The Best of the Arcadia Invitational

Organizers of the Arcadia Invitational track meet routinely refer to the event's status on the national stage. This year, that was never more evident as the most impressive individual winners represented a wide-ranging cross-section of states like New York, Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado, Kentucky and California.

Since the meet is only a few miles of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the dominance of Californians is to be expected. But other than girls sprinter Alyson Felix and jumper Chaunte Howard, the Californians were overshadowed this time.

Our picks of the top 10 individual performers of the night:

1. Alyson Felix (L.A. Baptist, North Hills, Calif.)

Last year as a sophomore, Felix showed flashes of being on the level of recent California standouts like Angela Williams and Monique Henderson. She's almost there as a junior. Felix won both the 100 and 200 at Arcadia and her 200 time of 23.08 seconds equaled 10th best on the all-time national list. Felix also was a double-winner as she took the 100 meters in 11.54 seconds, the best time in the nation this spring.

2. Natasha Hastings (Randolph, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Last year was Hastings' first trip to Arcadia and she entered a stellar 400 field that included Monique Henderson and Angel Perkins. She was third. This year Perkins returned and so did Hastings, but this time it was the New Yorker's turn to win. Hastings held off Perkins and clocked 53.42 for the fastest outdoor time of the year in the nation. Hastings also won the seeded version of the 200 with a time of 24.47.

3. Chaunte Howard (J.W. North, Riverside, Calif.)

After finishing second in the high jump and second in the triple jump, Chaunte showed determination and grit by winning the long jump. Her winning leap of 19-7 almost matched her national leading mark of 19-7 3/4. Howard has only been long jumping and triple jumping for a little more than a month, and her emergence in those two events has been phenomenal. Even if she hadn't done the long jump at all at Arcadia, Howard's two second-place finishes with marks of 5-10 and 41-0 would have been noteworthy.

4. Chris Solinsky (Stevens Point, Wis.)

Just a junior, Solinsky hails from the same school that produced Suzy Favor Hamilton, one of the best female middle distance runners ever from the U.S. He took apart a very strong field that produced the six fastest times in the nation and won in 8:48.44. Bret Schoolmeester of Denver Christian (Colo.) was the only runner within shouting distance of Solinsky and finished in 8:49.40. The top Californian was Taft's Billy Nelson, who was third with a time of 8:54.85. Solinsky was third in last December's Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships and is coached by Don Behnke, who also coached Favor Hamilton when she was at Stevens Point in the early 1980s.

5. Heidi Magill (Mtn View, Orem, Utah)

This sophomore blazed to the fastest outdoor time of the year (2:06.34) and said afterward she thinks she can get to national record neighborhood (2:03 or 2:04) by the end of the season. Mountain View had a national record setter last year in boys discus thrower Niklas Arrhenius and there's another phenom coming up behind Magill. She's Heide Houle, a freshman, who was third in the same race in which Magill ran 2:06.34. Houle clocked 2:10.10 and finished in front of the defending California 800 champ, senior Shannon Rowbury from Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.

6. Megan Kaltenbach (Smoky Hill, Aurora Colo.)

You read about Megan's exploits as a distance runner in the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post despite there's no one in the state who comes close to pushing her. Well, after she ventured to California for Arcadia for the second straight year, there might not be too many who can push her anywhere in the nation. Kaltenbach led for almost the entire race and cruised home in 10:21.01. She faced a stiffer field last year and clocked 10:11.97, which is the meet record.

7. Bobby Curtis (St. Xavier, Louisville, Ky.)

Curtis, a junior, has been mentioned as having comparable talent to Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryal Hall, last year's sensations that took the track world by storm (especially Webb). Curtis might not be in that company yet, but he did face a strong field at Arcadia and won in 4:08.29. Steve Shepard from Weber High of Ogden, Utah, also stamped himself as a name for the future as the junior took second behind Curtis and was right there at the finish. Shepard clocked 4:08.68.

8. Rachel Varner (Bakersfield, Calif.)

The senior came into the weekend as the national leader in the discus at 178-0. She was upset in that event at Arcadia by Arroyo Grande's Billie Joe Grant (170-8), but still threw for a mark of 162-3. This time it was Varner's shot put performance that was more significant. She won the competition at Arcadia with a toss of 48-4 1/2, which is No. 2 in the nation so far this season.

9. Reggie Bush (Helix, La Mesa, Calif.)

There was some confusion about Reggie's winning time in the 200. At first, it was thought to be 21.11. Then it was thought to be 21.38. The final printed results showed it at 21.11. Either way, Bush's strong showing from an outside lane assignment stamped him as one of the favorites for a 200 title at the state meet in June. Not bad for a junior and not bad for an athlete who's first sport is football. If Bush keeps this up in track, he might contend for a No. 1 national ranking among football running back recruits.

10. Michelle Sanford (Woodbridge, Irvine, Calif.)

Leaped 41-9 in the triple jump to take over the national lead from fellow Californian Chaunte Howard from J.W. North of Riverside. Howard, the defending state high jump champ, is new to the triple and long jumps this year and upset Sanford at the Pasadena Games two weeks ago. Howard was second at Arcadia with a mark of 41-0.


Thomas Mack of Bakersfield (Calif.) and Roy Cheney of Evans (Ga.) dueled twice in the hurdles events and in the 300 it was Cheney who dived across the finish line to take first in 37.23. Mack was second in the 300 in 37.28, but won earlier in the 110 highs with a clocking of 14.14. Cheney was second in that race and timed 14.27.

Kaylene Wagner from Dos Pueblos of Goleta (Calif.) looks like one of those sleek volleyball players from an area known for volleyball players. But she can jump. She went over the bar in the high jump at 6-feet and is now tied for the national lead. Defending state champ Chaunte Howard from J.W. North of Riverside (Calif.) also has a 6-foot clearance this year, but didn't get one this time. She was second at 5-10.

The final event of the night saw David Hill of Long Beach Poly (Calif.) chase down and just pass Blake Mackey of Bakersfield (Calif.) in the 4x400 relay. Poly's relay teams, both boys and girls, were the class of the Arcadia meet. Hill's 47.4 anchor leg gave the 4x400 squad a 3:13.30 mark, which is the best in the nation so far this year. The Jackrabbits also were first in the boys 4x100 in 40.96 (best in the state), girls 4x100 in 46.07 and girls 4x400 in 3:39.19 (like the boys, best in the nation).

With that kind of dominance in track, are we seeing the best athletic school year that the famed Long Beach school has ever had? The Jackrabbits lost only to national No. 1 De La Salle in football and ranked among the top five in the nation, made it to the CIF Southern Section finals in girls volleyball, finished among the top 10 in the state in boys cross country, went 30-4 in boys basketball and were top 25 in the nation, and went 32-2 in girls basketball and ranked in the top 15 in the nation.

Relay teams can always be dicey to predict an outcome, but if Poly's relay squads don't drop any sticks once the qualifying begins to the state meet it's easy to see that a boys-girls state title sweep is entirely possible.

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