RECAP: Boys on Fire at APU Distance Meet of Champs!


As we typed up our meet preview going into the Distance Meet of Champs, our excitement of what could be accelerated as we previewed each nighttime race. Once the set had completely set and crowds filtered out of the stadium - it was clearly evident that the boys did not disappoint and lived up to the headlines and elite expectations!

As the kids, these days would say... Slay!

That, indeed is what the top boys did at this year's edition of the Meet of Champs! The top rankings had to be completely overhauled once the 800 and 3200 meters were completed while the top boys' milers also re-wrote the statewide lists.

800 Meters

In the invitational portion, you had one of the nation's top distance talents in Newbury Park (SS) senior Aaron Sahlman, equipped with his 1:48.91 lifetime best from last year's meet and your national leader at 1:50.25. But, Long Beach (SS) junior Xai Ricks had been lighting up the track the past two months, including his jaw-dropping 1:16.13 performance over 600 meters at the Winter Championships.

With that, Sahlman erupted with a sub-52 second split on the opening lap and with 250 meters to go, seemingly had relegated the rest of the field to a fight for second place. But, as Ricks fell back, he only re-engaged and put his 47+ quarter-miler speed to the test, moving past Sahlman coming off the curve and bringing home the 1:49.19 victory! The new national leader shattered Long Beach Poly's previous school record of 1:50.14, a record that went all the way back to 1968 by Greg Jones!

Sahlman crossed in 1:50.86, but also creating his own headlines was Vista Murrieta (SS) senior Tarron Johnson, who emerged with a lifetime best of 1:50.93. This was a six-second improvement and established the own school record as well.

Cathedral (SS) junior Ambodai Ligons improved his own school record with a 1:51.54, Great Oak (SS) junior Gabriel Rodriguez improved down to a 1:51.79 while Buchanan (CS) senior Noah Ray also improved on his own school record with a 1:51.92! After the dust had settled, California now owns the top six times in the nation for the event!

Before we even get to the invitational heat for the event, the track was already scorching from the previous two heats! Actually, it was the rated section that provided the real preview as Long Beach Poly (SS) senior Lamarr Kirk erupted to over a three-second improvement with his 1:53.15. He held off a late charge from Liberty (SS) sophomore Juan Juarez (1:53.43) and South Pasadena (SS) junior Keeran Murray (1:53.99). La Serna (SS) junior Aidan Vigil improved to a 1:54.46 with his fourth-place finish.

In the seeded section, Palos Verdes (SS) junior Alex Naehu ran away to a 1:54.72 victory.

From those last three races, 18 boys altogether dipped under 1:55!

3200 Meters

In our meet preview, we anticipated that the 22-year old meet record of 8:55.10 (held by Ryan Hall of Big Bear) was under assault with the correct pacing! We specifically mentioned that the leaders needed to come through at 4:30 and go on alert with a negative-split affair.

The boys did all of the work - but we did call it! 

Highland (SS) senior Matthew Donis, Clovis East (CS) junior Carter Spradling, Palo Alto (CCS) junior Grant Morgenfeld, and Cathedral (SS) junior Emmanuel Perez came through just under 4:30 but always crucial in the great 3200-meter races, picked it up on that fifth lap!

Just when it looked like Donis was on his way to pulling away, Spradling had another surge in him, and with 200 meters to go, unleashed to bring home the 8:51.62 victory, taking down the oldest meet record on the books! His last 800 meters was 2:07.2.

Also under the old meet record, Donis crossed in a lifetime best of 8:52.91 while Morgenfeld also improved down to 8:56.31. Never too far from that top group, Royal (SS) senior Jonah Bazerkanian rolled to 8:57.67 with Perez coming in at 8:57.73. Meanwhile, West Ranch (SS) senior Bille Issa established a new school record, coming in at 8:58.90 to have six boys under 9:00.

The meet had only three boys ever achieve the feat in its history as six of the top seven times in meet history came here!

Crescenta Valley (SS) senior Parker Simmons moved to no. 2 on his school's all-time list with a 9:01.24 while one of the big surprises here was Newport Harbor (SS) senior Kenny Wanlass and his 9:01.43. This was a 21-second improvement and a new school record.

Overall, 16 boys eclipsed the 9:10 mark in that final invitational heat!

Mile /1600 Meters

Coming into the action with the top time (4:09.33), Newbury Park (SS) senior Brayden Seymour lived up to the billing with a 4:08.67 best for the mile. A conservative first half of the race saw most of the field coming through the halfway point at 2:06.

With Seymour driving the pace all throughout, he held off several charges from the Ventura (SS) junior duo of Anthony Fast Horse and Micah Grossman while the conservative pace of the first two laps almost 800-meter specialist, Ryan Thomas of Torrey Pines (SD) to run down Seymour.

With over a seven-second improvement, Thomas crossed in second for a 4:09.36 for the mile with Fast Horse (4:10.16) and Grossman (4:10.80). The two Ventura underclassmen moved up to second and third in their school's history.

Menlo (CCS) senior Justin Pretre improved down to a 4:13.47 for the 1600-meters as did Dana Hills (SS) sophomore Evan Noonan, who unleashed a furious last lap to close in 4:15.69 and move him up to the top of the national list for the Class of 2025 for the 1600 meters.

Seymour crossed the 1600-meter mark at 4:07.16 to give Newbury Park their sixth boy in the past five seasons to break 4:08 for 1600 meters!

Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, popular announcer and a regular contributor to MileSplit.

Photos by Raymond Tran