AZ high school runners step up at Arcadia Invitational

The Arcadia Invitational in California is always a good barometer of high school track talent since it’s the prestige event of the year and draws the best athletes from around the country.  This year, the 43rd consecutive, close to 4,000 athletes from 27 states and Canada participated.

And Arizona’s distance runners stepped to the front of the elite field.

Brian Shrader from Sinagua HS in Flagstaff bested the group of Arizona’s elite distance runners, finishing second in the 3200m run with a time of 8:53.09, which is the second-fastest all-time state mark.  Shrader is completing an outstanding career that includes three consecutive 4A-II cross country titles and five state titles in track & field.  He will run next year for the University of Oregon.

The other two components of the state’s “big three” senior distance runners, Steve Magnuson and Sherod Hardt, also finished in the top 20 in the 3200.  Magnuson, this year’s 5A-II state cross country champion, came in 10th.  The senior from Ironwood Ridge HS in Tucson finished in a time of 8:58.27 to set the fourth-fastest all-time state mark for the event.  And Hardt, from Queen Creek HS, finished in 15th with a time of 8:59.09, which becomes the seventh-fastest all-time mark.

Hardt, who was ranked No. 5 nationally in the Milesplit Top 25 during cross country season, is headed for Michigan State, while Magnuson has committed to run at North Carolina.

Billy Orman, the junior runner from Tuba City HS, entered the seeded race where he placed second in 9:05.73, a personal-best time for him.  Orman is this year’s 3A cross country champion and was runner-up at the Nike SW Region Championships.

On the girls’ side, the good news of the day for Arizona track fans was seeing Jessica Tonn compete in the 4xmile relay.  The senior from Xavier Prep has been sidelined all season with grade 3 shin splints.

Although not at full strength yet, the three-time defending state champion in the 1,600m and 3,200m, Tonn ran a 5:02 anchor leg to help the Xavier team win the 4xmile in a time of 20:31.00, which is a US No. 1 time.

Junior Daylee Burr ran the first leg in 5:12 and kept the Gators in second place going into the baton exchange.  Katie Penney took over the lead in her leg of 5:08, and Sarah Fakler finished her 5:07 leg right on the heels of a Mira Costa HS runner.  Tonn took over from there and held on to win it, little more than two seconds ahead of second-place Mira Costa.

The entries continue to grow each year at the Arcadia Invitational, as this year’s participants increased by about 10 percent.  Next year will see even more of the country’s best track athletes making the trek to San Gabriel Valley.

And next year, Arizona will have to send a new crop of runners.  Most of its top-tier talent is graduating.

(Photo: Milesplit/Margot Kelly)