* Olivia and Cory discussed the Texas Distance Festival on Tuesday during On The Line
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SOUTHLAKE, TEXAS -- The Texas Distance Festival has arrived on our doorstep this Friday and Saturday at Southlake Carroll High School.
After taking the year off due to precautions surrounding COVID-19, the annual event is back on the calendar and will be as good as ever, with national-caliber performers competing in a variety of distances.
Over the years, as event organizers have been fortunate to attract some of the country's top talents, the coveted races at TDF have been the early-season 5Ks.
The races have surely lived up to the billing.
Below, we break down the best elite races to look forward to on Saturday night.
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Athletes to Watch: Parker Wolfe, Cherry Creek (CO); Justin Wachtel, Mary Persons (GA); Judson Greer, Melissa (TX); Crawford Hope, Homewood (AL); Nathan Mountain, Cincinnati St. Xavier (OH); Evan Caswell, Coppell (TX); Martin David-Chavez, Duncanville (TX); Sully Shelton, Harrison (GA); Sam Rich, Catawba Ridge (SC); Andrew Jones, North Hall (GA); Foster Wilfong, Boerne Champion (TX), Edwin Gomez, San Elizario (TX).
The Race: Saturday, 8:40 p.m. CST
What an incredible contigent of high school distance runners.
If we're being quite honest, this group of athletes could surpass even that of 2017 -- and that field, which included Cooper Teare, Connor Lane and Luis Grijalva, was one of the best assembled races in history.
Let's start first with the U.S. No. 1 time. Right now, one athlete in the field already owns that honor: Justin Wachtel. The Mary Persons senior and University of Virginia recruit ran 14:15.35 in December, right after his cross country season. As for the best time in 2021, that stands at 15:34.00.
This 5K field should set its sights on Wachtel's mark -- which to be honest, will be quite the feat if done.
Now, will anyone approach the meet record of 14:13.26 which is owned by Teare? Let's go a step further. Could we see a sub-14:10 on this night? If anyone would accomplish that feat, it would enter into the top 20 performances of all-time. Is it even feasible that we could break 14 minutes?
There are a lot of questions here. We don't have a lot of answers yet.
Wachtel's mark is U.S. No. 27 all-time.
We also know that Greer has been incredible to open his season, with a mile time of 4:11.74 and a 3,200m best of 8:49.29. At least he's in his home state this time around.
Sam Rich might be a deserving mention here, as he won the 2-mile at both The VA Showcase and adidas Indoor Nationals over January and December.
Then there's Nathan Mountain, who ran the country's second-fastest 3,200m time on March 6 at the Ohio State Indoor Championships in 8:56.96.
Almost all of the group mentioned above has broken 15 minutes for 5K on grass.
But it's also kind of crazy to think we've waited this long to get to Parker Wolfe. The Colorado distance runner, who will be teammates with Greer, Sully Shelton and Crawford Hope next year at North Carolina, was unquestionably the most dominant runner in the fall, racking up five straight wins and a national title at the RunningLane XC National Championships.
He ran a U.S. No. 1 time of 14:26.94.
If he's ready, and if the field goes out with a clear intention of hitting those first miles hard, then it's reasonable to think Wolfe and maybe a few others could go after that meet record.
And if that is the case, then this race might eclipse 2017.
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Athletes to Watch: Brynn Brown, Denton Guyer (TX); Colleen Stegmann, Frisco Reedy (TX); Isabel Conde De Frankenberg, Cedar Park (TX); Eva Jess, El Paso Franklin (TX); Allie Love, Colleyville Heritage (TX), Aubrey O'Connell, Prosper (TX), Lucy Westlake, Naperville North (IL).
The Race: Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
The question of the night will be whether Brown can break 16 minutes.
And no one should doubt that she's capable, considering she's already gone 4:43.96 for 1,600m this outdoor campaign and ran 9:47.68 for 3,200m in January at The VA Showcase (below). The North Carolina signee is the cream of the crop in the United States, alongside talents like Sydney Thorvaldson and Jenna Hutchins.
But it won't be easy -- records never are. What could work in Brown's favor is that she's done this before. Two years ago, she actually recorded the meet record of 16:25.47; no one has raced here since.
And considering Hutchins landed a new national record for 5K in December at the Five and Dime Athletics Meeting, going 15:34.47, it would be something else to see two females do it in a season -- that's never been done before. In fact, only seven females in high school history have ever broken 16 minutes for 5K.
This distance isn't run at the high school level over Texas' state season, and Brown won't get very many opportunities after it, unless of course nationals happen.
So if she's going to do it, Saturday will be a good a time as ever.
But somewhere next to Brown's storyline will be Stegmann, who actually owns the No. 64 best time in high school history with her 16:50.09 from 2019. She also ran in that same race as Brown two years ago. She could forseeably improve on that performance.
While less is known about athletes like De Frankenberg, Jess, and others -- at least on the outdoor oval -- the field is uber talented and could make this a race to remember -- literally, it could be the fastest girls' race in Texas Distance Festival history.
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Athletes to Watch: Julia David-Smith, Issaquah (WA); Camille Napier, Lamar Fulshear (TX); Leah Futey, Sue Cleveland (NM), Taylor Mathis, Austin Vandegrift (TX), Isabella Edwards, Texas Homeschool (TX).
The Race: Saturday, 7:45 p.m. CST
For a lot of reasons, the females to watch in this race are Julia David-Smith and Leah Futey.
Both have dealt with uncertainty around their spring seasons, and both have been hit with nearly nonexistent cross country seasons -- in Futey's case, the New Mexico season was condensed into three weeks in February; for David-Smith (above), she likely has raced in a few dual or tri-meets in Washington.
And yet, both are likely still training as hard as ever.
David-Smith, a University of Washington signee, ran 10:31.68 last June at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational -- a time that was just 10 seconds off her PR from the previous season.
Futey, meanwhile, traveled to Virginia Beach in February for adidas Indoor Nationals and ran 11:17.24 for two miles. She's still just a sophomore, though.
David-Smith might be on an island by herself with her talent, though it could be a race for sub-11 for a few others like Futey, Mathis and Edwards.
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The Race: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. CST
The boys field here is a little underrated. But that doesn't make it any less intriguing.
In the case of Haileab, there certainly is potential, as he dropped a 3,200m time of 9:26.52 in his season debut in February. Even if converted to two miles, it would have marked an overall PR.
Then there's Metcalf, who's quietly built up a pretty good resume in Texas, hitting career best times of 4:27.15 and 9:43.49 for 1,600m and 3,200m, respectively. Those times were from last year, though, and Metcalf has been steady at work since.
This race will mark Metcalf's second race since his debut at the Trials of Miles in February -- wherein he recorded his career-best mark.
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The Race: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. CST
Three big-time NCAA Division I recruits will square off in a sneaky-good-race.
Based on history alone, the Arkansas recruit Heidi Nielson might have the odds in her favor, as she's opened with two consecutive efforts for 1,600m at 4:53.31 and 4:54.99, respectively. In 2019, she produced a career-best time of 4:47.90, too.
If given the opportunity to truly race, Nielson could have the best opportunity of slicing up her season best and making a run at sub-4:50, which would put her in a club of just two others currently in the United States.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's also Alabama signee Campbell Petersen and Missippi pledge Hannah Ielfeld to account for. Both athletes are also headed to powerhouse NCAA Division I programs, and both exhibit some pretty good turnover, too.
Petersen is looking to topple her career-best time of 4:456.63 for 1,600m, which came indoors in February at the CYUP Misfits Invitational, while Ielfeld is coming off a US No. 1 2K steeplechase performance of 7:19.52 at the Alabam City Mile and Steeple Invitational.
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The Race: Saturday, 7:35 p.m. CST
There are a number of things to account for here. The first is Ben Shearer, who is coming off a US No. 3 outdoor effort of 4:09.09 for 1,600m in February at the Trials of Miles. He might be the overall race favorite on Saturday based on his fitness and reputation.
But in an ideal world, he'll have some company.
In that respect, we can't forget about Luke Lambert or Kellen Steplight. Lambert traveled to Arizona in Feburary to race a mile at the Sundown Track Series and came away with a US No. 11 performance of 4:17.60. Considering he followed that up by running a 3,200m effort of 9:17.11 in March, Lambert should have the endurance and speed to match his earlier performance.
Steplight, meanwhile, is certainly just as talented, even if he's a bit more of a mystery. As a freshman, he qualified for the CIF State Track and Field Championships, where he ran a PR of 4:16.90 in the prelims of the state championships.
But he's been unlikely in that California hasn't given the junior many opportunities to race. A February tune-up of 4:29.31 -- currently US No. 31 -- certainly helped his plans to get back to normalcy.
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Athletes to Watch: Adam Mason, Manvel (TX).
The Race: Saturday, 7:10 p.m. CST
The signs are evident that Adam Mason, a senior for Texas UIL Class 5A Manvel, has improved immensely year-over-year in the 800m. Even if his effort at the distance at the Summer Creek Generation Park Relays last week didn't go his way -- he finished third overall to Sam Whitmarsh and Darius Rainey in 1:54.23 -- his response more than made up for it.
Mason followed it up with a career-best outdoor performance of 48.71 seconds for 400m, beating Whitmarsh nearly an hour after the pair squared off in the 800m.
It was important because that time represented a nearly two-second improvement from his top effort from 2020 (50.22) and indicated that with some fine-tuning, Mason should likely be able to match his 1:52.91 from the AAU Junior Olympics in August of last year. It was also better than his time of 48.74 indoors in January.
If all goes well, Mason should be among his own company in the final straightaway.