Local Runners to Watch

Runners on the Central Coast are fortunate to share their home turf with some great distance runners. From our local high schools to the national stage, there are plenty of stars in our midst for us to admire.

High School Stars

The Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners club has provided college scholarship funding to local high school distance runners since 2000. This year the club, along with a large donation from the Big Sur International Marathon, is providing $9,000 in scholarship money to nine athletes.

The scholarship recipients are nominated by coaches. They must be high school seniors who participate in both cross-country (XC) and distance track events. They must be talented and successful enough in their running to compete in college, as well as demonstrating academic success and leadership skills.

Here are this years winners:

Diego Estrada from Alisal High set a county record in the 3200 and is ranked in the top 5 in the state in this event. He will be going to Northern Arizona University on a partial track scholarship. Diego has a 3.5 GPA and was team captain in both XC and track. He is without question the best high school distance runner in our area. Diego was given the largest WNLR scholarship at $2,000.

Kirsten White from Salinas High competes in the 800, 1600, and 3200 as well as cross-country. She is an honor student with a 3.89 GPA and was team captain in both XC and track. Her specialty is the 800, with a best time of 2:20. She will be going to Lewis and Clark University on a partial scholarship. Kirsten was given $1,500.

Michael Mercado from North Monterey County High is a talented runner and has a 4.13 GPA in honors and advanced placement classes. He was also captain of both his XC and track teams. He has run 4:30 in the 1600 and 9:31 in the 3200 to finish in the top 3 in his league. He will be attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Michael also received $1,500.

Other seniors recognized with scholarships were Andre LaMothe from Stevenson, Arturo Corres and Cameron Cruse from Seaside, Oscar Pena and Filberto Zendejas from King City, and Tyler Larsen from Carmel.

If you want to make a tax deductible donation to help with these scholarships mail your donation to WNLR Scholarship Fund c/o 24630 Avenida Principal, Salinas, CA. 93908.

Olympic Hopefuls

The U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials will be held from June 27th to July 6th in Eugene, Oregon. This year’s trials feature several runners with Central Coast connections.

Blake Russell from Pacific Grove has already made the Olympic team by finishing 3rd in the women’s marathon trials in Boston in April. Blake also owns the 9th fastest qualifying time in the 10,000 meter run, and could be in the mix for another Olympic slot in this event on June 27th. Blake excels in road racing, cross-country, and track racing, and has been ranked as the number 1 female runner in the United States.

Lyle Weese, who lives in Marina and works in Salinas is currently the 13th fastest qualifier in the 3000 meter steeplechase on July 5th. Lyle is one of the few elite American runners to also have a full time job. He also helps coach Hartnell College distance runners, and he and his wife Sierra generously give their time to help the Just Run youth program as well. Lyle ran the same event in the 2004 Olympic Trials and is a former Big Sur Distance Project athlete.

James Carney, formerly of the Big Sur Distance Project and Marina, is one of the favorites in the 10,000 meters on July 4th, with the 3rd fastest qualifying time at 27:43. He is 19th on the all time U.S. list in this event, tied with the legendary Steve Prefontaine. James now splits his time living in both Boulder, Colorado and Eugene.

Fasil Bizuneh, also formerly of the Big Sur Distance Project, is now living in Flagstaff, Arizona. Fasil, born in Indiana of Ethiopian parents, moved himself into Olympic team contention by running the 2nd fastest 10,000 meter time of the year a few weeks ago – 27:50. He is currently 5th best of the qualifiers.

Ryan Bak, another former Big Sur Distance Project athlete, is a provisional qualifier in the 5,000 meters (to be held June 30th) at 13:39. He is attempting to improve his qualifying time in the next few weeks to ensure that he makes the starting field. Ryan currently lives in Eugene as well.

Ali Williams, who along with Blake Russell was one of two women associated with the Big Sur Distance Project, is now living in Colorado Springs and is attempting to qualify in the 1500 meters.

Anthony Famiglietti, who now trains in the streets of New York City, is one of the favorites in the 3000 Steeplechase. “Fam” was an original member of Team USA Monterey Bay – the predecessor of the Big Sur Distance Project.

We’re thankful to be surrounded by such talented runners on the Central Coast. Be sure to cheer for our local favorites at the Olympic Trials, and also help us congratulate our high school stars on their accomplishments. Who knows - maybe some of those scholarship runners will be on our Olympic Trials list in 2016.


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