The Best of Arcadia: A Look Back

What a weekend it was out at the Arcadia Invitational. As the dust settles and the results are entered into the national rankings, it is clear once again that Arcadia is one of the premier high school meets in the country. After analyzing the results and notes from the weekend, MileSplit national editor Scott Bush takes a look at the top ten performances of the meet. Read who made the list and who didn't.

A Top Ten Countdown: Best of Arcadia

10. Shaw Leads a Talented Quintet

While most events this weekend at least had some California feel to it, perhaps the most talented ensemble of out of state athletes came in the boys 800m run. Leading the way were the three top national performers in the event in Blake Shaw (TX), James Eichberger (AZ) and John Kline (AZ). Two other out-of-state athletes came from Nevada, as Joe Abbott and Jordan Rincon looked to put up big performances. As the gun sounded Saturday evening indicating the start of the race, Shaw shot to the lead and led the field through the first quarter in 54 seconds. With such a conservative opening pace, the field was bunched until the backstretch when Shaw started to move.

From there the field spread out quickly, as Kline, Eichberger and Abbott cleared the rest of the field. Into the back-turn they went with Shaw showing why he came into the event ranked U.S. #1. Into the homestretch Shaw powered home to a narrow victory that saw four athletes run in the 1:51 range. Shaw's time of 1:51.19 barely beat out runner-up Kline's time of 1:51.33, while Abbott finished a half stride back in third at 1:51.64 and Eichberger fourth in 1:51.75. While those for clearly made their mark in the final straightaway, Jordan Rincon (NV) placed fifth in 1:52.72. It's a rare day to find four athletes under 1:52 in the same race, especially during April, but Arcadia proved once again why the top distance runners head to the meet.

9. Long Beach Poly's Fantastic Day years now, Long Beach Poly (CA) has been one of the dominant sprint schools year in and year out nationally. For example, if you look at the national all-time rankings for the relay events, Long Beach Poly owns U.S. #1 all-time marks in the 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m relays. It's incredibly impressive!

While relay dominance is always expected out of this squad, individual wins were a possibility as well. With so much potential riding on this squad Saturday, any followers of the program had to know something special was about to take place. Leading the charge were 400m dash champions Akawkaw Ndipagbor and Joey Hughes. Both athletes had busy weekends by running multiple relays, but they individually showed their talent as well. Ndipagbor, who is only a freshman, won the girls 400m dash with a U.S. #1 of 53.43. Hughes followed up that performance with a U.S. top three performance of 46.97 to win the boys event. Sophomore Tara Richmond also won an individual event for the team, winning the triple jump with one of the best leaps in the nation at 40-09.25.

The squads bread and butter so to speak, their relays, impressed as much as their three individual wins. Three relay squads really stuck out, starting with their 4x400m relay win. From the start of the 4x4, it was apparent this final event of the night was going to turn into a great race between Poly and their heated rival Long Beach Wilson. The event went down to the wire, as Ndipagbor ran past Wilson's anchor leg in the final 50 meters to win the event 3:44.22-3:44.97.

The two other impressive relay performances came in the girls 4x200m relay. For starters the squad won the event in 46.27, showing their incredible speed. However, what impressed most perhaps was their win in the seeded section (slower section) with their "B" team, whose time of 47.64 helped the squad finish sixth overall and actually beat four teams in the invitational field. Depth like that is rarely seen.

8. Purvis Sisters Take Charge

It's certainly not rare for senior Julian Purvis and her sophomore sister Ashton Purvis to capture all the headlines in whatever events they choose to compete in. For the past two years the two St. Elizabeth (CA) stars have been tearing up the tracks wherever they choose to compete. On Saturday the duo won three events, led by Ashton's 100m and 200m dash victories.

Ashton's 100m victory came in a close battle with St. Mary's (CA) Yasmin Woodruff. Despite some timing errors that slowed down the start of the race and forced competitors to switch their starting blocks to the opposite side of the straightaway, the race went off without error and Ashton caught and passed Yasmin with 20 meters to go, winning 11.54-11.64. From there Ashton prepared to win the 200m dash title, and boy did she ever. With a great start at the gun, she plowed through the stagger and came home to a huge win in 23.54, beating her nearest competition by over a half second.

While Ashton certainly did impress, before her two events came Julian's time to shine in the 100m hurdles. The battle was between Julian and Briana Stewart (CA) was set up to be a classic, as both athletes went head-to-head a few times already this seaon and each time the outcome was close. Well, Julian beat Stewart 13.59-13.67 to take home the hurdle title and give the Purvis family three titles on the day.

7. A Star is Born: Elias Geydon

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.It is seldom that a male high school freshman can dominate in the high school distance events. Honestly, if you look through the record books, only a handful of distance stars have really shown national level talent and been able to compete at such a level since day one. While most of the highlights from the weekend took place Saturday, one of the most notable performances of the entire weekend came from a freshman on Friday night in the boys 4x800m relay.

For much of the cross country season Loyola's (CA) Elisa Geydon (pictured far right #1699, with his team) was showing his talents over hill-n-dale, however, many people spoke that his speed on the track was even more exceptional. With Loyola taking part in few meets to really push his talent thus far, Friday night's 4x8 was Geydon's coming out party. Through three legs Dana Hills (CA) and Servite (CA) were making a case that they were the top teams in the field, leading at the final exchange. However, Loyola's third leg handed off to Geydon about 25 meters back, and once he had the baton in hand,Geydon took about 200m to catch the leaders.

Once the freshman caught the leaders, he tucked in nicely behind the two and sat patiently. With one lap to go it was apparent that the finish was going to be a battle and with 200m to go Geydon took off and took the lead heading into the homestretch, where he held off Dana Hill's anchor to give his team the victory in 7:49.24. The crowd rose to their feet as the announcer shoutes, "Loyola wins behind their freshman anchor!" Freshman are considered some of the best in the land if they can crack 1:55, but Geydon smashed that mark with a 1:52.2 leg. His maturity and poise during the race spoke volumes of who this new star is and where he is headed.

6. Dominguez Shows their Stuff's easy to talk the talk, but it's hard to walk the walk, especially when you are talking about running a U.S. #1 in your event. The last event of Arcadia was the boys 4x400m and the Dominguez (CA) (pictured right) relay squad was talking about wanting that #1 spot. From the gun Dominguez put themselves in position to win the event, but it was their last two legs that really put them into a position to not only win the race, but to capture that talked about U.S. #1 ranking.

With their second baton exchange, their third leg seemingly shot out of a cannon and immediately grabbed a twenty meter lead. From there the lead kept extending, until the third baton exchange occurred. With a nice lead of nearly two seconds, Dominguez' anchor took it home for the squad from Compton as the squad wrapped up their first U.S. #1 ranking of the season with their 3:12.13. This time put the team just over two seconds up on second place.

As the crowd cheered on the finish of the meet, the Dominguez athletes were obviously overcome with joy, posing for anyone who wanted to take a photo of them and jumping around like they had just won Olympic gold. It was a sight to see and one that put a smile on your face knowing that was the best possible way to close out the night.

5. USA v. New Zealand at 3200m

In the 3200m race, Luke Puskedra (Judge Memorial, UT) toed the line against Kiwi star Dominic Channon (New Zealand). As the gun sounded, Puskedra did his usual song and dance and lept to the front. Pushing an honest pace through the mile, Puskedra towed a slew of runners to nine minute pace, passing through in 4:27.5. Into the final few laps Puskedra and Channon flew, with the New Zealander sitting right on Puskedra's shoulder. As the gun lap sounded Channon flew up next to Puskedra and took the lead down the backstretch. Many in attendance thought Puskedra was finished, but that was not the case. With 100m to go, Puskedra swung wide and took the lead one last time to close in 60 seconds and win the race in 8:46.40, while Channon finished a strong second in 8:48.00.

Perhaps the best part of the entire race was the country v. country match-up that fans were loving.  It was announced numerous times over the loudspeakers that Channon was from New Zealand.  As the race carried on more and more people were cheering for Puskedra, until it seemed like the entire crowd in the last 200 meters were cheering for Puskedra because he was American.  The scene definitely felt similiar to the USA v. USSR match-ups in the 70's that are often talked about as some of the greatest track and field meets ever.

Afterwards, Puskedra was quick to praise Channon.  "I felt him on me after the mile and saw his shadow a few times.  He really hung with me and when he passed me I wasn't sure how I was going to bring it back together.  The last 100 meters was definitely a trip!"  Close battles like this are always amazing to watch, and adding the country v. country element seemed to take it one step further.

4. Claye's Leaping from the Sands of Arizona most overlooked performance of the weekend came from Will Claye (AZ) (pictured left by Margot Kelly). The junior jumper really impressed with his big-time wins in the long jump and triple jump. While it isn't rare for a junior to win either event, it is rare by how he did it. The most impressive of the two performances came in the triple jump which saw him leap 51-07.50, which earned him the U.S. #1 ranking in the event. Anytime an athlete leaps over 50 feet in the event it is considered a big accomplishment and Claye's performance was even more remarkable in the fact that only three athletes last year reached such distances.

In the long jump, Claye had a bit more competition than his 2+ foot win in the triple jump. Claye exploded to a 24-01.25 on his first attempt in the final round, while also jumping 23-11.50 two other times. The runner-up finisher lept 23-10. Claye's type of consistency in the jumps is what makes true champions, so expect more from him as the season progresses.

3. Weiler Soars to New Heights

In 2007 Los Gatos' (CA) Nico Weiler (pictured right) busted onto the U.S. pole vaulting scene, as the German exchange-student lept 17-06.25 during the season to rank U.S. #2 as only a junior. This season Weiler has even bigger goals, that include pushing the 18 foot barrier. Earlier this season Weiler vaulted 17-02 at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada, good enough for a strong U.S. #1 ranking. Since that time Weiler has failed to clear that mark again, but on Saturday evening, as the sun was setting over the west side of the stadium, Weiler took turned his game up one more notch.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.With the bar raised to 17-01, only Weiler and in-state rival Blair Wallingford were left in the vault competition. With his eyes focused on the runway, Weiler cruised down the rubber surface and easily cleared the height. Meanwhile, Wallingford missed on all three opportunities to clear the height, leaving Weiler by himself as the bar was raised to 17-04. With the pole vault pit located in the center of the infield, all eyes were on the event. Rolling onto his back foot and pushing forward, Weiler took a chance at 17-04 and cleared it. When he hit the mat he popped up knowing full well what he had just accomplished, a new seasonal PR and a big win at Arcadia.

Despite missing his next three chances with the bar sitting at 17-08, Weiler was extremely close at clearing the height on his first attempt, as the bar fell only after his chest grazed it. With new heights cleared this year, Weiler said, "it felt very good to clear 17-04, but I know I can go higher." Spoken like a true competitor.

2. A Clash of the Titans, Hasay v. Babcock

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.In the girls 3200m run, Jordan Hasay (Mission Prep, CA) and Christine Babcock (Woodbridge, CA) (pictured right, Babcock's in the yellow/red jersey) staged a historic dual Saturday evening, running stride for stride the entire race. From the gun, both athletes sprinted to the front and had a five second gap on the rest of the field by 600 meters. From there the two athletes traded off leads until the 1600m split of 4:57.8. At the 1600m mark Babcock pressed to the lead, holding off multiple surges from Hasay. Hasay would later say, "I didn't think I would pull it out. Everytime I would try to pass she would surge, so I just stopped surging."

As the laps counted up the crowd became more and more into the race, rising to their feet on the final lap. WIth 300m to go Babcock gapped Hasay by about three meters, but Hasay came back up. Into the final stretch the two athletes came, running neck in neck, until Hasay pulled away in the final strides 10:03.07-10:04.03.

It is rare that two girls get so close to breaking ten minutes for 3200m. In fact, Hasay's time ranks her U.S. #8 all-time and Babcock ranks U.S. #9 all-time. The race also goes into the record books as the fastest two girls have ever run in the same race. A stride for stride battle that ends with two U.S. top ten all-time marks is hard to beat, as this battle will go down as one of the greatest ever.

1. Derrick Simply Inspires

Leading the list of top events throughout the whole weekend was the boys 5,000m run. In its first year of existence at Arcadia, the event certainly did not disappoint. For a few weeks Chris Derrick (Neuqua Valley, IL) (pictured left) had been labeled as the pre-race favorite, while New Jersey's finest, Brandon Jarrett (St. Benedict's, NJ) and Doug Smith (Gill-St. Bernard, NJ) were considered his chief competition. From the gun Derrick shot out to hit the first 400m in 68 seconds, as a large group followed pace. What would transpire however simply shook the distance world greater than perhaps any race in the last few years.

Derrick continued on a torrent pace, hitting 67-68 seconds for each lap. Around the mile mark Jarrett dropped out, collapsing to the track in agony. However, as Derrick passed through the first 1600m split in 4:33, he had company from Smith and Ryan Prentice (Mt. Rainer, WA). Over the course of the next mile Derrick would drop both athletes rather easily and crossed the 3200m mark in 9:03. As the laps counted down, the crowd became more and more aware of what was taking place. 9:03 would have earned Derrick sixth place in the open 3200m race earlier in the evening, but he was looking relaxed and fast through that marker and actually picked up the pace at that point.

Into the final mile Derrick went, as he started to lap runners and ride the wave of energy that the crowd provided. Derrick his 67, 67, 66 for his next three laps and into the last 600m he went. On his twelvth lap Derrick hit 61 seconds and sprinted home for the win with a 30 second last 200m, finishing in the U.S. #6 all-time performance of 13:55.96. Simply incredbile!