The Stanford Invitational cross-country course can be deceptively difficult, even for seasoned runners. But for those who have never run the premier high school event, it can be a nasty experience.
That was the case Saturday for freshman Jordan Hasay, the most-talked about runner in a meet of top runners. The girls' course record at Stanford Golf Course had fallen less than two hours earlier and Hasay, of Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo, seemed primed to make it short-lived.
Instead, Hasay suffered the same fate as many good runners have at this event, failing to finish as she ran herself to exhaustion on the final stretch.
After leading for 3 miles of the 3.1-mile race, Hasay began to stumble and then to stagger. As runners passed, she could barely stand. Her mother caught her and took her off the course with 70 meters to go.
``She just felt like her legs were going to give way,'' said her father, Joe Hasay. ``It's never happened to her before. It's heartbreaking when you put in the time and effort and you're leading by 20 seconds, and all of a sudden you lose it.''
Her disappointment was in contrast to the excitement of winners such as Los Gatos junior Matthew Petrillo (Division II boys, 15:52), St. Francis senior Ben Sitler (Division III boys, 15:27), and St. Ignatius freshman Katy Daly (Division III girls, 18:17).
Los Gatos captured the Division III boys title and San Lorenzo Valley, led by 12th-place Daniel Taylor, won the Division IV boys.
Hasay entered the meet as a legend in the making. Last November, she broke Mary Decker's mile world record for 13-year-olds, running 4:51.48. At 12, she received a recruiting letter from UCLA.
When Hasay bolted to the lead in the girls' main event, the seeded Division I race, one spectator exclaimed: ``The race is over.''
After one mile (a 5:01 split), she had an 18-second lead over a field that included the defending state 1,600-meter champion. After two miles, her split was 11:09.
She eventually fell victim to her own pace and inexperience. Lauren Saylor of Buchanan of Fresno passed her with 150 yards to go, winning in 17:38, and the course record of 17:26 set earlier in the day by Division II winner Marie Lawrence of Reno, will stand.
``A learning experience?'' Joe Hasay wondered. ``All these races are learning experiences when you're a freshman and you're running your third race of the season.''
It's common for the fast pace of the race, combined with a long hill on the backside, a deceptively long finish and high temperatures to take their toll on this course.
But Petrillo had no such problem. He was so disappointed with his nondescript track season last spring that he dedicated himself to running, and his success is proof that dedication can be rewarded. In turn, his team's success can be linked to his enthusiasm.
``When you have 20 plus kids that are fired up to run, calling each other to run on the weekend, it definitely makes your job easier,'' Los Gatos Coach Tom Newman said.