IL Arcadia Invite Recap: Huge Efforts Come To The Rescue

Will Foltz help set the table for his home state's great weekend in California



Arcadia, CA-

On the opening day of the 56th Annual Arcadia Invitational, ideal conditions were missing. Climes that usually touch the upper 60s and lower 70s on a Friday evening were replaced with Midwest-like less for southern California, where the temperature ranged from the middle 50s to upper 40s by the time the meet was over. 

For starters, the state's top overall girls' team, Chicago Whitney Young, was AWOL.

But have no fear... distance running to the rescue.

The relays, as usual, burned the track up on a cool Friday evening at Arcadia High School. However, the incessant but quality sections of the so-called "appetizer 3200s" took precedence. 

Jane Lynch (Jr., Wilmette Loyola Academy) kicked off the rated section of the girls' 3200m. She took the lead just before the first half (1600) in 5:25.18 and appeared to be able to run away with the win, leading for three circuits. However, the valiant effort came up short, and Lynch took home a nice consolation prize: 7th in a personal best 10:48.22.

The boy's first 3200m of the evening was spectacular as Will Foltz (Sr., Tuscola), bidding for a personal best, earned an interim school record and open 1 section victory. Foltz appeared more than ecstatic as he crossed the line, thrusting his body in a celebratory fashion. The time on the scoreboard flashed 9:09.66.

The crew from Tuscola was not done. In section two, senior Josiah Hortin got off to a great start, positioning himself among the leaders. Hortin, who had a successful but temperate indoor campaign, wanted to unleash his full potential in California. After hitting the first half in 4:35.98, Hortin was mired in a footrace for the win. He held his own to the end, eventually taking the runner-up spot in 9:05.86- breaking his teammate's momentary school record. Will Kozlowski (Sr., Chicago Lane Tech) was also in the race, but unfortunately at his best, placing 30th in 9:33.95.

The final boy's race of the cool evening was open section three. Rory Gaan (Jr., Palatine Fremd) was ready to stake his claim at breaking 9:00. He put himself in a tough position, being 5'6", getting trapped inside a large field for a portion of the race. The first-half pace was set at 4:34, with a solid amount of the 30 guys still in contention. William Steadman (Sr., Herriman, UT) set the standard to beat for Saturday's epic evening with an 8:59.01. Gaan crossed the line with a sour look on his face but clocked a solid PB at 9:09.37 to take eighth place.

Like Gaan, Mia Kotler (Jr., Chicago Latin) is short in stature but also a strong competitor. So it was no surprise that Kotler was upfront pushing the seeded race. The first 1600 was in a brisk 5:15.22, and it appeared that Kotler was on her way to victory in the seeded section. Unfortunately, Claire Guiberson (So., Mountain Vista, CA) and several others ran her down inside the final lap for the win in 10:27.22. Kotler took fourth in 10:31.71. 

The final event of the evening was the Boys 4x1600. Whitney Young from Chicago debuted at this prestigious meet, which was a good one. The Dolphins were staked by seniors Dalton Lowery, Kendal Easterly, Calvin Allaband-Gamble, and Adam Abiade

The quartet, situated in the seeded section, fought hard at each transition, positioning themselves among some of the best teams in California. Lowery led off and produced the squad's fastest split (4:22.83). Overall, the group took fourth in 17:54.83.

Saturday morning session-

Since the Whitney Young girls were scratched from the meet, the slate of events that started at 9:30 a.m. was minimal.

Annika Swan (So., Chicago St. Ignatius) made her national meet appearance debut. She appeared a little nervous at the onset of the section three open mile but quickly went away after the gun went off. Kenzie Bigej (Jr., Canby) surprised the field with a huge lead at the halfway point, six seconds over Swan in 2:24. She would run away with the win in 4:54.29. Swan finished fifth in 4:57.84.

There were four sections of the open mile for the boys. Nicholas Strayer (Sr., Lyons Twp) was in the final section and hung around for a long time, actually leading on the bell, but Devin Ibarra (Sr., El Diamante, CA) produced a strong 60.7 final circuit for the win (4:13.65). Strayer took sixth in 4:16.83. Gaan returned from his late escapades and produced a hearty 4:17.60 from section three, good for third place. Strayer also ran the 800 to get some work in, clocking 1:57.71. Barak Goldstein (Sr., Highland Park) participated in the 800, running 1:59.56.

The 4x800 may be the event to watch for the St. Ignatius crew that traveled to California to compete in the Distance Medley Relay (DMR). Lizeth Montes (Jr), Maeve Griffin (Jr.), Emma Valencia (Sr.), and Ella Hwang (Sr.) placed 13th in a field of 32 teams. Their team time of 12:32.44 was solid, but considering the haphazard conditions of so many tight runners squeezing through transitions, it could have been a NASCAR-like collision, which could have altered the outcome. 

Ali Ince and Patrick Hilby shine bright to open the invitational section-

Saturday evening was a completely different take from Friday, mainly because the weather was near perfect for a track and field invitational. 

The first highly anticipated event of the evening program was the girls' invitational 800m. Enter Ali. Better known as Allison Ince, the superstar darling from Normal Community. Now a senior, Ince is a featured performer in her third invite race. As a sophomore, Ince surprised the field with a 2:05.42 victory. Last year, as a prohibitive favorite last year, Ince lost the race in the final 100m and placed second.

In her final appearance, she wanted to leave no doubt. Off the cuff, Ince punished the field with a 27-second opening 200 and later checked in at 58.63 for the 400. It was essentially over. Ince cruised home for her second invite title and US#2, 2:05.26.

Ahry Comer (Sr., Pope County) was also in the race, and she took advantage of the opportunity to have one of her best outings. Comer ran the fastest opener of her career in 1:00.89, but it may have prevented her from running faster at a high 69.xx second half netted 2:10.70 for fourth place. "I got a lactate buildup," she said in reference to her finish.

Next up was the boys invite 800, featuring the nation's top half-miler Patrick Hilby (Sr., Aurora Central Catholic) and emerging national talent Trey Sato (Sr., Grayslake Central). Hilby pressed the issue from the gun, opening in a blazing 25-second first 200. It was almost a three-second advantage on the field at the 400 checkpoint (52.44).

The second half of the race was a different take. Hilby began to tighten up with 200 to go. A chase pack of four runners began to slice into the big lead. Noah Nielson (Sr., American Fork, UT) led the charge, moving hard as the race entered the homestretch. He separated from the group, including Sato, churning an all-out assault, but he would come up short. The spoils go to Hilby in a new national best 1:49.47. Nielson gets the silver in 1:49.86. Sato grabs a huge outdoor PB 1:50.71.

The final featured event of the meet is the 3200. There were many running celebrities in the house, notably from NIKE. There is nothing like a gathering of admirers near the finish line of the 3200. 

The rated section was won by Omar Alsaidi (Oakdale) in 8:57.29. His victory did not come without a price. That's because Camyn Viger (Sr., Plainfield South) did most of the yeoman work. Viger, in his attempt to break 9:00 for the first time. Viger hit the first mile in 4:31 and was among the leaders. At 2K, the pace began to quicken. With two laps to go, Viger appeared to be in a prime position to win the section. Alsaidi moved with 150 to go, as did several others. Viger slipped slightly, tying up, but could still reach the finish line in 8:57.90. Viger paid the ultimate post-race price, heaving and body shakes among them. But a smile popped onto his face about 10 minutes later when the recovery fluids kicked in.

The invite 3200 featured many of the sport's big names. Daniel Simmons (Sr., American Fork, UT), Drew Griffith (Sr., Butler, PA), and JoJo Jourdon (Sr., Olympus, WA) were in the field. Also, Dylon Nalley (Sr., Marion) was there hoping to break 8:45. Simmons prevailed in the deepest 3200m race in US prep history. Simmons' 8:34.96 led seven guys under 8:40. 27 runners were 8:50 in the final race, and 37 of 38 finishers ran under 9:00. Amazing. Even Nalley's 32nd place clocked 8:55.64.

Whitney Young closed out the Illinois contingent with a 16th-place finish in the DMR. The Dolphins were a bit short-handed in their effort but still ran a respectable 10:35.64.