GLENDALE — With a spot already locked up in today’s CIF State Track and Field Championship finals at Cerritos College in the 3,200 meters, Crescenta Valley High’s Rachel Lange and Claire Collison entered Friday’s state preliminaries hoping to add a second event to their schedule.
The pair needed to navigate a tough field in the 1,600 on Friday by finishing in the top three in their respective heats for an automatic berth to the finals or finish with one of the next six-best times.
Thanks to two solid, tactical races, the duo was able to do just that.
The Brigham Young University-bound Lange used a strong kick down the final stretch to lock up an automatic berth in today’s finals in the first heat of the 1,600 prelims by finishing third in a time of 4 minutes 54.14 seconds.
“Now we can just focus on the last two,” said Lange after competing in her first-ever state track and field race. “It makes me feel confident.”
Collison was quick to follow suit in the second heat of the 1,600, pulling away from the pack near the midway point and never looking back to win her race in 4:56.50 and secure a spot in the finals.
“Right before I went on the line, I knew I had to be top three,” the Stanford University-bound Collison said.
Both finished among the top five overall qualifiers for today’s 4:20 p.m. 1,600 finals. The 3,200 finals are scheduled to begin at 6:35 p.m. today.
With the No. 1 goal of all runners on Friday being to simply move on, neither heat ran at a blistering pace, but the tempo is expected to pick up in today’s finals.
“It will be a lot quicker [today],” Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said. “They feel good and they are ready to go. They didn’t have to strain too hard to get it [Friday].”
For Lange, she had the unenviable task of running in the same heat as Christine Babcock of Woodbridge, who owns the national record in the event (4:36.57).
But the Falcons senior was up for the challenge, finishing less than a second behind Babcock (4:53.67) and hopes she can carry that momentum into today.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” Lange said. “It was good. It was nice to be able to run with [Christine].”
Collison, who pulled out two top-10 finishes at last year’s state meet in Sacramento, finished nearly a full second ahead of her closest competitor in her heat and says she has plenty left in the tank for today.
“I’m just going to go out hard in the 1,600 and just race it all and give it again in the 3,200,” said Collison, the Pacific League champion in both the mile and two-mile. “I’ll recover and it’s going to be a challenge and I like challenges.”
In today’s 3,200 finals, Collison, the reigning News-Press Female Athlete of the Year, and Lange are entered with the seventh-seeded (10:45.44) and the ninth-seeded (10:47.53) times, respectively.
The Falcons twosome will have to contend with race favorite Jordan Hasay, who owns the nation’s best time this year (10:03.07).
DYLAN KRUSE covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.