FEATURE Pala 'Stoked' to Race Newbury Park in Arcadia 3200m


Kenana Pala ran a 3200-meters personal record at the 2021 Arcadia Invitational. He's looking for a much faster time when he takes the line against the fast Newbury Park boys on Saturday night at the 54th Arcadia Invitational. (Raymond Tran photo)

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SAN DIEGO -- Francis Parker senior Kenan Pala has learned a lot since he ran in the Arcadia Invitational a year ago.

For one, although he greatly respects the Newbury Park boys, he is not afraid of them. In fact, he hopes to have the race of his life in Saturday's Arcadia meet because it could very well be the final 3200-meter race he runs this season.

"My goal time is the low 8:40s," said the senior distance standout who will be competing for Yale University in the fall, "but I know I can go faster.

"Last year I entered the meet just planning to stay with the pack and that was a mistake. I finished like 18th (in a PR of 9:02.92) and wasn't part of history when 15 runners broke 9-minutes. A lot has happened since then."


After a torrid summer schedule, Pala was dominant in cross country, capturing the state Division V championship and going unbeaten into the Eastbay National Championships at Balboa Park.

He was right there, step for step, with Riley Hough who outkicked him. Just like that race at Arcadia a year ago, Pala used the lone setback as a learning experience and since then has not only continued training hard but added speed work.

That led to a 1:55.70 in the 800 and a 50-second 400 on the 4x400 relay despite nursing an injury.

"If I get the time I want in the 3200 at Arcadia, I can focus on the 800 and 1600 for State," said Pala, who is nothing if not outspoken and doesn't rule out a 3200 in the Brooks PR meet after the CIF-State Meet. "I want a sub 1:50 in the 800 and a 4:04 or faster in the 1600.  That's two races instead of one but it's only a total of six laps compared to eight.

I think the time (at Arcadia) is going to be very, very, very fast, so you just have to remove limits from your mind.

-Kenan Pala

"Arcadia's going to be a magical evening. The top 30 or 32 boys in the nation living the dream. Not only will I get to race against those Newbury Park guys, I'll get to run against some of the friends I met at the Eastbay Nationals.

"For a change, I'm the underdog here. I'm going to give 110 percent and I fully expect to fall on my face after the finish line. I want that, I don't want to leave anything on the track."

In previous years that would mean a sub-8:40 but this year is special and Pala knows it.

Colin Sahlman ran a national record 8:33.32 for 3200 meters back in February, leading junior teammates Leo Young (8:39.57) and his brother, Lex Young (8:43.93) across the line.

Since then, Sahlman has scorched a 1:48.84 in the 800 and Leo Young recorded a 3:59.32 for 1600 at the Azusa Pacific Meet of Champions Distance Classic.

All three are national-leading marks.

Pala decided to run a warm-up mile in last Saturday's Arnie Robinson Invitational at San Diego Mesa College, cruising to an unchallenged 4:16.47.

He's ready to roll in this one, no matter the competition.

"I'm stoked," said Pala. "Last year's Arcadia race was what got me into Yale. I didn't get to run against the Newbury Park guys in cross country. I know I have an infamously slow kick but I've been working on that and I won't hang back.

"I came close to accomplishing all my goals in cross country and I'm bringing the same mindset to this race. It's a fast year all around and I wouldn't want it any other way."

He even takes Newbury Park coach Sean Brosnan's words to heart.

"He says '4:20 isn't that fast for a high school mile -- it's just not fast.' What he's saying is to not put limits on yourself. I think the time (at Arcadia) is going to be very, very, very fast, so you just have to remove limits from your mind.

"I'm ready to run fast and this is the reward for all the hard training. We're all human and I'm ready. I'm really looking for a fast time and then I can turn my focus to the 1600 and 800."

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Boys Invitational 3200m - Top 20

Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit with a focus on San Diego.