Kyle Merber and three other runners delivered the goods Friday night at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium, breaking the four-minute barrier in the Hoka One One Elite Mile. With hundreds of spectators urging them down the homestretch of Nick Carter Track, Merber (3:57.74), Eric Avila (3:57.91), Daniel Estrada (3:57.92), and Graham Crawford (3:59.92) surged under 4:00, the first milers to accomplish that feat on the track in Santa Barbara County.
Merber, a 27-year-old competitor from Long Island, N.Y., is on a roll when it comes to setting milestones. Last September, he recorded the first sub-4:00 outdoor mile in the state of Alaska, clocking 3:59.36 in Anchorage. In both his breakthroughs, Merber was energized by vocal crowds. “It’s great to get people inspired to come out to a meet,” he said.
Four others finished less than a second from the magic number Friday, including Olympic medalist Leo Manzano (4:00.59) and UCSB grad Shyan Vaziri (4:00.90).
For Estrada, a native of Mexico City, it was his first time under 4:00. According to DyeStat.com, he is No. 1,501 on the list of milers with that distinction, beginning with Roger Bannister in 1954.
It may seem to have become common, but running a fast mile — which requires a fine balance of speed and stamina — is never easy. Just ask Aeron Arlin Genet, the Santa Barbara runner who attempted to crack the 50-54 women’s age record of 5:15.55 in the masters mile. “I was pretty nervous and went out faster than I’m used to,” she said. “It was difficult to keep up the pace.” She finished in 5:30.56.
Ce’aira Brown won the elite women’s mile in 4:36.94. Although falling short of the 4:30 barrier, the Philadelphia native said, “We’ve dealt with so many snowstorms, it was a blessing to run in this great weather.” UCSB’s Jenna Hinkle, fifth in 4:38.81, set a school record as well as the fastest mile by a college woman this season.
A MARATHON AND THEN SOME: The county’s fastest running of a marathon was 2 hours, 22 minutes, 28 seconds, recorded by Moninda Marube of Kenya in the erstwhile Santa Barbara International Marathon in 2011. Tyler Andrews shattered that by hitting the 26.2-mile mark in 2:18:42 on Friday morning, although it was on the La Playa track, not on undulating roads.
Andrews still had some running to do. The Hoka-sponsored runner from Concord, MA, went on to finish 50 kilometers (31.07 miles) in 2:46:06, a new world record for that distance on the track.
Paced by Rajpaul Pannu and Chris Frias for the first 21 miles, Andrews knocked off 125 laps at a rate of 5:21 per mile. In order to lessen the strain from making nothing but left turns throughout the run, Andrews ran the first 20 laps clockwise, then reversed direction.
He bettered the record of 2:48:06, set by Britain’s Jeffrey Norman in Timperley, England, in 1980.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS: It will be about the beating of hearts rather than the ticking of the stopwatches on Friday, April 20, when youngsters ages 5-19 compete in the 10th annual Santa Barbara County Special Olympics School Games at La Playa Stadium.
The competition — including track races, jumps, and throws — has grown from a participation of 25 Carpinteria students in the inaugural meet to more than 350 athletes with intellectual disabilities representing 48 school programs from eight different school districts.
The inspiring event will begin with a parade of athletes at 9 a.m. During the subsequent two to three hours of competition, law enforcement officers and firefighters will present ribbons to the athletes.
HOOP STARS COMMIT: Jackson Stormo, the 6′9″ center who led San Marcos High to its first CIF basketball championship, signed a national letter of intent last week to attend Pepperdine University. “He has really good footwork around the basket and is really skilled,” observed Lorenzo Romar, the new head coach of the Waves.
Santa Barbara High guard Alondra Jimenez signed with Vanguard University, which will bring her home every year when the Lions take on Westmont College in a matchup between two of the nation’s strongest NAIA women’s teams.
HOOP SHOOTER: When 13-year-old Joseph Talarico attempts a free throw, the rim is rarely rattled. The Goleta Valley Junior High student has swished his way to this weekend’s national finals of the Elks Hoop Shoot program in Chicago. Talarico won a succession of contests, including the California/Hawai‘i contest, where he made 25 of 25 shots. He then outshot winners from Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in the regionals. Talarico is the third Hoop Shoot participant sponsored by the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge to earn the trip to the national finals since 1985. Another contestant this year, 9-year-old Gabriel Cordero, repeated as California/Hawai‘i champion and placed third in the region.
TRIPLE THREAT: Jake “Snack Shack” Holton is SBCC’s answer to Los Angeles Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani. Playing first base and pitching in relief, the sophomore is hitting .368 and has picked up 10 saves, helping the Vaqueros move into first place in the Western State Conference North. As for his nickname, Holton said, “It’s a family joke. I’d care more about getting food after the game.”