“Arcadia is the big one,” says Steve Brand. “It’s the first real indicator of what to expect in the important, late-season meets in May and June.”
The Arcadia Invitational track meet at Arcadia High, east of Pasadena, begins this evening and by around 10 p.m. Saturday, April 6, more than 4,000 high school athletes will have trod its all-weather track and modern runways and pits.
Those that came before include 152 Olympians, many of whom were involved in the 25 national records that have been set in what has become the largest outdoor high school meet in the country.
“The elite compete Saturday afternoon,” said Brand. “The elite of the elite compete Saturday evening,”
Brand should know. He has covered almost every one for The San Diego Union and UT-San Diego since the first in 1968 and no one has a better pulse of the area prep track scene.
The area’s outstanding track heritage is reflected in the three meet records held by San Diego athletes, not to mention state-leading performances and all-time County efforts.
Monique Henderson set the girls’ 400-meter record of :52.51 in 2001. Brent Noon of Fallbrook hurled the 12-pound shot 71 feet, 4 ¼ inches in 1990, and Thom Hunt of Patrick Henry ran 3,200 meters in 8:42.30 in 1976.
No one has made those kinds of early impressions this spring and Brand describes the 2013 San Diego Section season thus far as “not very strong,” but he added that “someone always come out of the weeds at Arcadia.”
West Hills’ Brenden Song is the San Diego section’s lone state leader with a 188-foot discus throw. Song was second in the state meet in Clovis in 2012 with a heave of 188-11, Section No. 11 all time.
Arcadia and its importance as a “coming out” meet of the season is symptomatic of the decline of dual meets, once the anchor of prep track.
League dual meet champions are still decided but they receive almost no mention in daily newspapers. Marks usually are available only in on-line services.
“There’s an invitational meet every weekend this year,” said Brand. “I’ve seen some dramatic dual meets over the years, fans and students screaming as a meet came down to who wins the relay, but that’s not the way of the world now.”