By STEPHEN MAZZONE
All photos by Margot Kelly
Competing, and winning, the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in a single meet is tough enough.
But at last spring’s Mission League Championships in California, Loyola High distance ace Elias Gedyon was called for extra duty. Having already won his specialties with fast times of 4:17 and 9:16, respectively, he was summoned by his coach to run the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay.
With a mere 15 minutes rest between his last event, Gedyon obliged and uncorked a sizzling 48.6 for his 400 split, a time that would bring his squad from the bottom of the pack to a fourth-place finish and a spot in the prelims the following week.
“I just jumped on the track,” he said. “I really didn’t have a chance to rest.”
Gedyon didn’t have much time for a breather that afternoon. Five months later, he’s still looking forward to a well-deserved break.
First, of course, there’s some business to tend to on the cross-country trails. On Nov. 27, Loyola’s finest will be at Woodward Park in Fresno where he’ll be aiming for his third straight individual title at the CIF State Division II Cross-Country Championships. Then it’s off to the Nike Cross-Country Nationals at Portland Meadows in Oregon on Dec. 4 where Gedyon’s hoping to improve on last year’s runner-up finish.
Translation: a victory
“It’s my senior year. I want to run Nike and I want to run it to win it,” Gedyon said. “That would be awesome.”
So far, the gifted Ethiopian native is enjoying an awesome senior year for Loyola. It began in early September when Gedyon destroyed the field to capture the Great Cow Run at Cerritos Regional Park, winning by a comfortable 33-second margin with his personal-best time of 14:13 for the three-mile race. A few weeks later, Gedyon held off Martin Luther King’s Lane Werley to take the Mount Carmel/Movin Shoes Invitational with a time of 14:40 to Werley’s 14:41 for the 2.95 miles of real estate at Morley Field.
Gedyon maintained his No. 3 status on the MileSplit national rankings on Oct. 23. Competing on a more challenging terrain, he posted an impressive triumph at the annual Mount Sac Invitational, running 14:26 for three miles.
(Photo left: Gedyon on his way to a a win and a 3rd "all time" finish at the Mt. Sac Invitational)
“Everything is going well,” said Gedyon on Tuesday, a day before capturing the overall title at the Mission League Finals. “I like it a lot. I’m enjoying it. Race-wise, everything is going well. The coaches know what they are doing and they are preparing me well.”
While he is among the best in the U.S. for cross country, it’s on the track oval where Gedyon has left his biggest mark. The Loyola standout has posted bests of 1:52 for the 800, 4:07 for the 1,600 and 8:56 for the 3,200.
Gedyon ran his PR for the 1,600 at the 2009 outdoor state meet where the then-sophomore battled former University City standout and current University of Oregon sophomore Mac Fleet, who broke the tape in 4:05.33. The Loyola runner won the title last year.
This past July, Gedyon competed in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada. Among the world’s fastest, he returned to his Los Angeles home content with a 12th-place finish and a time of 3:52.44 for 1,500 meters.
“I did well,” said Gedyon, who covered his final 400 in just about a minute. “I was injured that day with an Achilles problem. I finished in 12th with a 3:52. It wasn’t my best, but it was good. I ran my best of 3:47 a week before Canada to qualify. You had to run a sub 3:48.”
Gedyon averages about 60-65 miles a week, including two-a-day workouts. He believes his background in track, which he began as a promising fifth-grader, has enhanced his ability to shine in cross country.
His biggest asset is the speed he has developed from his track work. He often uses that extra gear to his advantage on the trails.
“I like to rely on my kick,” Gedyon said. “I’m not really a front runner, but if I know the course I most likely will go out in front.”
“I definitely use cross country as a training method,” he continued. “If I am doing well in cross country, that’s definitely going to help me in the middle distances.”
Gedyon will be eyeing a fast clocking when he tries for the three-peat at the state meet in a few more weeks. He finished last year’s race in 15-minutes even.
“I think I can go sub 14:50,” he said. “It’s a rolling course. It’s a good course, but it’s hilly. It’s a good course to challenge myself.”
After a long outdoor season, a busy summer and the current cross-country season, Gedyon will take his much-needed and deserving rest after toeing the line one last time at the NXN. Unless he fails to qualify, which doesn’t appear possible, Gedyon will be making his fourth straight appearance at the national meet.
In last year’s event, he finished second to Craig Lutz of Marcus High in Texas. Lutz claimed the top prize with a winning effort of 15:09.2. Right behind was Gedyon at 15:09.5 and third-place finisher Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North in N.J. at 15:09.8.
The competition will be stiff once again at Nike. Lutz (US #5) will be back to defend his crown and, in fact, has plans to run Foot Locker the following week. Rosa is out with a season-ending foot injury, but there’s a chance his twin brother and this year’s Reebok Manhattan Invitational winner Jim Rosa (US #6) could be on the line. Gedyon’s neighboring rival Ammar Moussa (US #2) of Arcadia, who was fourth last year, is also scheduled to be there.
Gedyon isn’t even tempted to go for the double like Lutz and compete in San Diego the next weekend.
“The Nike meet is going to be a very fast race,” he said. “I just can’t go to Foot Locker the next week. I kind of need the rest.”
He’s certainly earned it.