Flintridge Prep senior Alan Yoho turns in stunning ninth-place effort at Nationals

For quite some time, Flintridge Prep runner Alan Yoho had confessed a desire to test himself against the best talent in high school cross-country.

The senior had breezed to Prep League, CIF Southern Section and CIF State Division V championships without much competition.

Those circumstances certainly changed for Yoho on Saturday as he was the lone area competitor to run at the 2013 Nike Cross Nationals at Portland Meadows Course in Portland, Ore.

Yet, Yoho was more than just a participant Saturday morning, as the 17-year-old Pasadena resident, who dyestat.com ranked 12th in California and 88th in the country heading into the race, turned in a stunning effort in finishing ninth overall in 15 minutes, 14 seconds.

“I’m very excited and pleased with the finish,” Yoho said. “I always knew I was capable of more and that I could compete at a higher level than Division V. This was amazing.”

Yoho was one of 197 competitors from eight regions throughout the nation to take part in the European-style meet that is run on the three-mile long Portland Meadows horse racing track.

“That was probably the hardest course I’ve ever run. Plus, the competition made it even more difficult,” Yoho said. “I’m used to dominating in my races and winning. That didn’t happen today because I was running with some amazing competition.”

While Yoho had grown familiar with Los Angeles Pierce College (site of the Prep League finals), Mount San Antonio College and Fresno’s Woodward Park (home of the CIF State championships), in Meadows Yoho found a change of pace.

The course had scattered haystacks throughout that could only be bypassed through hurdling. Another quirky feature of Meadows were the small man-made rolling hills placed right next to each other.

“That was the most difficult part of the race. I had never seen anything like those hills. They just crushed your momentum,” Yoho said. “The problem with the hay is that each time you jumped, you broke your rhythm and you had to find it again.”

Along with those features, Yoho was also concerned due to a cold he had developed earlier in the week.

Yet, even with those obstacles, Yoho recovered from a 20th-place positioning in the first half mile to close within seventh of a front pack headlined by Southwest Regional champion Cerake Geberkidane (fourth, 15:10).

Eventually, Yoho climbed as high as fifth place at the halfway point of the race before slowly losing four spots over the second part of the race, which was won by North Spokane’s Taylor Wilmot (15 minutes).

Yoho’s finish stunned not just himself, but a few others as well.

“When I crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer say ‘Alan Yoho of California’ in one of those surprise voices,” said Yoho, who was the fourth-fastest runner from the Golden State. “Some of the other runners were kind of amazed. I beat a lot of guys who I probably shouldn’t have beat.”

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