best from 2021. One of the nation's top underclassmen in Clovis junior Christopher Caudillo also checks in from a 4:08.57 best two weekends ago. Finishing behind Caudillo in that same race, Buchanan junior Noah Ray crossed with a 4:12.71!  Others looking to ride the aggressive pace, shooting for a 4:10 include Newbury Park's Daniel Appleford and Hector Martinez, Redondo Union's Christoph Waligorski, Agoura's Ethan Godsey, Santiago's Tyler Kaan and Evan Hild, Palos Verde's Will Kirk, Ventura's Mason Jekogian along with Max Levin of Mira Costa. Godsey is coming off of a huge 1:53 performance for the 800 meters earlier this week and as confident as ever!  (An extra bonus to all of this will be the fact that Colin Sahlman will step in to drive the pace over the first two laps, looking to ensure a sub-4:05 for those leaders!)

BOYS 3200 METERS (9:23 pm)   

Meet record: Ryan Hall (Big Bear) 8:55.90 (2001)

Coming into the last event of the evening, Sanger's Emanuel Salas (DeAnna Turner photo) steps onto the track with a lifetime best of 8:57.73, recorded last May at the Arcadia Invite.  In looking to travel back into the coveted sub-nine minute domain, Redondo's Christoph Waligorski had a breakthrough performance in winning the 3200 at his own invite with a 9:03.67 (but may focus on the mile)!  Clovis's Nathaniel Avila opened up his season with a 9:05.32 while Agoura's Ethan Godsey (9:06.21) and UCLA-bound Conor Gibson (9:06.75) of West Torrance finished just behind Waligorski two weeks ago.  Also, watch for Vista Murrieta's Lance Denhalter, who rolled to a 4:15.83 for the full mile last weekend and is poised on breaking his school record.  Great Oak's Ramses Cortes (9:13.48) and Jaden Wiley (9:15.02 in '21) of Hart also step in with sub-9:20 lifetime bests.  

Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplit with a focus on the Southern Section.