The Dalles High School athletes and Athletics East Running Club representatives, from left to right, Michael Lantz, Sam Alvarez and Dillon Dorado competed at the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals held on Dec. 9 at Apalachee Regional Park, Fla. and put up solid performances amongst their field of 309 in the 15-to-18-year old division.
While running stride-for-stride with such a competitive group, The Dalles High School freshman Dillon Dorado finished with a time of 18 minutes and 59.30 seconds for 238th in the 15-to-18-year old division and 146th in his 15-to-16 age category at the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals held on Dec. 9 at Apalachee Regional Park, Fla.
“The race, for me, was all fast-paced and exciting,” Dorado said. “I am happy with how I ran, and I am looking forward to improving my times within the future seasons.”
Competing on the national stage against 309 other runners, 2,773 miles away from home, Dorado knew he had to get out of his comfort zone to see where he stood amongst the best runners in his class.
He was a stranger in a strange land.
“Before, I had never been out of the state of Oregon, except Washington, so it was a really good experience to go across the country and see things you wouldn’t typically see in Oregon,” Dorado said.
In all, 2,197 running standouts from all areas of the United States participated, and representing Athletics East Running Club along with Dorado were TD sophomore Sam Alvarez and senior Michael Lantz.
Alvarez, in his first year as a cross country runner, placed 65th in the 15-18 division with a 16:57.83, a time that put him 34th with the rest of the runners in his individual age category. The 16:57.83 put up by Alvarez was 17.83 off his personal record of 16:40 on Oct. 26 during the Columbia River Conference Championships.
“The race was good for me,” Alvarez said. “It was a great environment to be around and it was really fun, all-around. I felt good about my performance, finishing 65th in the race.”
In his six of 10 high school races, Lantz had a final time less than 17:30, and he added No. 7 to his record in his second trip to nationals with a mark of 17:20.92, a significant improvement from the 19:32.1 he set at national back during the 2015 campaign, as a sophomore.
That time, which was 19.22 seconds off his personal record set at districts in Pendleton, put Lantz at 106th place overall, and 45th in the 17-18 classification.
“I believe I performed well, although there was room for improvement,” Lantz said. “The race was a challenge, but the team managed to come out of it with a better result than what we had expected.”
In order to qualify for nationals, Alvarez, Lantz and Dorado needed top-30 finishes at the USATF Junior Olympic Regional Meet on Nov. 18 at Woodland Zoo Park in Seattle, Wash.
Alvarez scored 13th place with his mark of 17:55, Lantz added an 18:01 to claim 15th place, and Dorado hit for a 19:01 for 25th in the standings.
Looking back at the fall season, volunteer parent Angela Hanson had 12 runners from Hermiston, Condon, Heppner and The Dalles represent Athletics East, with three making the jump to nationals.
When it comes to further strengthening the enrollment numbers down the line, getting quality performances from Alvarez, Lantz and Dorado is a great starting place.
“I am incredibly proud of the boys,” Hanson said. “It was such an honor to have them get the chance to extend their season, watch their growth and see them have such success on a national stage. I’m already looking forward to the JO track season and have hopes that this amazing experience for all our JO athletes will grow our AE ranks.”
While his Junior Olympic career is over, Lantz was afforded the opportunity to meet new people, run against some of the best and share the experience with two up-and-coming stars.
He did not neglect the generosity of those who stepped up financially for all three to make this trip a reality.
“I do thank all the people, and businesses that donated anything to our campaign,” Lantz said. “It was truly an amazing experience for the lot of us. I truly hope that in the upcoming years, more athletes will want to run Junior Olympics for Athletics East.”
If anyone is interested in learning more about the program, they can contact Hanson through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.