By Kyle Merber
May 10, 2023
"♫ How do you measure, measure… the success of the meet? ♫"
In beer cups, in tacos, in concerts, or national records? On Saturday night, at the legendary Hilmer Lodge Stadium at Mt. SAC, the first edition of Track Fest launched thanks to On’s continued investment in the sport.
Was the facility packed to the 21,000 fan capacity? No, but if the World Championships struggled to sell half that amount of tickets each day, then this was a more than solid turnout.
Most importantly, the races were fantastic. That’s step one, if you want to build momentum around a meet series! The highlight had to have been the women’s 5000m. Josette Andrews continued to show that the move to Boulder was a good one as she pushed the pace over the final kilometer, winning in a new personal best of 14:43.36. But one athlete doesn’t a race make, and there were many significant breakthroughs behind her: including another huge South American record for Joselyn Brea (14:47.76) of Venezuela, a Mexican national record for Laura Galván (14:49.34), and a new NCAA record for Katelyn Tuohy (15:03.12).
And I’m gonna let Cooper Teare finish in 13:12.73 with a 25-second last 200, but Connor Burns had the best high school 5000m of all time! His 13:37.30 narrowly beat out Galen Rupp’s almost 19-year-old record that actually predates Connor’s birth.
One of the most anticipated races of the night was Yared Nuguse’s 800m experiment, an event that he had not run since 2019 when he ran a now-extremely-comparably-soft PB of 1:48.29. During our preview show, it was revealed that the OAC men had run an even split 49-second quarter to tune up for the race. But even more confidence-inspiring was the fact that I met his high school coach before the race, who shared a story of throwing a young Nuguse into a 4×800 at a low-key meet. The other schools were blown away and asked what he had split, but his coach, not wanting to reveal his new secret weapon, said it was a 1:57. It was actually a 1:51.
It shouldn’t have been too surprising then, that despite being in last through the first half, he was able to unleash a mighty kick to take down a number of 800m specialists to run 1:46.30. This should make Americans feel very good about his ability to close down hard in championship races. Opening up your season in a race that you won is very different from getting into a 1:43 race in July. There are two more seconds in those lanky legs of his.
And if you have ever tracked your heart rate at a concert – there was a performance by KYLE (not me… a famous musician who shares my name but took it to the next level, capitalization-wise) before the 10,000m races – then you’ll understand how impressive Adriaan Wildschutt’s South African 10,000m National Record run of 27:23.10 was. After a long process of getting his visa sorted, the former Seminole is finally in Flagstaff with his teammates. The HOKA NAZ Elite squad had a strong weekend! Krissy Gear took home a surprise win in the steeplechase with a 15 second personal best going 9:23.55. Don’t be caught off guard if she ends up making the World Championship team this summer – she’s on that kind of hot streak right now.
The men’s steeplechase also saw a major upset as Kenneth Rooks of BYU ran 8:17.62 to defeat Hillary Bor, who has made every US team since 2016. As much as I’d like to position myself as an industry expert, Rooks was not mentioned in any event previews – I am hardly the Nostradamus that I claim to be.
After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.