Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dan Gabor Distance Festival Preview Story by SI coach Chris Puppione

It is hard to believe that 2011 makes it now 15 years since we lost Daniel Kirk Gabor in the TWA Flight 800 disaster. Dan—the 1987 CIF State 800m Champion— is Amador Valley High School’s only state champion in any sport, but regardless of whether or not that distinction fades away, the legacy of his ferocity, grit, and flair will remain timeless. After all, isn’t that the goal of any track athlete—to be as close to timeless as possible? On this Friday night, March 11th, hundreds of high school runners from all over the Bay Area and Northern California will converge upon Amador Valley High School to chase the spirit and timelessness of Dan Gabor.

Girls 1600m
The first event of the day features a Who’s Who of young and up-and-coming talent in the distances. There are 11 heats of the Girls 1600m headlined by the hot heat that holds 19 young women who will be pursuing one another but also the 2008 meet record of 5:15.98 held by College Park’s Alycia Cridebring—now a freshman at UC Davis.

At the top of the list in this event is a stunning triumvirate of Lauren Kraus (Maria Carrillo), Jena Pianin (Amador Valley), and Spencer Moore (St. Mary’s-Berkeley). Kraus, a sophomore, has been a force out of the North Bay and most recently capped her fall cross country season with a blistering 18:28-clocking to capture 13th place in the Div. III State Championships. As a freshman last spring, she notched PBs of 5:09/ 11:14 in the 1600/3200 events and she opened her outdoor campaign this year last Saturday with a time of 5:18.58 at the Big Cat Invitational.

It’s always nice to put on a meet and have a hometown hero in the hunt, and that is what the host Amador Valley Dons has in one Jena Pianin. This talented young lady, also a sophomore, enjoyed a banner year as a freshman for the Purple and Gold, collecting PBs of 5:13/11:04 for the 1600/3200 races. She was a state meet qualifier this last fall in cross country, and she has already stopped the clocks at 11:24 and change in the Dons early season scrimmage.

Moore, just a freshman at St. Mary’s, stormed onto the high school scene in the fall, winning the Div. IV North Coast Section Championships before tuning up the Woodward Park course with a time of 18:19 and a 7th-place finish, making her an All-State performer for the season. Moore is also a very seasoned youth competitor in track and field, so do not be surprised if this Lady Panther is the first across the
finish on Friday afternoon.

Boys 1600m
19 Heats. 390 competitors. The Boys 1600m race is the largest event in entire two- day meet and it comes down to a fast heat of 21 young men who are poised to make some noise as the sun goes down over Pleasanton on Friday night.

The event record of 4:19.23—set in 2009 by San Ramon Valley’s Sean Colaco—seems a tantalizing goal to dangle in front of these horses, with as many as 8-10 guys in the hunt for top honors on this evening.

Leading the seeding is Del Campo (Sacramento) senior Robert Pflasterer—sporting a 4:20.50 PB from one year ago. Pflasterer is also coming off a great fall season where he rolled to a 15:35-clocking in the Div. II State Championships to grab a top- 15 finish. Next up is Miramonte junior Jamie Fehrnstrom who just missed cracking the 4:20 barrier a year ago at the NCS Meet of Champions when he stopped the clocks at 4:20.11. He has already opened his season with a fine 1:58 and change effort in the 800m at the Skyline Inviational, so he should be ready to mix it up in this one. Anthony Martore of Castro Valley enjoyed a fine winter break, showing up at the Cal All-Comer’s Meet to register a sub-4:24 mark en route to qualifying for the Indoor State Meet. Martore, a senior, also posted some excellent times over the 800m distance last spring—most notably a 1:56.50, which makes him a top-10 returner in that event in the NCS.

From the other side of the bay come two WCAL foes—St. Ignatius’ Ciaran Murphy and Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Jarrett Moore. Murphy, only a sophomore, quietly posted a 1:58.90 800m time as a freshman last spring and looks to expand his horizons in this event on Friday night, while Moore—a top-5 returner in the 800m in the CCS with a 1:57.94 clocking in 2010—will be looking to do the same.

Perhaps the most deadly duo on the evening comes in the form of the College Park Falcons’ Jeff Bickert and Anthony Ortolan. Bickert and Ortolan were monsters in the fall, rolling to times of 15:16 and 15:30 respectively on the state meet course. Bickert, known more for his prowess in the longer events, is stepping down in distance to test his mettle, while Ortolan—a state meet qualifier last spring in the 800m (PB of 1:54.12)—might just be the most dangerous guy on the track.

That dynamic duo is frightening, but the next two guys make Del Campo into a terrifying trio, as Jordan Rushing and Jack Nevins complete the perfect storm for the boys from Sacramento. Rushing—15:45 at the state meet this last fall—and Nevins—15:42 in the same race—will bring their over-distance strength to the table as they look to challenge the best the bay has to offer.

The final name on the list of notables in this race is Trevor Fuhriman of Monte Vista—a top-returner from this race one year ago—who tore up the California High

School track just one week ago in the DMR with a 1200m leg that was timed in 3:08. That kind of effort is no fluke, so look for this Mustang to rear up and get after it on Friday night.

Girls 800m
The meet record in this event (2:12.76) is held by former-Carlmont great Justine Fedronic, and it does not appear to be in jeopardy—although this is a fine field of 800m runners. Headlining the show will be Katie Berge of Acalanes. Berge—a state meet qualifier last year in the 800m and 4x400m Relay—holds a personal best of 2:15.80 from last year’s NCS Meet of Champions final. Berge has been a force in this event since her freshman year, and many young ladies are breathing a sigh of relief that she is finally a senior and will be graduating.

Berge will be hunted by some excellent young 800m runners—led by Heather Donner of California High. Donner—the EBAL champion at this distance last year as a freshman—is the latest in a long line of fine two-lappers our of the San Ramon track powerhouse. She brings with her a PB of 2:16.58 and is noted as a gutsy competitor.

Someone who has enjoyed a good 2010-2011 year is Acalanes sophomore Amy Hollshwandner. Hollshwandner ran a leg on Acalanes’ state meet-qualifying 4x400m Relay last spring, registered a fine 18:46 clocking at the state cross country meet in the fall, and blistered the track in the winter as she finished 9th overall at the state indoor meet in the 600 Yard Run. Her mix of speed and strength make her very dangerous at this distance.

Speaking of speed, Jasmine Cunningham of Mt. Diablo brings a fair amount of that to Friday night’s event, sporting a 58.83 PB for the 400m from last year’s Stanford Invitational. Cunningham also ran well this winter, also qualifying for the state indoor meet in the 600 Yard Run.

Two more ladies to keep an eye on will be Moore from St. Mary’s, who will be doubling back from the 1600m, and Monte Vista’s Mikaela Hammitt—a one-time state meet qualifier in the 800m—who ran a season best of 2:17.11 one year ago.

Boys 800m
This race might have the most exciting stretch run of the night—especially with College Park’s Ortolan and Miramonte’s Ashraf Mathkour going head to head once again. These two are familiar foes, with these two boys running to a virtual tie at last year’s NCS Meet of Champions 800m final (Ortolan was determined to best Mathkour after going to the thousandth of a second level on the clock). Mathkour held an advantage come season’s end, registering an impressive 1:53.68 clocking from the state meet prelims over Ortolan’s aforementioned 1:54.12. Both are known to be hard-charging finishers, and Mathkour has already notched a 400m PB this season at the Skyline Invitational (50.42).

Also doubling back from the 1600m race will be Miramonte’s Fehrnstrom (1:58.71 last week), St. Ignatius’ Murphy, and Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Moore. These three guys will most certainly be in the hunt on Friday night under the lights, and if Ortolan or Mathkour are not on their best form, any one of these three guys could be there to clean up.

The dark horse in this race (although he may not see himself as nothing short of a contender) is young gun Adler Faulkner of Acalanes. Faulkner is the heir apparent it would seem in the NCS 800m event. Holding a PB of 1:59.84 from his rookie season, Faulkner enjoyed a very strong fall campaign in cross country as a state meet qualifier and then rolling right into the winter and torching the track in the 550m Run at the Cal All-Comer’s in order to qualify for the state indoor meet in the 600 Yard Run. In that event, Faulkner rocked to a 2nd place finish overall and is looking like the hot hand coming into this race. He could be very dangerous.

The meet record—set last year by Acalanes’ Toshi Kellogg—is a solid 1:55.73, but with this group on the track, you can count on it being in danger of falling.

Girls 3200m
There are 21 girls in the fastest of three heats of the Girls 3200m. Is it any surprise that six of them are from Campolindo?

Fresh off their Div. III State Championship title, the Lady Cougars look to continue their reign of terror in the longer distances at the Dan Gabor Distance Festival. Leading the charge will be arguably the most fearsome twosome ever to come out of Northern California—Carrier Verdon and Grace Orders. Both qualified for the state track championships one year ago (1600m and 3200m respectively) and they sport PBs of 10:42 and 10:44. Verdon was a state individual champion and Footlocker National finalist in the fall and Orders has signed a NLI to run for Vanderbilt next year. Yeah, they are fast…but not out of reach.

Kelsey Santisteban—a recent signee for the Golden Bears of Cal—will be giving chase to the ladies from Moraga. Santisteban hammered the Woodward Park course in the fall, putting up a time of 17:30 at the state meet and capturing Div. I All-State honors. She is a sub-5:00 1600m runner and could be very tough to handle on the oval. Look for her to run tough from the gun, as she is the defending champion in this event.

The last two people who could make up the front pack will be California’s Elaine McVay—a sub-11:00 3200m runner herself—and St. Mary’s Moore. Moore is entered in all three of these distance events, so we will see which ones she chooses to compete in on Friday night. McVay is known to really like to push things from the front, so you know she will be getting her hands dirty in this one.

The meet record of 10:52.32 by California’s Colleen Lillig is certainly in peril with this crew on the track, so look for an electrifying display.

Boys 3200m
This race could be one heck of a dual meet between Del Campo and Campolindo, with these two schools accounting for ten of the 30 finalists in the hot heat of the evening’s final event. Del Campo’s trio of Rushing, Nevins, and Pflasterer make up three of the top five seeds on the evening with only Castro Valley’s Ben Eversole (the defending champion in this event) and College Park’s Bickert breaking up the stronghold.

Eversole, like his teammate Martore, had a busy winter and has showed good early season form in all-comer meets and at last weekend’s Mt. Pleasant Relays. He is a state meet veteran in cross country and track, and with this being his senior season, he is surely poised to do some damage. Bickert, who will presumably be doubling back from the 1600m event, is a tenacious competitor and has a dogged desire to win every race he enters. If he toes the line, consider him a threat.

Other notables in this race include up-and-comers Thomas Joyce of Campolindo, Matt DeVries of San Ramon Valley, and Aidan Goltra on Las Lomas. Joyce wowed everyone at the CIF State Championships in the fall with his 15:31 clocking on the Woodward Park course. He was the DFAL Champion in cross country and will certainly be a factor in this race. DeVries looks to be the future of distance running at SRV, with the tough sophomore already looking like a seasoned veteran in his short stint as a high school harrier. He is definitely one to watch for the Wolves. And finally, it would be remiss not to mention the entry of Goltra in this event given that he is the hot-shot frosh in the NCS this year. He led his Knights squad to a fine season in cross country, culminating in a time of 16:03 at the state meet. He is an age-group athlete who has showed well so far in his prep career, and he will look to continue the good times with a solid race on Friday night.

Best of luck to all 917 athletes competing on Friday night!

“Run Like Dan!”


John said...

Thanks to Coach P for the great preview! Looking forward to watching the girls & boys 3200m races....

Anonymous said...

Any chance you can publish the Dan Gabor Distance Festival heat information?

Albert Caruana said...

They are in the process of seeding the meet as we speak. As soon as I get the heat assignments, I will post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the heat sheets. We really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

Albert Caruana said...

Thank you for the positive feedback.

Any help with spreading the word to your athletes or teammates about this blog is appreciated.

SJS Fan said...

Nice preview ! Can't wait for the racing. As always excellent coverage, thanks !

Anonymous said...

Will todays results be posted tonight or will they all be done after saturday portion of the meet?

Thanks in advance!

Mike Scott said...

I graduated AVHS in '95, Dan was one of my coaches with head coach Mike Walsh. He was an amazing person and I miss him dearly. If anyone wants to learn about him you can reach me at

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