Matthew Petrillo of Los Gatos is no stranger to the Junior Olympic Track Nationals—he's been there five times.
For Katie Nast of Saratoga, though, she made her first trip there this summer.
Still, as different as their experience may have been, both members of the Los Gatos Athletic Association Track Club came home with similar awards when they competed in the prestigious event last month in Miami. Both Petrillo and Nast finished fifth in the nation in their specialties at the Junior Olympics.
The two top the list of talented young runners who compete for the LGAA Track Club, an elite distance running club in the area for athletes ages 1216. The club features runners from Fisher, C.T. English, Redwood, St. Andrews and Miller who compete in the 800 meters, mile and 3,000 meters.
"All of them are potentially great distance runners who are serious, want to improve and have fun," said Willie Harmatz, who coaches the club along with Roger Adams.
Petrillo had a big time in his fifth trip to the national meet. He was fifth in the 3,000 meters, 13th in the 1,500 meters and ninth in the pentathlon—a grueling five-event competition that includes the 100 hurdles, high jump, long jump, 1,500 and shotput. His 3,000 time of 9:40 earned him All-American honors in his age group.
"He's one of the most amazing runners to ever come out of Fisher," said Harmatz of Petrillo, who competed in the boys 1314 age division at the Junior Olympics. "He completed an impossible set of events at the national level."
Petrillo was the league and county middle school champion in the mile, 800 and cross country the last two years at Fisher, and he's now a freshman running for the varsity cross country team at Los Gatos High School.
"He's one of the best incoming freshmen in Los Gatos history," said Harmatz. "He'll make an immediate impact on the varsity level in the Central Coast Section."
Nast made her first trip to the nationals and came home with a fifth-place finish in the 3,000—and she's just a seventh grader at Redwood Middle School.
Nast was the league and county sixth-grade champion in the mile, 800 and cross county at Redwood, and her performance at the nationals earned her All-American status in the girls 1112 age group.
"Katie is just getting started in track," said Harmatz. "What a future she has! We're all excited for her."
Along with her impressive 11:20 in the 3,000, Nast has run 5:10 in the 1,500 to earn a national ranking. Prior to the nationals, she won the regional 3,000 to give her the No. 1 ranking in Northern California in the event.
Josh Craig and Alex Greco were other LGAA runners to qualify for the nationals.
Craig, who runs for Los Gatos High, earned a placed in the nationals in the young men's division (ages 1718) in the 1,500 after running 4:28.
Saratoga's Greco advanced to the nationals in the girls intermediate division (1516). She was third in the regionals in the 1,500 to win a national berth.
Taylor Johnson, a student at Miller Middle School, also ran well in the regionals. Johnson, 13, was fifth in the mile and sixth in the 800. She won league and county titles last year as a seventh grader.
Eric Baum, Kaela Townsend, Sara Williams, John Udall, Steve Udall, Brantley Rideau, Shoheen Sokhanvari, Stephanie Petrillo and Michelle Sparks are other promising runners for the LGAA Track Club.