Chandler High School runs away with the Rotary Track Invite

A couple of out-of-state party crashers weren’t able to spoil the fun yesterday at Chandler High School.  The Wolves still got the lion’s share of wins.

Chandler HS cleaned up at their own party, the annual Chandler Rotary Track Invitational, held on their track.  The girls showed why they are the three-time defending state champions by literally running away with the show, winning the team competition by almost 100 points.  They scored 145.50, well ahead of second-place Desert Vista HS with 62 points.  And the boys, not to be outdone, took the team honors by finishing 30 points ahead of their field.

As the popularity of the event grows, so does the field of participating teams.  This year marked the 70th time the Invitational has been held and it drew 96 schools, which set a new record.  The field included teams from Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

But it was the drama of the distance events that punctuated the excitement of the day.  And where the big surprises came.

The ‘big three’ of Arizona high school distance runners were entered in the boys mile run, Steve Magnuson from Ironwood Ridge HS, Sherod Hardt from Queen Creek HS, and Brian Shrader from Sinagua HS.

Magnuson won this year’s 5A-II cross-country state championship, Shrader won his third consecutive 4A-II cross-country title and holds five state titles in track & field, and Hardt was ranked No. 5 on the national Milesplit Top 25 of cross-country runners.

But Alex Herring was also in the race.  And he obviously wasn’t intimidated.

Herring, from New Mexico’s Albuquerque Academy, slipped past Magnuson on the final lap of the event to win it in 4:12.33, a fast time for any of the competitors.  Magnuson came in on his heels, clocking 4:13.93, followed closely by Shrader (4:14.31) and Hardt (4:17.78).

On the girls’ side, the 1,600 meters race included a new event, the MileSplit 1-mile, which was run together.  It would have been a good test for the state’s premier distance runner, Jessica Tonn, the Gatorade Player of the Year for her cross-country performance this year.

But the senior from Xavier Prep was nursing a third-degree shin splint and decided she wasn’t able to compete in the event. That shifted the ‘favorite’ tag in the event to teammate, Sarah Fakler.

The freshman responded by taking the lead and holding it throughout the event.  Until the very end.

Emily La Valley from Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., had enough kick left to overtake Fakler in the last 40 yards and win in a time of 4:57.58, with Fakler crossing the line in her shadow, in 4:57.83.

La Valley kind of snuck up on the field because her event is the 800m.  Prior to this event, she had never participated in the mile run.

There’s no way to know what would have happened if Tonn had been able to run, but her personal best in the mile run is 4:50.42 – more than seven minutes better than La Valley’s winning time.  But La Valley’s time of 4:57.58 is the best mile time in the nation so far this season.

Fakler came back a couple of hours later and turned the tables on La Valley in the 3200m, finishing first in 10:47.48, while La Valley took second in 11:08.72.

Another event getting a lot of attention was the boys’ 4×100 relay, where the Cesar Chavez team ran the third-fastest time in meet history, 41.89, followed by Ironwood Ridge HS and Perry HS.  In the 400 run, Dylan Hambright from Arcadia HS set a school record with a time of 48.75.

The Chandler girls had six first-place finishes overall, including both the 400 and 800 meter relays.  Alexis Roberts won the 400m run in 57.58, Jasmine Todd placed first in the long jump with a leap of 17’8″ and the triple jump (38′ 1 1/4″).  And Hannah Carson, a junior returning to shot put competition after suffering a sever knee injury during soccer season, won the shot put with a heave of 43’3 1/2″.