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National field pushes local athletes to fast times at Woodbridge Classic

Newport Harbor's Kenny Wanlass (5644) during the Woodbridge Classic at Great Park in Irvine on Friday, Sept. 16.
Newport Harbor’s Kenny Wanlass (5644) during the Woodbridge Classic at Great Park in Irvine on Friday, Sept. 16.
(James Carbone)

Distance runners from all over the nation have chased fast times under the lights at the Woodbridge Classic for decades.

The flat terrain and cool evening temperatures often leads to many competitors posting personal-best performances, but the manner in which Newport Harbor senior Kenny Wanlass managed to do so left him grateful beyond measure.

Wanlass ran 14 minutes, 21.9 seconds to shatter his personal record by 50 seconds, netting a top-25 finish in the Doug Speck’s boys’ sweepstakes race of the 41st Woodbridge Classic on Friday night at the Great Park in Irvine.

Once he finished traversing the course, which was largely laid out over the venue’s soccer fields, Wanlass was pulled into a bear hug by Chett Clark, a former teammate who graduated from Newport Harbor in 2021.

“It means a lot to me because those guys, like Chett, all those other guys who were on varsity when I was an underclassman, they kind of inspired me,” Wanlass said. “They gave me that mentality of ‘work hard, expect nothing, and set yourself up for everything.’

“I think I owe a ton to them for really inspiring me and instilling that value in me.”

Wanlass, who last year won the Surf League title, ran in the sweepstakes race as an individual.

Fountain Valley's Benjamin Prado (981) runs in the Doug Speck's boys' sweepstakes race during the Woodbridge Classic.
Fountain Valley’s Benjamin Prado (981) runs in the Doug Speck’s boys’ sweepstakes race during the Woodbridge Classic at Great Park in Irvine on Friday.
(James Carbone)

Benjamin Prado, another prime competitor within the Sunset Conference, had designs on breaking the Fountain Valley school record for a three-mile race. The Barons competed as a team in the boys’ rated race, finishing 20th in a field of 40 teams.

A senior standout who laid claim to the Wave League title last season, Prado crossed the finish line in 14:45.8 (14th), but it left him three seconds shy of the school mark set by David Abraham (14:42 at the Dana Hills Invitational in 2013).

The Dana Hills Invitational, which incorporates downhill running as the competitors enter the stadium for the concluding 600 meters, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 24.

“It definitely makes it a lot faster,” Prado said of the downhill trek at Dana Hills. “I think I can probably go under 14:30 if I’m feeling good.”

Diego Alonso (15:21.1, 65th), Ethan Kwong (15:57.4, 140th), Andrew Hsieh (16:00.5, 147th) and Luke Dias (16:20.6, 191st) also contributed to the team score for Fountain Valley.

Huntington Beach's Makenzie McRae (1347) finishes the Bob Day's girls' sweepstakes race at the Woodbridge Classic.
Huntington Beach’s Makenzie McRae (1347) finishes the Bob Day’s girls’ sweepstakes race during the Woodbridge Classic at Great Park in Irvine on Friday.
(James Carbone)

Huntington Beach placed 19th out of 28 teams in the Bob Day’s girls’ sweepstakes race, led by a lifetime-best performance from Makenzie McRae, who knocked 31 seconds off her personal record in finishing 34th with a time of 16:51.5.

“I was definitely excited because I knew it was going to be a competitive field, so I was counting on this race to break my [personal record], just because the course is so flat and there are so many girls that I could run with that can push me,” McRae said. “I was definitely excited to go into a competitive race like this.”

Luna Centeno (18:21.6, 134th), Belle Baker (18:35.4, 145th), Devyn Durbin (18:36.2, 146th) and Emma Siok (19:01.8, 164th) completed the scoring quintet for the Oilers.

The Huntington Beach girls' cross-country team has a moment to themselves before the Bob Day's girls' sweepstakes race.
The Huntington Beach girls’ cross-country team has a moment to themselves before the Bob Day’s girls’ sweepstakes race at the Woodbridge Classic at Great Park in Irvine on Friday.
(James Carbone)

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