For most teens, weekends are for sleeping in and relaxing. But not for the star athletes attending the 48th annual Arcadia Invitational track meet, which took place Apr. 10 and 11.
The meet, which was hosted in Arcadia High School’s Salter Stadium, attracted students from all over the country (and even a few from out of the country; students from New Zealand, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil attended the meet). Over the years, the meet has produced 25 national records, and 152 alumni have gone on to compete at the Olympics.
A sea of colorfully dressed spectators—each one wearing their school colors, to show full support for their teams—flooded the stands. The excitement in the air was electric; all eyes were trained on the red tartan track and field, which had been favored with the sunny skies typical of a spring day in SoCal.
Although most of the athletes were California natives, the meet drew in participants from out of state with its reputation for holding such an impressive competition.
Sophomore Lenny Rubi from Green Valley High School in Las Vegas stated that his team’s journey “was about five hours, and it went by pretty fast for teammates having fun.” The team’s 16 athletes made the drive together packed in 3 minivans.
“It was a long plane ride, like seven hours straight,” senior Nateja Hale said of her journey to Arcadia. The hurdler and triple-jumper from Parkland High School in North Carolina explained that finding “as much of a push in North Carolina” is difficult, “so [they] have to go out of state to get the push that [they] need.” Arcadia Invitational provided that “push” that allowed Hale and her teammates to watch their hard work in training pay off.
What does it take to prepare for a meet such as this one? Hale stated that qualifying for a high-caliber meet “depends on what you want. And that’s how you train, and that’s how you get here.” Her coach, she said, “prepares [the team] to be ready for anything and everything.” ‘Anything and everything’ also includes the weather; the Parkland Mustangs had arrived in Arcadia early so that they could acclimate themselves to the southern California climate.
While the spirit of competition was high at the meet, team morale was also through the roof, especially amongst members of the relay teams. Arcadia High School junior Justin Tran expressed that he prefers doing relay events because “when you’re running an event, it feels best to go as a team. There’s less pressure and it helps me to relax and focus more.” Tran also commented that if one member of a relay team is having a bad day, the others can “help hype [them] up.”
Arcadia’s women’s 4×1600-meter relay team, which consisted entirely of sophomores, was not deterred by the competition. “They’re fast girls, so I think that where we came in was a good place for us,” said sophomore Holly Lung after the race. “It’s very encouraging.”
Her teammates agreed. “That was our first relay together,” sophomore Cindy Hoang shared. Sophomores Joy Huang and Julia Reyes expressed their confidence that the team “could do a lot better” with more practice together.
As the sun set on each day of the meet, the afternoon’s fairer weather gave way to a chillier evening. Athletes not only had to spend long hours waiting for their events, but also stay warm and limber as the competition wore on through the night. “You can really feel it in your arms,” Lung testified. The Apaches had to make sure to keep stretching before the race to stave off any stiffness or shivering from the chill.
Determination in the face of adversity is exactly what the meet seeks to inspire, and its fierce competition and lengthy hours do just that. For athletes seeking to test their prowess against their peers nationwide, there is no place better to go than the Arcadia Invitational.