Mt. Carmel Asics/XC Invitational
Arizona standout Kylie Wild won the Division 2 Invitational race at the Mt. Carmel Invitational for the second consecutive year. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)
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SAN DIEGO -- Salpointe Catholic's Kylie Wild really never gave a thought about changing divisions heading into the Mt. Carmel Invitational high school cross country meet Saturday at Balboa Park.
First, her goal was to win her second straight title on the Morley Field course after capturing the Division 2 Junior Girls race in 2021.
Second, the Arizona standout had no way of knowing that, had she moved into the earlier Division 1 (large school) race, a Chula Vista Eastlake High runner named Jaelyn Williams might produce a serious push over the challenging 3-mile course which annually hosts the national championships under the name of Kinney, FootLocker, EastBay or, as announced Saturday, this December, the Champs National Cross Country Championships.
How could Wild know? Williams is just a freshman.
The key word there Is "might" as Wild dominated the Senior/Invite Division 2 race, covering the 3-mile course in 17:50.2 before calmly standing in the shade and chatting with teammates.
Williams, meanwhile, pulled away from a pair of San Diego Section runners in the final mile to win in 18:13.6 in the Senior/Invite Division 1 race held roughly a half-hour earlier, also in the middle of the day.
It wasn't the 23-second difference in time that contrasted with Wild, it was after the race as Williams took 20 minutes to recover.
"This is my senior year and I decided to go for it," said Wild who said her team spent almost seven hours getting from Tucson to the much cooler temperature of San Diego.
"I saw (Williams) in the Division 1 race, but I wanted to run with my teammates and they were in Division 2. I might have run faster, but maybe not. I'm happy they changed the course to 3.0 miles for both the boys and girls, so now we run the same distance.
"It was tough running by myself. I just had to keep reminding myself of my goals."
Wild was never pressured as she quickly built a lead that just kept growing as she beat runner-up Lucy Turley of another Arizona school, Greenway, by almost 100 seconds.
Naturally, she's looking for her third straight Division III Arizona state title but she also hopes to return to Balboa Park for the National Championships.
As for Williams, she was just happy to win.
"I was hoping for maybe a top five finish-you never know who might be entered," said Williams, noting that more than 100 teams from Arizona, the Southern Section and, of course, San Diego, would be entered.
Two of San Diego's better runners, Del Norte's Emily Russo (18:32.5) and Vista's Melissa Estrada (18:46.6) finished well behind Williams who continued her unbeaten record after winning the Vaquero Stampede and the Ian Cummings Invitational so far this season.
"I knew they'd be right behind me, so I couldn't slow down," said Williams, who said she has been running road races since she was 6 years old. "At the 2-mile mark I told myself I only had a mile to go, to just maintain that pace. I like running hills and that's where I made my move."
Williams trains with both the boys and girls teams and said she is already looking ahead to the always tough Dana Hills Invitational this Saturday.
Although well behind Wild and Williams, San Diego Westview's Kaitlyn Arciaga posted the day's third-best time in winning the Division 1 sophomore race in 18:25.4.
Visitors from Arizona took advantage of the considerably cooler weather (in the 60s and 70s compared to the 90s in Arizona).
For example, Catalina Foothills, also from Tucson, and Salpointe swept the two senior boys races with Brandon Martz capturing the Division 1 race for Foothills in 15:12.8 and Salpointe's Michael Urbanski collecting the Division 2 gold medal in 15:27.1.
Martz was involved in a great five-runner race, steadily moving up on Crescenta Valley's Parker Simmons, who scorched the second mile when suddenly, Simmons went down.
"I slowed down and thought about helping him to his feet but then I remembered that I might get disqualified if I did that," said Martz. "I looked back hoping he's get to his feet and at least finish the race."
Simmons, among the top seniors in the Southern Section, did rejoin the race but had no chance to catch Martz or any of the top five runners, placing sixth in 15:35.7. He had twisted his ankle in a gopher hole.
Urbanski had an easier time of it as he beat La Salle's Alexandro Alvarez by almost a minute.
"Last year I won the sophomore race," said Urbanski. "When we went through the first 800, I saw it was fast and stayed back. I knew they'd come back to me as long as I maintained my pace because I'm used to running that way.
"The first two meets I've run this year I've improved my times by 30 seconds or more, so I know I'm ready."
Del Norte helped uphold the local flavor in the early races with Del Norte sweeping the freshman races in Division 1. Cameron Yarborough cracked the 17-minute mark winning the boys race in 16:59.4 while Lilah Enyedi won the 9th-grade girls race in 19:34.9.
Elsewhere, the closest finish of the day came in the Division 2 junior boys where Calvin Christian's John Bitner ran 16:33.1 to outlean San Diego High Tech's Kai Lange-Dei (16:33.7), who in turn held on to nip Arizona Greenway's Emmanuel Simiyu (16:34.8).
Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit