Woodbridge Day 2: Hedengren Sets New All-Time 3-Mile Best

* Timpview's Jane Hedengren made one last move to take down Elizabeth Leachman on Saturday in the girls sweepstakes race

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

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IRVINE, Calif. -- It was about as good a race as you could've asked for: never mind the star-studded lineup, or the mammoth course record, or the fact that nine girls ran under 16 minutes.

Under the lights on Saturday at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, the girls sweepstakes division was just a good-old-fashioned race.

Soon after the gun, Elizabeth Leachman, the Boerne Champion (TX) sophomore, took a gutsy early lead and tried to put distance on the chase pack. 

Jane Hedengren, the Timpview (UT) junior, wasn't going to let her get far. The two settled into a stable status quo as they made their way through the halfway point of the three-mile course, Hedengren on Leachman's shoulder, chased by a pack of serious contenders including Ventura junior Sadie Engelhardt -- the meet's reigning champion and record holder.

Then all bets were off. 

With a quarter mile to go, Leachman kicked it up a notch, no doubt feeling the pressure from Hedengren just behind her. Engelhardt tried to find another gear. Rylee Blade, the Corona junior, gave chase.

Barreling down the home stretch, Hedengren managed a gritty kick and a slight lead, but it still looked like Leachman might reel her back in. They swept over the line. The clock posted: 15:32.5. 

Hedengren won by a tenth of a second, blowing the doors off Engelhardt's previous record of 15:42.6 to earn gold. Her performance is now the fastest any girl has run for the three-mile distance in history.

"I was coming in today to see the effort I could give, especially with the opportunity to be surrounded by so many quick girls who work so hard," Hedengren told MileSplit. "A win wasn't on my mind."

Air Academy (CO), MileSplit's No. 4 team in the country, managed an easy win in the team competition, finishing 69 points ahead of No. 13 JSerra Catholic; both programs knocked off No. 2 ranked Buchanan, the California powerhouse that finished third in what was its season opener.

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit 

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The Kadets were led by senior Bethany Michalak with a time of 15:52.2. Junior Brynn Garcia led the JSerra squad with a 16:48.9, and junior Elle Lomeli led Buchanan with a 16:31.9.

The boys sweepstake race saw a remarkable upset, too. Cathedral senior Emmanuel Perez battled for an early lead with Millikan senior Jason Parra, the favorite to win that division.

But when Parra started to fade, the others smelled blood and a pack of six contenders strung out at Perez's blistering pace. Ventura senior Anthony Fast Horse seemed poised to overtake Perez with 600 meters to go, but Dana Hills junior Evan Noonan shocked them both with a monster kick.

He never looked back. Noonan finished with a 13:41.3 -- three seconds off the meet record set by Leo Young in 2021, but in fact more than a second faster than the time set by Tyrone Gorze in last year's race just after the meet changed courses.

"Knowing I'm able to compete with these guys and do my best is honestly just great," Noonan said. "My strongest physically and mentally was the last 400 meters to go down the stretch, knowing that 'I'm just going to leave it out here and do my best.'"

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

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Five other boys posted sub-14 times. Herriman (UT), led by senior William Steadman with a 14:07.9, managed to secure the team title for a second year in a row, perhaps putting a fitting bow on the school's early-season success.

No. 4 Southlake Carroll (TX) finished second, one place higher than it did last year, led by senior Jude Alvarez with a 14:11.3. Great Oak, ranked No. 13 in the nation, managed to beat out No. 23 Ventura for the third-place slot by 24 points.

No competitor managed to achieve the highly coveted status of being the only boy to break 14 minutes twice at Woodbridge.

Other notable performances of the day included Austin Vandegrift (TX) junior Hudson Haley's 20-second win in the varsity boys rated race. He took control early to finish with a 14:08.6, which would've put him in the top 10 of the sweepstakes heat. 

South Pasadena junior Abigail Errington similarly ran herself to a 20-second victory in the varsity girls rated race with a 16:45.2 - which also happened to be the first time she's ever won a cross country meet.

Of note beyond Saturday's races were the mid-meet course alterations. 

Several people noted that the course felt longer than three miles on Friday night. It in fact was. Meet spokesman Rich Gonzalez rolled the course on Saturday morning -- which can be an inexact science -- and measured it at roughly 3.078 miles, putting the race closer to a 5,000 meter. Officials trimmed 100 yards from the course, which put it roughly at 3.02 miles for Saturday's races.


Ryan Blystone contributed reporting to this article.

Vertical photo credit: Nick DeGeorge/MileSplit