Memphis Fall Track Classic
We didn't have a track season in 2020. Just saying that sentence makes me cringe! Thinking how true it has been makes me want to rethink what I had for lunch... and no, I'm don't worry, I'm not going there. Saturday night though, the Memphis Fall Track Classic almost wiped that thought out of my head.
I drove up to the CBHS parking lot and got out of my car in time to hear the announcer call the Elementary 800 runners to line up. It was a familiar voice. The accent gave it away. There were athletes on the track racing and a few on the practice fields warming up for their race. It suddenly felt normal for a change. After months of seeing abandoned tracks and only getting to see a few cross country races without much of a spectator presence, we finally got to get on the track again and experience a track meet.
This meet was primarily distance events with the 800 for the elementary, 1600 for middle school, 3200 for high school and open 5K's for whoever wanted to enter.
State cross country champion, Aiden Britt came into the race on a pretty positive note. However, at the very start of the boys 3200, it seemed he just didn't look like he had it in him. Maybe the drive to Memphis was a bit much or maybe he was just tired from the excitement of winning the State Cross Country championships. Miles Ally immediately latched onto the pacer when the gun went off. Not surprised about that, this NC state commitment got to watch his little brother race before him and so I'm sure he wanted to put on a good show for him... you know... bragging rights in the family!!
Miles had some company with Landen McNair pretty much matching him stride for stride through the first 3 or 4 laps. Aiden was uncharacteristically a little ways back during that time as well. Then things started to change a little. You could see Aiden making up some of the distance. Slowly though. Miles kept on the heels of the pacer until he dropped off, but really never looked like he was fading or going to fade. Landen faded back just a bit. Aiden picked up his pace and the gap started to shrink.
About two laps to go it appeared Aiden was set to catch Miles. But it wasn't going to be easy. The last lap Aiden stretched ahead by an arm's length but Miles stuck on him. Coming out of the last turn, Aiden took the inside and Miles just outside his right shoulder. This was a sprint to the finish to choose the winner of this 8 lap race. This was racing like it's supposed to be... the best runners in the state taking it to the track in a head to head race with neither backing down. Aiden posting a very fast 9:08.89 and Miles a blink of an eye behind him in 9:09.33. They both knew they just nailed a couple of top 20 national best in the 3200... but that didn't seem to matter much, they both just finished what they both love to do... race! You gotta just love track!!
The girls race was also an exciting race. Right from the start, you knew this was going to be a dual match between a couple of the best. Once the girls race started, Anna Banovac and Dinah Winders pretty much went head to head on every lap and every meter in this 3200 distance.
Anna hasn't really raced the 3200 many times, but was able to set a PR for the distance by taking off the slightest of margins from her 11:13.40 set about a year ago in another November race. Going head to head, it appears that Dinah has the edge when it comes to the longer and XC distances and Anna the better in the middle distance track events. The 3200 is probably right in the middle of that and the competition was pretty solid throughout most of the race. But in the end, the Senior edged out the Junior by just over a couple of seconds. Anna posted a 11:12.78 and Dinah an 11:15.13. Both these girls had to run at their PR times or better to stay in this race and that made this race one exciting one to watch!
There was also a pretty tight race for the 3rd place spot with the girls as well. Three girls kept it close and posted sub 12 minute times. Brooktie Frogge had to fight to set a new PR for the 3200 while running in that no man's land, by herself for several laps. It worked out though since she was rewarded with a nice 11:44.17 time and taking the bronze spot at this race.
If you were lucky enough to stick around and watch the open 5K races, then you were rewarded with some very impressive, very competitive, very solid, very exciting, racing. Ok, that's a bit of an understatement. A big understatement.
Five guys broke under 14 minutes at this race and the 6th place finisher got 14:00.65! This is for the 5K... 5000 meters.... That's 12 and a half laps on the track. For most of the race, the lead pack stayed pretty tight. Near the last two or so laps, Cole Bullock pulled away decisively and took a commanding lead to the finish in 13:49.63. Waleed Suliman (13:55.29), Mario Garcia-Romo (13:56.69), Thomas George (13:57.81), Victor Palumbo (13:48.25) and Shea Foster (14:00.65) all finished pretty tightly packed and just basically turned this race into a must watch event Saturday night!
The girls race didn't end up being as closely matched as the guys, but still some tremendous times came out of the race. For the early on, a group of 5 or 6 lady's pretty much stuck close together and then as the laps added up, the pack slowly separated. Gracie Hydle and Grace Oetting ended up battling it out in the last lap or so with Gracie winning in 16:51.58 and Grace just behind that in 16:54.64. Sylvia Russel was third and former Briarcrest stand-out, Meghan Underwood, ran 17:32 to get the fourth spot at this race.
In the Mixed Open, Samantha Palmer was mixing it up with the guys. It ended up being a pretty good night for this 2:29 marathoner as she started out behind the group of guys and clawed her way into a third place finish in this mixed 5K. Her 16:04.60 was one impressive run to say the least!
Several former Memphis area high school athletes, either home from college or on break, took advantage of this 5K race and that also made the race even more exciting to watch! There's probably no real way to put in words what it's like to be back at the track and watching the competition!
See you on the track... finally!!