Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 26, 2010

Palo Alto's MacQuitty on track for fast times

National leader in 800 returns to the longer distances at the annual Stanford Invitational this weekend

by Keith Peters

Things will get back to normal for Palo Alto senior Philip MacQuitty this weekend when the annual Stanford Invitational makes its two-day run at Cobb Track & Angell Field.

MacQuitty will be in the boys' mile field on Saturday morning at 10:10 a.m. Should he race like he did a week ago, the times could be very fast.

MacQuitty, who has made a career out of running well at long distances — fast enough to earn a scholarship to UCLA this fall — is on the national charts this season but not for his specialty.

On Saturday at the St. Francis Invitational track and field meet, MacQuitty raced off the final turn and sped home to win the 800 in a sizzling 1:52.37. That makes him the fastest in the nation, overtaking Jason Coupe of Galt (1:52.47) as the best in the U.S.

"Yes, it's a bit odd because I've never really focused on the 800," said MacQuitty, who usually runs the 1,600 or 3,200 but rarely races anything shorter except maybe in a dual meet. "I've always had some natural speed and have been known to have a kick at the end of races."

MacQuitty needed that kick on Saturday as he passed Nathan Strum of Pioneer for the victory. Strum was second in 1:53.33, the No. 3 time in the nation this season. Kyle McNulty of Scotts Valley was third in 1:55.32, the No. 8 time in California.

MacQuitty's time broke the school record of 1:54.11 by Jason Rudolph, who ran that while finishing second at the 1997 Central Coast Section finals.

"The plan going into the race was trying to go out hard, hopefully at 55 seconds (which I did) and then see where I was from there. Since it was my first 800 meters, I didn't know if it would be too fast or not.

"Nathan Strum provided me a great race and really made the race fast. I couldn't have run that time if Nathan had not pushed the pace."

After displaying that kind of speed, MacQuitty hopes it will translate into success once he gets back to his specialty distance events later in the season.

"It's going to help me in my confidence and my finish," MacQuitty said. "I know what I can compete with anyone at the end of races."

MacQuitty surprisingly only holds the school record in just the 800, with the 3,200 and 1,600 still out there for breaking. The 1,600 mark is on MacQuitty's list, the record of 4:15.54 (converted) set by Jon Enscoe at the 1966 CIF State Track and Field Championships. MacQuitty's best is the 4:16.93 that he ran last season while taking second at the Golden West Invitational.

That could be a goal for MacQuitty on Saturday at Stanford. The national leader is Sherod Hardt of Queen Creek, Ariz., who has run 4:11.49 for 1,600 meters. The state leader for the 1,600 is Conor Stanton of Servite (4:18.07). Will neither of those two are competing in Saturday's race, Galt's Coupe is running and gives the race the two fastest 800 meter runners in the state.

While MacQuitty's race was the highlight of the St. Francis Invitational, Gunn and Palo Alto athletes turned in other top performances, as well.

Gunn junior Erin Robinson won the girls' 3,000 in 10:35.12, which ranks her No. 2 in the state this season. Gunn senior Sunny Margerum was second in the girls' 300 hurdles in 45.82, ranking her No. 10 in California. And, sophomore Kieran Gallagher finished third in the girls' 400 in 58.30, ranking her 14th in the state and No. 2 in Gunn history.

Margerum also finished second in the long jump (17-6 1/2) and third in the 100 hurdles (15.19). The latter was just off her school record of 15.03 last season.

Gunn also got a victory in the girls' pole vault from Alison Ang (11-0) and a victory in the girls' mile from Emma Dohner (5:18.38).

For the boys' Palo Alto's Josh Newby was second in the 3,000 in 9:02.88 and teammate Tyler Nigro was second in the high jump at 6-2. Gunn's Alex Johann was fourth in the mile in 4:38.29.

In addition to MacQuitty, a handful of local athletes will compete at Stanford this weekend. Margerum is expected to go in the 100 hurdles and long jump, Dohner and Gallagher are scheduled for the girls' mile. Dohner also is listed for Friday's 3,000 along with Paly's Kathleen Higgins.

The West Bay Athletic League held its first league-wide meet of the season with athletes from Menlo and Priory performing well.

Arnaud Kpachavi of Priory won the boys'1,600 in 4:55.45 and took the 800 in 2:08.49; Alec Lawler of Menlo won the boys' 110 high hurdles; Tommy Shields of Priory won the 200 in 25.14; Priory won the 1,600 relay while Menlo took the 400 relay. Solomone Wolfgramm won the boys' shot put.

The Menlo boys totaled 121 points to win with Priory second with 101.

In the girls' meet, Priory was second with 98. Kat Gregory won the l,600 in 5:44.95 and doubled back for the 3,200 in 12:01.66; teammate Eugenia Jernick took the 100 in 14.06, Priory's Devon Errington won the 800 in 2:38.77, and Menlo's Lauren Gradiska won the 300 hurdles (56.51).

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