RECAP Youth Takes Center Stage At Don Jones Bronco Invite

Helix freshman Brandon Arrington set a meet record in the 100-meter dash at the Don Jones Bronco Invitational.

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SAN DIEGO -- Freshmen, generally, don't make a major impact in track in the San Diego Section.

This year it's a whole different story.

Three 9th-graders made lots of noise at the 29th Don Jones Bronco Invitational Saturday at Rancho Bernardo High.

And that didn't even include La Jolla freshman Chiara Dailey, who has already run a 4:51.82 in the 1600 but wasn't at this meet.

So, it fell to the likes of Helix High's Brandon Arrington, Del Norte's Cameron Yarbrough and Chula Vista Eastlake's Jaelyn Williams, who did not disappoint.

Williams kicked off the meet held in a perpetual San Francisco-like mist by clocking a 75-second first lap en route to clocking a meet record and personal best in the 3200 of 10:34.58, easily burying her previous best of 10:39.26 run in a dual meet.

It also dropped the 10:35.31 run by a pretty fair competitor named Kristin Fahy of La Costa Canyon in 2019 to No. 2 on the list.

"I'm happy with my (3200-meter) time," said Williams, who came back to use the same strategy -- bolting out to a huge lead -- in winning the 1600 in 5:03.84, which to many would be a season highlight but simply counted as another PR in falling short of her goal of a sub-5 minute time thwarted by a lack of competition.

"I wanted something in the low 10:30s. I wanted to go 75 seconds for the first and last laps and I accomplished that, too. By the end of the season I'm going for 10:20 but I would be really happy if I could get down to 10:10.

"My goal going into every meet is just to set a personal record."

Remember, this is the runner who clocked the second fastest time for a freshman at last November's CIF-State cross country meet, finishing fourth in the Division I championships as well as the ninth best performance counting all divisions.

"I never look back and there was no reason to do it," said Williams who counted Del Norte's Hannah Riggins (10:46.96) and Poway's Tessa Buswell (11:14.79) among her challengers. Both of those runners, though, ended up running numerous relay races 

Williams contented herself with the difficult double under less than ideal conditions.

Sprinters usually prefer warm, dry weather for their races but Arrington, explosive the 6-foot-2 speedster, got a good start for him and when he was halfway through the 100, he had a little company so he turned on the jets to win in 10.73-off his PR of 10.69 but still a meet record, eclipsing the 10.75 run by Rancho Bernardo's Jared Pickering in 2011.

"I was barely in front when I saw someone and I thought to myself, 'I can do better than that.'  I know I can go 10.6 or faster by the State Meet," said Arrington who isn't even the biggest name on the Helix High team.

That honor belongs to quarter-miler Adren Parker who ran a leg on the 4x100 relay team and then called it a day.

Arrington says he can't wait for the Scotties to put together their 4x100 relay team, although Saturday Laurence Burston sat out the meet. Still, he likes racing something else.

"I race for time," said Arrington who has been running since he was eight. "I'm just trying to drop my times for last year. Practice at Helix is very competitive, very hard, and that's good to have people pushing me."

As for Yarbrough, he also jumped into the lead in the 800 and although others tried to catch him, including 1:55 half-miler Ian Rosen of Grossmont, he was the one with the energy at the end, pulling away to win in 1:56.18.

Again, a pretty fair time for a first-year high school student.

It wasn't all freshmen, though.

Had Torrey Pines' Ryan Thomas, who won the 1600 in 4:15.21, been in that 800 with Yarbrough, it might have been a different outcome since he clocked a 1:52.34 in the state prelims in 2022.

Point Loma's Manuel Correia, another front-runner from the start, actually relinquished the lead in the 3200 before roaring away over the final 800 to win in 9:12.79, another PR.

Steele Canyon's Lillian Cook dominated the two girls hurdle races, winning the short race in 15.93 before dominating the 300s in 47.10.

But all-in-all, the freshmen were impressive.

Steve Brand is a free lance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by James Huenink