by JON DYKSTRA The Iola Register | April 17, 2017
TORRANCE, Calif. — The motto of the Mount SAC Relays in Torrance, Calif., is: 'Where the world's best athletes complete.'
Two Allen Community College runners were among those world-class athletes competing in the prestigious event this weekend.
Sophomores Kaitlyn Shoemaker made the journey to the West Coast to test their skills against the nation's best 10,000 meter runners.
"It is the who's who of meets," Red Devil coach Vince DeGrado said.
Shoemaker was the only female junior college athlete in the field. DeGrado credits that to the tremendous support his team has received from the administration at Allen.
"What I really enjoy about working for Allen Community College is they allow us to travel to meets that provides are top level kids with the event they need to run fast." DeGrado said. "I told the kids that if Allen didn't support us and this program, they would not be running this fast, because you look at what the weather has been like the past few months in Kansas and there aren't many opportunities to run fast.
"I'm so grateful that I work at Allen and they let me take these kids, who have earned the right to go, to these types of meets. That is how they get recruited. We are very fortunate."
Kaitlyn didn't disappoint either destroying the school record in the process.
Shoemaker ran in the A-Division and took ninth place out of 36 finishers.
"She ran her first 5,000 meters in 17:33, so the whole time I'm thinking, 'This is going to either go really, really good or she is going to blow up any lap now," DeGrado said. "But she hung on and competed." "Sometimes with running you can go to the well and dig deep for that HUGE performance."
She finished with a 35:25.43, over four minutes quicker than the next fastest NJCAA 10,000 meter time in the nation this season.
Shoemaker will be the heavy favorite to win the national championship in both the 10,000 and 5,000 meters at the NJCAA National Championships in May.
"She is going to win, there is no way anyone is going to beat her, and that isn't a knock against the other schools in NJCAA because there are some very solid competitors, but just from what she's been doing workout wise it will take a pretty big effort to dethrone her," DeGrado said of her 10,000 meters chances.
DeGrado has higher expectations for her than just a national title though, he wants the meet record.
"She is 19 seconds off the national meet record in the 10,000 meters," DeGrado said. "When she runs it at the national meet, that will probably be what we shoot for, go for broke.
Kaitlyn Shoemaker wasn't the only one running well in California. Vicky Ibarra ran the 10,000 meters for the first time ever on the California trip at the Beach Invitational at Long Beach State University.
She ran a 39:46.3, which is the 5th best time in the NJCAA this season, and finished 13th at the meet. She's come just a long way from last year. I am really proud of her progression and to see where she ends up come national time.