Engelhardt, Combe And Morgenfeld Set Records At APU MOCs

* Ventura's Sadie Engelhardt starred on Saturday at the APU Distance Meet of Champions

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

by Ryan Blystone - California MileSplit

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AZUSA -- Ventura junior Sadie Engelhardt and Santiago Corona sophomore Braelyn Combe recorded season-best national U.S. No. 1 times in the 800 meters and one-mile run, respectively, while Engelhardt's effort and Palo Alto senior Grant Morgenfeld's time in the boys 3,200 set meet records at Saturday's Meet of Champions Distance Classic.

"It's insane, I did not expect that at all," said Combe, whose 4:48.47 now leads all runners in the mile nationally, surpassing Canby's (OR) Kenzie Bigej and her time of 4:53.57 this year.

Combe did it by besting a big-name field of California runners that included her Santiago teammate Rylee Blade.

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"It is insane to me that I raced against people who are names I've known since last year. When I saw them, I couldn't believe how fast they were and I hope I get to race with them one day," Combe said. "To beat them is insane, I just loved racing against them."

The 13-runner field included names such as Payton Godsey of Oaks Christian (second, 4:50.13), La Costa Canyon's Gioana Lopizzo (fourth 4:52.64) and the aforementioned Blade (sixth, 4:54.05).

"I've learned so much from (Rylee) and it's so great to be on the same team as her," Combe said. "It was cool to see her take it out the first lap. Seeing that was so inspiring to me."

While Combe achieved a victory she hopes to build on, Ventura's Engelhardt won the 800m in impressive fashion, clocking a time of 2:03.48, a mark that shaved more than three seconds off the nation's best high school time in the event this season. Flower Mound (TX) runner Samantha Humphries had the top mark of 2:06.59 prior to Saturday's win by Engelhardt.

The 2:03 time is also Engelhardt's personal best in high school.

Last year, she won the California state title at the distance in 2:07.22. Her previous best result was a 2:05.66 at the Buchanan Clovis-hosted West Coast Relays in April 2022.

Engelhardt's presence in the race, predictably, brought out the best in those who raced with her. L'Mio Edwards of Claremont was second in 2:06.01 to also run faster than Humphries' national mark.

JSerra Catholic's Georgia Jeanneret was third in 2:07.26. As for the Meet of Champions record mark, Engelhardt, Edwards and Jeanneret each surpassed Crescenta Valley's Mia Barnett and her 2:07.31 best set in 2021.

"I was looking to go a little faster, but I don't know if it was because it was cold or what, but once I started off, I felt myself getting a little lactic so I wanted to stay smooth for the second 200. And then I told myself I can do anything for 400 meters and that's what got me through it," Engelhardt said.

The lone boys varsity record-setting effort came in the night's race finale. Templeton senior Joshua Bell established the pace in the 3,200m and led the way for most of it, but Palo Alto's Morgenfeld rallied, caught Bell and passed him to win in 8:50.95.

Bell was second in 8:52.97. Morgenfeld bumped Clovis East's Carter Spradling atop the Meet of Champions records list. Spradling won the 3200 race in 8:51.62 in 2023.

"It was a lot of fun to race against some of the highest level of competition in California. It was a great experience and the race played out how I wanted it to and achieved my goal," Morgenfeld said.

Having Bell lead the majority of the race and rally late wasn't a role Morgenfeld sought, "but when you go up against good competition, really good guys, you want to be a little smarter about it," he said. "It's something I've been trying to work through, at the start of races I'm trying to figure out if it is going out too fast or too slow and adjusting to that."

Bell, who finished sixth in the CIF State Championship 3,200m race last year, did lower his personal best time by more than two seconds on Saturday. He's used to leading a race and stated he came into this race "with a lot of confidence in the field."

"When I noticed that no one was going to carry me, I just said, 'Hey this is my race. I was waiting for someone to breathe on my shoulder on the last lap, and (Morgenfeld) did. ... He just read a gap that I wasn't going to grab. (Menlo's) Landon (Pretre) was coming in on the inside, and I just saw I had no chance of getting my wind back."

One common trait about this distance-only meet was the chance to see a lot of talented runners competing in what is still an early part of the season nearing the end of March.

Despite Bell's setback, this was the Stanford-bound runner's first 3,200m race of the season and he said he was pleased with a PR and where he's at with his training.

Many winners and runner-ups in the elite night racing session expressed similar sentiment. It was also a chance for teams to get a lot of runners into a more competitive situation.

Great Oak Temecula, for instance, fared well in several 800m and 1,600m races. Avery Smith, a junior, won her 800 heat in 2:15.04 and came back less than an hour later to win her 1,600m heat in 5:04.60.

Jacob Brown and Jack Paradise each won their 800m heat, in times of 1:53.96 and 1:54.99, respectively. Even sophomore Marco Franco, running in the top freshman-sophomore 800m race, won in 1:56.08.

Other top varsity flight winners were: