There were a lot of noteworthy performances last week, as all of the Foothill League schools made their season debuts.
The big highlight of the weekend was Glendale College’s Lizzy Nelson, who ripped a huge, and absolutely stunning, all-time best over two laps. Meanwhile, her former Saugus High teammates, Brian Zabilski and Sabrina Janes, showed they’re in good form heading into the next two weekends, where the Centurions’ will be competing at the Great Oak Distance Carnival and Azusa Pacific University Distance Meet of Champions. Natalie Rodriguez continued her magical senior campaign, Abigail Frankian took a step forward in her comeback, and Kristian Martinez had a spectacular season debut as well.
Here are some things we learned over the last week of competition:
1. Lizzy Nelson’s amazing story continues
When I opened up directathletics.com and saw the women 800-meter results at the Bakersfield Relays, my jaw dropped to the ground. I don’t think anyone ever thought Lizzy Nelson and 2:17.26 would ever be in the same sentence. Nelson has definitely taken another step forward in an incredible story. In 2009, she was a 27-minute three-mile cross country runner. Fast forward five years later and she’s one of the premier of Santa Clarita Valley distance running. A 2:17.26 for Nelson isn’t just good, it’s great. It’s currently the second fastest junior college mark in California and now ranks #25 in valley history. With that kind of speed, Nelson has a legitimate shot at an individual state championship over 1,500 meters in May. Let Nelson also serve as a reminder that heart and hard work pay off if you stick with it long enough. The Glendale College sophomore and former Saugus High runner ran in the shadows of several big-time names a couple years back and is finally in the spotlight. Well deserved.
2. Saugus’ Heys, Janes, Ortega and Zabilski impress in Moorpark
Just take a look at the marks below. Although there were more, these four stood out at the Moorpark Tri-Meet last Wednesday and at the SCV Invitational. Expect really big personal bests from these four at this weekend’s Great Oak Distance Carnival and next weekend’s Azusa Pacific University Distance Meet of Champions!
Ashley Heys – 5:18 1,600m/11:07 3,200m @ Moorpark, 5:20 split in the 4×1,600-meter relay, despite very windy conditions
Sabrina Janes – 5:05 1,600m/2:18 800m/59.1 400m split @ Moorpark, 5:15/5:11 splits on the anchor legs of the 4×1,600-meter relay and DMR, despite very windy conditions
Samantha Ortega – 5:10 1,600m/11:04 3,200m @ Moorpark, 5:15/3:42 1,200m splits on the anchor legs of the 4×1,600-meter relay and DMR, despite very windy conditions
Brian Zabilski – 4:32 1,600m/2:00 800m/9:32 3,200m @ Moorpark, 4:30/4:28 splits on the anchor legs of the 4×1,600-meter relay and DMR, despite very windy conditions
3. Abigail Frankian just might get her happy ending
A month ago, senior Abigail Frankian ran 5:56 over 1,600 meters at the Saugus All-Comers. A comeback following a torn plantar fascia didn’t look promising. How the tides have turned in a short 33 days. At the Moorpark Tri-Meet last Wednesday, Frankian surprised many in attendance, including herself, with a 5:28.87 performance in the four-lap event, 22 seconds off her 5:06 all-time best, set at last year’s Mt. SAC Relays, when the Lady Centurions’ won in a national-leading 20:21 in the 4×1,600-meter relay. If the Saugus girls want to break the national record in the event this spring, a successful comeback is crucial. No one’s tougher than Abigail Frankian, who became the 22nd in valley history to break the 11-minute barrier in the 3,200-meter event and ran on two of Saugus’ state cross country championships. If anyone can return to old form, it’s Frankian.
4. Canyon’s Rodriguez, Valencia’s Thompson in great form early
Two other Foothill Leaguers – Natalie Rodriguez and Kaylee Thompson – showed they’re in great form early. Canyon’s Rodriguez continued her inspiring senior campaign with two huge personal bests, 5:15 in the 1,600-meter run and 2:21 over 800 meters. Her former bests were 5:19 and 2:28. Whether the shorter distance or the two-mile event is her best race remains an unknown, however, expect her to drop her best marks significantly over the next few weeks of the regular season. Meanwhile, freshman sensation Thompson dropped some big marks, 5:19 over 1,600 meters and an even-more impressive 11:33 over 3,200 meters. Those two times both rank #11 on the SCV freshman all-time lists. The frosh records are 4:54.10 and 10:25.40, set by the great Kaylin Mahoney in 2008.
5. Hart holds off a short-handed Saugus boys team in the 4×1,600m relay
Due to windy conditions, the early-morning relay times weren’t very fast. The boys 4×1,600-meter relay was an exciting one, though, as Hart held off Saugus by three seconds. Through the first leg, the two teams were nearly dead-even. The Indians, then, opened a huge 11-second lead in the final 600 meters of the second leg. After senior Billy Anthony closed that gap by a few second during the third leg, Saugus’ Brian Zabilski had the daunting task of closing a seven-second lead between him and 4:23 miler Bailey James on the anchor leg. Despite terrible conditions, Zabilski closed the gap to three seconds with a 4:30 1,600-meter split, the fastest split of the race. James held off a fast-closing Saugus team, who were competing without defending Foothill League 1,600-meter champion Alex Pearson, All-Foothill League first teamer Ethan Walker, and former Foothill League frosh/soph cross country champion Jordan Serrano, down the stretch for a big victory over the defending state cross country champions.
6. Falco DiGiallonardo, Kristian Martinez looks primed for big track season
At the university level, Falco DiGiallonardo and Kristian Martinez were the stories of the week. DiGiallonardo, competing for Chico State, ran a 16-second personal best over 3,000 meters. His 8:22.21 performance now ranks top 10 in SCV history. As for Kristian Martinez of UC Berkeley, his 3:53.98 mark this weekend is now #14 in valley history.