The members of the Aftershock Distance Club can run, that is a given, but over the past weekend, the girls showed that they can run with the best of them when they qualified for the NJCAA Nationals at the Pima Indoor Invitational.
Pima Community College (PCC) was not the only meet that the girls attended. While four members were down at PCC, other runner went north, to Flagstaff, for the Arizona Indoor Classic and West Zone Indoor Championships at Northern Arizona University.
On Feb. 16, Swayze Smith, Sydney Alexander and Chris D'Angelo all qualified for the USATF Nationals in Maryland.
The meet was the season debut for D'Angelo. The freshman recently finished basketball and was jumping right into the thick of things. With a week to prepare, D'Angelo qualified for national's in his two races. First was the 3,000-meter race.
"[The results] tell me that I've got great training from coach Swenson and I'm able to go out and compete at a high level and that's all I want for myself," D'Angelo said.
The meet officials combined the 15-16-year-old group with the 17-18-year-old group for the race. D'Angelo finished second overall, first in his age group, with a time of 10:05.02.
"Chris ran a brilliant, tactical race, using the older runners to his advantage."
Coming off a breakout performance the week prior, freshman Jalen Ebert "put together another big race," Swenson said. Ebert finished her 400-meter race in seventh (1:06.70), one spot away from qualifying for nationals.
Smith was a two-time qualifier in Flagstaff. Her first qualifier was in the 3,000-meter run and a fourth place finish. Her second qualifier was in the 1,500-meter with a sixth place finish. Alexander also qualified for the 3,000-meter run with her sixth place finish.
In his favorite race of the day, D'Angelo went head-to-head with Nic Caruso from Arizona Track and Field Academy Club. D'Angelo kept pace with Caruso, the faster starter, for the first 1,200-meters (lap times of; :51, :56, :59 and :59). On the bell lap D'Angelo made his move with 200-meters left and took the lead. D'Angelo won with a time of 4:40.83 (he broke the meet record by four seconds) and his second West Zone Championship for the day.
"It was fun," D'Angelo said. "That was probably my favorite race of the day. The 3,000 was great, but the 1,500, some kid was looking to bury me and I went out and made him cry."
The day prior, at PCC, the girls showed the crop of junior college runners what they were made of. Things kicked off with the medley relay race. Running in the mulit-distance race were the four girls representing Aftershock in Pima; Penny Fenn, Karen Arellano, Megan Goettl and Allyson Arellano.
Fenn opened the race with the 1,200-meter leg. The sophomore was able to get the lead on her third lap and that was it for the rest of the field. Goettl and Karen maintained the lead with their legs, 400-and-800-meters respectively. When Karen handed the baton off to her younger sister Allyson, the girls had nearly a 50-meter lead on the race and the younger Arellano "sealed the deal for us," Swenson said. They won the race in 13:01.02, nearly 17 seconds ahead of Mesa Community College. The time also would have qualified the girls for the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Nationals if they were in a community or junior college.
The elder Arellano raced her way to a new personal record in the 600-meter race with a time of 1:48.92. In the 1,500-meter race, Goettl and Fenn finished second and third, respectively. Goettl also notched a new PR, with hers coming in the 1,000-meter race. The sophomore finished second with a time of 3:14.82. Fenn also added another PR to her day when she finished the race fourth (3:21.45). Karen missed out on a PR in the 1,000-meter by a quarter of a second.
In the final race for Aftershock, the younger Arellano ran her typical 3,000-meter race. Unlike other races, she was pitted against one of the top distance runners at the junior college level in Martha "Nikki" Regalado. Nikki controlled pace for a majority of race with Allyson right behind her.
"It was really tough," Allyson said. "I didn't know if I could stay with her or to but I tried my hardest."
On the final 1,000-meters Allyson went to take the lead. Regalado and Allyson battled for 600-meters, "it was a great battle to watch and forced some new things out of Allyson. The crowd was amazing during this portion of the race, most of them shouting and cheering for Nikki," Swenson said. Ally pushed as the final lap began and was able to pull away to win the race in 10:52.32. Regalado finished at 11:00.17.
"I was just trying to stay strong," Allyson said. "I could feel her dying, her form started getting sloppier so I thought she was dying. I just thought stay strong the rest of the way through."
"The best part had to be the excitement of the other girls for Allyson because they knew the race plan and how great of a runner Ally was up against. They were amazing teammates cheering her on and helping to coach her through the race. Even though it was Ally racing on the track, it was a team win."
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