ARCADIA Distance Domination from the Californians!


* This is one in a series of event-group recaps from the 54th Arcadia Invitational. Check back for updates. 

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ARCADIA -- Over the past decade, the Arcadia Invitational has become a haven of distance talent, attracting some of the top harriers in the nation to take on the very best California has to offer!  Case in point is that in 2017, the boys 3200 meters witnessed 25 boys all breaking the coveted 9:00 minute barrier in one race alone!  No other invite can come close to making that claim but the event has only become more attractive to the best athletes in the nation! 

With the boys 3200 hailed as the true highlight of the invite on a yearly basis, and the crew from Newbury Park continuing its assault on the record books, this year we also watched as Mira Costa's Dalia Frias went after the meet record in the 3200 and Sadie Engelhardt looked to bring home the victory in the Mile. 

We have almost become numb to the fact that when Colin Sahlman steps onto the track, it is assumed that something GREAT is going to happen and he did not disappoint whatsoever as the University of Northern Arizona-bound senior locked up with teammate, junior Lex Young, in a battle for the ages that was almost a mirrored vision of what we saw in 2021.  Sahlman unleashed a jaw-dropping last lap of 59 seconds to bring home a meet record performance of 8:34.99 to hold off Young, who crossed in 8:35.72. With Sahlman's 8:33.32 from February already our national leader, this moved Lex up to fourth on the all-time California charts, moving brother Leo, to fifth on that same list. Establishing a state sophomore record here in 2021, he also adds his name to the junior state record, held by none other than his older brother Nico Young (8:40.00).  It's unfathomable that Nico Young is now FOURTH on the Newbury Park all-time school record list.

Those two battled back and forth all throughout but that chase pack also provided some serious fireworks, watching Clovis junior Christopher Caudillo emerge with a new Central Section record as he crossed in 8:45.19 up 18th on the all-time California state list.  

That same race did end there as Newbury Park junior Aaron Sahlman reminded everybody that he is much more than an 800-meter athlete in rolling to an 8:48.28 which also places him in the top-25 list of the best 3200-meter runners in state history!  And as if you would you could get enough, senior Daniel Appleford crossed with a lifetime best of 8:52.19!  Newbury Park now has six boys that have gone under 8:55 at this invite over the past four seasons.    

Etching into stone her own legacy in California prep-lore, Mira Costa's Dalia Frias also established a new Arcadia Invitational meet record in her own 3200-meter session as she did all of the work up front on her own, crossing in 9:55.50!   Establishing a new California state record for the Mile two weeks earlier, Frias sat back for that first lap but left the confines of the group to race against the clock to make up for the conservative start. Breaking her race into 800-meter portions, she came through with 2:32-2:26-2:29-2:28 to run negative splits of 4:58-4:57. This is now the eighth fastest effort in California state history.

But, before all of that action unfolded, Ventura's Sadie Engelhardt pressed onward in building a freshman resume like nothing we've ever witnessed on the national prep scene!  Going against a loaded field, she controlled the pace from the gun and moved away from the group of nationally ranked runners!  Leading the group through the first lap of the Mile at 67 seconds, she began peeling away from everybody with back-to-back 70-second laps only to step it up to another gear with a 68-second last lap and bring home the 4:35.16 victory and a new meet recordOh so close, this was only .10 (4:35.06) off the state-record effort from Frias from two weeks ago! 

NOTE: At the time of this publication, we are awaiting official word from Record Timing on if Engelhardt's split at the 1600 meters was actually faster than Frias from that epic match-up the two engaged in at the Meet of Champions on March 26.  

When it came to the distance relays, the girls from J Serra out of Capistrano Valley earned all of the accolades!  Perhaps battling the extreme heat of Friday afternoon more than their opponents, the group of Ashlee Gallegos, Anastasia Snodgrass, Georgia Jeanneret, Brook O'Brien, and Sydney Paulson motored to a 9:06.45 victory in Friday's 4x800.  this is the second-best time in the nation.  The Lady Lions came back to place third (20:17.73) in the 4x1600 later that evening but on Saturday, they were most impressive in their dominating victory in the Distance Medley Relay (11:49.24) to move into the national lead while their 'B' team shined with the, then, fastest time in California (12:06.89) in the Saturday afternoon open session!

Before that boys' invitational 3200 meters, in the seeded section, five Californian boys broke the 9:00-minute watermark!  After putting down an aggressive, Millikan sophomore Jason Parra (8:54.17) fought back once the group caught him and came home with a second-place finish.  Agoura's Ethan Godsey (8:54.23), Clovis' Nathaniel Avila (8:56.74), Harvard Westlake's Will Sheehy (8:58.66), and Caden Carney (8:59.34) of Tamalpais all followed in his shadow for lifetime bests on the entire group.  Altogether, 16 Californian boys eclipsed nine minutes with Sage Creek's Bryce Gilmore (8:53.23), Jesuit's Braden King (8:56.07), San Luis Obispo's Milo Skapinsky (8:57.19), Conor Gibson (8:57.69) of West Torrance, Daniel Winter of St. Mary's (8:57.74) and Big Bear's Max Sannes (8:59.35) all coming home with lifetime bests.  Altogether, 33 boys Californian boys eclipsed 9:10 for the 3200 meters over the two-night affair.  

Reflecting back to the Californian girls in the 3200 meters, aside from Frias' record-setting effort, seven others broke 10:25, led by Montgomery's Hanne Thomsen (10:12.03) with Albany's Sophia Nordenholz (10:14.32), Buchanan's dynamic duo of Grace Hutchison (10:17.80) and Sydney Sundgren (10:21.73), Poway's Mackenzie Rogers (10:17.91), Payton Godsey (10:19.05) of Oaks Christian and Cate Joaquin (10:20.97) of St. Francis out of Sacramento!

Newbury Park's Samantha McDonnell shined in her own right on Saturday evening with her third-place 4:40.63 performance to elevate her with the ninth-fastest Mile/1600 effort in California State history!  In that same race, Del Oro's Riley Chamberlain crossed in 4:49.07 for the full mile.

Also stepping up into the national spotlight for the Mile, Scotts Valley's Jeremy Kain came up big over the last 400 meters for a 4:09.34, third-place finish in the Invitational Mile.  As the sole Californian competitor in the race, his previous best was 4:12.47 for the 1600 meters from last year.  In the daytime open session, Menlo's Justin Pretre added another victory to his resume in crossing with the top time at 4:14.36 for the full mile.  His previous best was 4:24.82!

As much as we highlight the fireworks from the night portion, we also witnessed some great efforts from the morning session in the open Mile.  With her patented and unmatched kick over the last 400 meters, BYU-bound Rancho Bernardo senior Jacey Farmer shined in her 4:56.53 victory!  Los Alto's Lauren Soobrian (4:57.32), Dana Hills' Allura Markow (4:57.92), and Newbury Park's Morgan Nygren (4:58.87) all broke 5-minutes for the full Mile as well.  

The fastest times from the Californian girls came in the daytime version of the 800 meters as Poway's Tessa Buswell purred along over the last 250 meters to bring home the 2:09.54 victory. Chino's Mia Chavez crossed in 2:10.50, just ahead of Castilleja's Samira Kennedy at 2:10.72 and Palo Alto's Hillary Studdert (2:11.29).  Representing the San Diego section, Westview freshman Kaitlyn Arciaga captured the second heat in 2:11.98.  In the evening portion, JW North's MacKenzie Browne came in at 2:10.17 while Farmer was invited into the nighttime affair, doubling back with an impressive 2:11.94.  

Dana Hills' Jai Dawson topped all Californians in the 800 meters with his 1:51.56 runner-up photo finish in the Invitational heat.  In a race where only .56 separated the top five at the line, Yutaka Roberts of El Camino, placed fifth in 1:52.11 while Buchanan's Noah Ray came in at 1:52.82.  While Thacher's Ellis Delvecchio (1:53.56) also ran well at night, we witnessed a step-up performance during the early afternoon when Furious Clay of Crystal Springs-Uplands captured the second heat with his 1:53.39 performance.  Marcell Francis-Mitchell of LB Wilson won the third heat with a lifetime best of 1:53.72 to place second overall in the daytime open portion of the meet. 

Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, in-demand announcer, and a regular contributor to MileSplit.

Photos by Daniel Hernandez and Raymond Tran