(Note: All references to State 3A Marks are from Dyestat Illinois and Athletic.net as of the publishing of this post.)
The 49th Annual Arcadia Invitational was one to remember. National records fell as usual, but two things were different. It rained on and off for three straight days in Arcadia, California, a town that normally receives next to no rain during this time of year, and Neuqua Valley sent the largest group ever from Illinois to the prestigious two-day meet.
The meet began with the Friday Night Relays, where they run some events that are not normally contested in high school meets as a fun way to kick off the event. Our 4 x 200 m relay team of Myles Gascon (So.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) finished 3rd in the rated heat and are currently ranked 4th in 3A with a time of 1:30.42.
One of the ways to show the strength of a team is to compete in a medley relay where athletes run different distances. This certainly was the case in the 1600 m Sprint Medley (200 m-200 m-400 m-800m) relay of Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.) and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) who now have the leading time in 3A by almost 6 seconds with their 3rd place in the seeded heat and time of 3:29.64. Isaiah Robinson ran the anchor 800 m leg in a personal best 1:54.8, making him the 3rd fastest 800 m runner in school history and if compared to the open 3A lists, he would be ranked first in the State!
Our final event of Friday night was the 4 x 1600 m relay, an event to test the depth of the distance crew. Aidan Livingston (Sr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.), Patrick Wolak (Sr.) and Connor Horn (Sr.) turned in a near-record setting performance with a 9th place finish in the invitational heat and a mark of 17:37.54. The school record in this event is held by four of the members of the 2007 National Champion Cross Country Team including now professional athlete Chris Derrick. Connor Horn’s anchor leg was his best effort over 1600 m with a split of 4:14.992. This mark is less than one second off of Chris Derrick's school record of 4:14.36. Comparing this to both the open marks in the 1600 m and Mile, this mark would be ranked 2nd in 3A! Also, congratulations to Great Oaks High School’s relay which broke the national record in this event with an incredible time of 16:55.85, which is an average of 4:14 per leg!
Saturday morning saw the beginning of the more traditional meet and Neuqua’s sprinters were there for the 4 x 100 m relay. Coming in with a time of 43.41, Myles Gason (So.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) posted up the current 8th best time in 3A despite some handoff challenges. Shortly after the 4 x 100 m, Dan Gaynes headed over to the long jump to become our first ever field event athlete to compete at Arcadia.
As we moved into the afternoon, JaQuere Williams (Jr.) experimented with some new racing strategies in the 400 m dash, running 50.27 which is the presently the 4th best mark in 3A. Shortly after, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) returned for his second 800 m of the meet and ran 1:58.50 in a tactical race. This effort from Robinson is ranked 3rd in 3A, which means that he ran two of the fastest marks for an Illinois athlete in two consecutive days.
The team of Patrick Wolak (Sr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.), Aidan Livingston (Sr.) and Ryan Kennedy (So.) which have been dubbed by Milesplit Illinois as the “Young Guns”, took on the challenge of the Distance Medley relay (1200 m-400 m-800 m-1600 m). While not a well contested event in Illinois, these athletes now hold the top spot in the State in this event by almost 9 seconds!
One of the premier events in the Arcadia Invitational is the 3200 m. Athletes from around the country come to run fast times under the lights in the normally perfect weather. Despite some puddles on the track, the Neuqua Valley crew of Connor Horn (Sr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.) and Jake McEneaney (Jr.) stepped onto the track to post some great times. In Jake McEneaney’s first race back after injury, Jake toughed out a 9:37.34. Scott Anderson took over the lead of the rated heat and pushed the pace for a few laps before turning in a personal best of 9:15.24 which is good for the 4th best time in 3A. Connor Horn ran very tough in another tactical race in the seeded heat to run 9:09.72 which is a personal best and is the second fastest time presently in 3A. The announcer during this race correctly mentioned that this race was faster than most state finals.
The final race of the night was the invitational 4 x 400 m relay and the team of JaQuere Williams (Sr.), Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Ryan Lukas (Sr.) and Kevin Sager (Sr.) finished up two days of competition for Neuqua Valley with a time of 3:23.39, good enough for 3rd in 3A.
This meet showed us that we could compete with some of the best teams in the country, but it also showed us that have quite a bit of work to do to get ready for the end of our season. It will be great to see the entire team back together again at the Metea Valley Invitational this weekend.