Texas Distance Festival Preview: Boys & Girls 800m Entries

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We are still about two weeks away and registration for the Texas Distance Festival is still open until Friday at 10:00 a.m. cst. However, last week, we started preview the currently registered athletes in each event.

We will start to roll out the previews today starting with the boys and girls 800m.

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Each year, Texas Distance Festival stands alone as the most highly anticipated meet outside of the UIL State Championships. Whether it be the rate at which we see incredibly fast times or the sheer volume of talent present throughout the field, TDF is truly a one-of-a-kind meet for the state.

This year's Texas Distance Festival will be no different as the top stars from Texas and the surrounding states will converge on Southlake Carroll's track for what's going to be one of the best meets in the country this year. While it's easy to think of this "distance festival" as being more geared towards an event like the 5000m, this year's meet will have a host of talent over the 800m distance.

So, let's dive into the entries for the TDF 800m and see who the contenders are to top the time sheets at one of the best showcases of distance talent the nation will see.

Adin Lathrop (R) is Texas' top seed this season with a 1:51.94 SB

Boys Race

Starting with the boys race, TDF has historically seen some great performances over the 800m distance. Since the meet's inception in 2013, it has seen eight runners go under 1:54 with an additional 138 dipping under the 2:00 mark. Drew Costelo still holds the meet record which he ran in 2022 in the form of a 1:51.94, however, we could see that record broken this year as the field this year is riddled with talent.

Adin Lathrop

Bridgeland's Adin Lathrop headlines the entries for this year's meet with a US #3 1:51.71 that he set last week at the Sam Mosley Relays. Lathrop has made substantial improvements each of his three years competing on the track, jumping from 1:57 his sophomore year all the way to 1:52 his junior year, to now opening up his senior year with the third fastest time in the nation. Lathrop has had one of the fastest evolutions from good to incredible that we've seen in a long time and we will surely see him continue to improve as the season goes on.

One thing to note about Lathrop's racing is his ability to run even splits despite how fast he is. He may not always take the race out from the gun, but his consistency is a major asset that helps him close hard while others pay for going out hard. Look for him to challenge for the win at TDF and potentially break the meet record if he has a good race.

Christopher Harris

Currently slotting into the number two seed in our entries at this point is Christopher Harris of Cornerstone Christian School out of San Antonio. As of right now, Harris has yet to compete outdoors over 800m, however, one look at his results will tell you everything you need to know about Harris's talent. In the 2023 outdoor season, Harris showed his ability to consistently produce at a high level, running sub-50 fourteen times over the 400m, and sub-1:55 five times. The highlight of his outdoor season was running a personal best of 1:53.52 last May and he's continued to build off that ever since.

So far in 2024, Harris has competed twice indoors over the 800m running 1:57 and 1:58 respectively. Additionally, he opened up his outdoor season over 400m with a time of 49.1. Look for Harris to continually improve as we get closer to TDF, and with the strong field in this year's race, he could be on for a big improvement and potentially a race win.

Trae Baker

Coming in at the number three spot in the current entries is the first of our non-Texas entries in Trae Baker of Tahlequah High School in Oklahoma. Baker has been a staple of the Oklahoma distance scene throughout his career, holding a state title in cross-country which he earned recently in 2023, as well as multiple podiums both indoors and outdoors. Baker heads into this outdoor season coming off a win at the Oklahoma High School Indoor Championship where he ran 1:57.84 to take home his second state title.

Throughout his career, Baker has shown supreme consistency over the 800m distance, with all of his 2023 outdoor races being under the 2:00 mark, and three of them being at or below 1:55. With a lot of momentum and a personal best of 1:54.60, look for Trae Baker to potentially run a big personal best as he holds all the cards necessary to be poised for another big jump in performance.

Mason Wokoma

The last of our current 1:55 and under entries up to this point is Mason Wokoma of Great Hearts Monte Vista in San Antonio. Throughout much of his career, Wokoma has shown great proficiency over both the 400m and 800m, consistently running right at the 50-second mark as well as regularly being at or below 2:00. However, Wokoma saw a big jump in performance in 2023 as he drastically lowered his 800m personal best down to 1:55.36, as well as lowering his 400m personal best down to 49.56.

Another key thing to take away from Wokoma's 2023 outdoor season was how he retained consistency despite making such a big jump in regard to his personal best. All of Wokoma's 2023 races were faster than his previous personal best by over a full second, with many of them being more than three seconds better. Wokoma's drastic improvement without compromising his consistency is something we don't see too often which is why he's in line to be a big player at TDF. If he's able to carry the qualities that made his 2023 season so good into 2024, then he could be slated to run another big personal best in a field that is sure to be one of the deepest we'll see this year.

Things to Watch:

Outside of these athletes seeded with official times at or below 1:55, this year's field hosts a number of athletes right at or below the 2:00 mark. We're surely set to see at least ten boys break the two-minute barrier, along with a time likely near the 1:50 mark taking home the win. Look for this race to get out hard and come through the first lap at around 54 seconds, with the win likely being decided over who runs the best back straight. Maintaining the perfect balance of speed and strength has always been the key over 800m and look for TDF to have the best showcase of these qualities that we'll see until the UIL State Championships in May.

Montgomery Lake Creek's Hailey Johnson has a 2:11.78 SB

Girls Race

Moving on to the girls race, we see a similar historical makeup to the boys races with not only fast times at the top but great depth throughout the field as well. Since 2013, thirteen girls have gone under 2:15 with an additional thirty-nine breaking the 2:20 barrier. Nicole Humphries holds the meet record with a time of 2:08.96 which she set at last year's meet.

This year's field is stacked, to say the least, with a total of fourteen girls officially seeded below the 2:20 mark. This has all the makings of a tight and fast race so let's see who our contenders are and just how fast they can go.

Bella Nelson

Owasso, Oklahoma's Bella Nelson comes into this year's meet with the fastest official seed time in the form of a 2:09.93 that won her the OSSAA State Track & Field Championship last May. Nelson has been one of the state's most dominant runners over the last several years and her diverse skill set from the 400m up to the 5000m makes her one of the most impressive all-around runners that we will see at this year's meet.

Nelson is coming off one of the more dominant cross country seasons you'll see, as she won four races and took home a state title in a time of 17:29.10. This dominant season comes off the back of a very impressive track season which saw her run under the 5:00 mark in the mile three times, as well as under 2:20 in the 800m five times. Nelson showed consistency but also the ability to run fast when it matters as she won state championships in both events to go along with new personal bests of 2:09.93 and 4:51.76. Nelson has had one of the most impressive years you'll see and she's proven she can run fast when it counts. Look for her to come out swinging at TDF and build on her already present momentum to showcase just how good she can be.

Gia Kurp

Coming in as the current second see is University of Texas commit Gia Kurp out of The Woodlands. Kurp has proven to be one of the best 400/800m runners in the state, with her ability to perform across both events giving her one of the best bases for middle-distance racing that we'll see in this field. Kurp has a brilliant 2023 outdoor season which saw her qualify for the state meet for the first time where she ended up finishing seventh. Outside of her state qualification, Kurp also demonstrated the rare ability to remain consistent as her performance improved.

Throughout her 2023 season, Kurp consistently ran at or under the 2:15 mark with her current personal best coming at the Victor Lopez Classic in the form of a 2:11.22 where she very narrowly missed out on the victory. Kurp has only raced once over the 400m and 800m so far this year, however, her performances are a signal in the right direction and of growing momentum. She opened up her season with a personal best of 57.25 at the Zoe Simpson Invitational and then added onto it with a strong showing at the Sam Mosley Relays where she ran 2:12.65 and took home the win. Kurp has shown her ability to improve as the season goes on in the past and we can expect this year to be no different. Look for her to be rounding into prime shape at TDF and she could challenge for the win along with a new personal best if she continues on her current trajectory.

Hailey Johnson

Coming in at the number three spot in the current race entries is Hailey Johnson of Lake Creek. Throughout her career, Johnson has proven to be one of the most consistently talented runners in the state, particularly over the 800m distance. She qualified for the state meet as only a freshman in 2022 where she placed ninth and finished the year with a 2:16.76 personal best. From there she only got better as she's coming off a much improved and more consistent 2023 outdoor season which saw her drastically reduce her personal best yet again.

Throughout her 2023 outdoor season, Johnson showcased not only her improvement but her ability to sustain a high level of performance throughout a busy season. She ran at or under 2:13 six times to go along with a new personal best by nearly five seconds in the form of a 2:11.88 which saw her move from ninth place at the 2022 state meet up to third. Johnson recently opened up her 2024 outdoor season at her home meet this last weekend where she ran 2:14.98 for the win with little competition. Johnson's strong start to the season signals a year that's sure to see her improve in the same way that she did last year. Look for her to battle for the podium at TDF and break into the 2:10s and maybe even under that if the race ends up being as fast as it's expected to be.

* Johnson ran a new SB 2:11.78 at the Texas A&M Bluebonnet HS Inv.

Kinley Kite

Heading into TDF as the number four seed is our second Oklahoma-based runner in the form of Kinley Kite. Kite comes into 2024 coming off the strongest season of her career in 2023 which saw her lower her personal best by ten seconds down to a quick 2:14.55 which saw her place sixth at the state meet.

Kite didn't have the most consistent 2023 outdoor season when compared to some of the other runners seeded in the field, however, one thing she did extremely well was show that she can run fast when it matters. This is a big deal heading into a meet like TDF where the race is likely to be similar to if not better than the field you'd normally find at a state championship. Kite has excelled over her career at turning in fast times at big meets and it'd be by no means be a surprise if she does it again. As for 2024, Kite ran a brief but effective indoor campaign this winter which saw her run 2:19.86, as well as 5:15.32 which gives her a strong base coming into the outdoor season. This race will undoubtedly be a tight and fast one but look for Kite to be a player in the race as she's more than proven her ability to run fast when it matters.

Alma Lazo Cazares

Coming in as our fifth sub 2:15 runner slated to be in the field is Alma Lazo Cazares of Northside O'Connor. Throughout her career, Cazares has proven to have some of the best range we've seen for a middle-distance runner as she has the ability to run fast from the 200m up to the 800m which is an event combination that's rarely seen. However, despite her wide range of races, Cazares doesn't compromise her performance in any of them, particularly the 400m and 800m where she's excelled throughout her career.

Cazares comes into 2024 off one of the most active and impressive outdoor seasons we've seen an athlete endure. Throughout the 2023 outdoor season, Cazares ran a combined total of thirty-one races from the 200m to the 1600m. And the craziest thing about it is the fact that she performed well in everything she did. Cazares came away from her busy season with personal bests of 57.86 in the 400m and 2:14.76 in the 800m. If the sheer number of races alone doesn't prove her prestige as an athlete, then the way she was able to run surely will. Cazares has a unique blend of speed and strength as demonstrated by her fast time and the amount of times she raced over the year. Look for Cazares to run well at TDF as she'll be fresh headed into a big meet for what seems to be the first time in a while. Running sub 2:14 surely seems attainable for her, and look for her to have many more chances to continue improving as the season goes on.

Others to Watch

This year's girls race will see an unprecedented level of depth with the potential for many girls to run fast and drastically lower their personal bests. Some additional names to look out for are Graci Brown whose run 2:15.84, Nicole Smithers whose run 2:17.11, Addie Micklos whose run 2:17.58, Madisyn Jackson whose run 2:17.70, Addison Sapp whose run 2:17.87, and Jadyn Cook whose run 2:18.52.

Be sure to stay tuned for updated entries in the coming weeks and be ready for more coverage and some fast races as Texas Distance Festival is sure to impress again this year.