The Top 5 Times at Oaklawn
This weekend's race at the Lake Hamilton Invitational at Oaklawn got me thinking about some of the best showdowns and performances ever on that course. The Oaklawn course can be lightning-fast, but it can also be very unforgiving. Though the infield drains well, the corners tend to hold mud, and if it's rainy leading up to the meet, you can pretty much kiss a good time goodbye.
Going back over 20 years, there are few state championship courses in the country that are as storied as Oaklawn. If the weather is good, the course provides a rare barometer that allows a spectator to measure a runners time against races before that runner was ever born.Though the state meet has been held in Fayetteville, Mountain Home, Rogers, and Harrison in the past 20 years, it always seems to find it's way back to Oaklawn Park.
The Lake Hamilton Invitational has always served as an opportunity for a "pre-state" meet, where teams make a long bus trip to Hot Springs to get a preview of the course, 3 weeks before they race for all the bragging rights. This year, the talent is there on both sides to flirt with a historic time, but especially on the boys side. These are the top 5 times ever ran at Oaklawn and the runners that ran them.
1. 18:17.70- Maggie Montoya (Rogers)-Maggie has to be the favorite in the discussion of top Arkansas prep female runner of all time. She managed to finish 4th, 5th, 12th, and 13th at Nike Cross Regionals in 4 consecutive years. Her course record also happens to be the state meet record for all classifications. She held high school PR's in the 800/1600/3200 of 2:11/4:52/10:36.Montoya would go on to have a successful career at Baylor in which she was a multi-time All American.She currently boasts a lifetime PR of 15:44 for 5000 meters on the track, and is an Olympic trials qualifier in the marathon, by way of half-marathon time.
2. 18:26.70- Kyandra Chandler (Nettleton)-A 3-time state cross country champion and 7-time state champion on the track, Kyandra ran her time in 2013 at the state meet her junior year.A decorated prep runner, Kyandra came by running naturally. Her father had a long stint as the head distance coach at Arkansas State University and she had multiple siblings that enjoyed successful cross country careers. She currently competes for Utah Valley.
3. 18:28- Ali Nachtigal (Rogers)- Ali's time from last year's state championship ranks 3rd all-time.
4. 18:29.44- Valerie Reina (Har-ber)- A fantastic talent, Valeria ran 18:29 to win the 7A state championship as a Freshman.The state meet was run in Harrison and Mountain Home in two of her prime years. Valerie was the first Reina to compete in Arkansas high school cross country and would go on the have an All-SEC career for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Valerie holds lifetime PR's of 4:43 for the indoor mile and 16:06 for 5000 meters.
5. 18:39- Sara Funderburk (Parkway, LA)-Parkway, Lousiana had a small stint where they drove up to compete at the Lake Hamilton Invitational, and Funderburk's time represents the meet record for all-time girls.A decorated prep runner, she currently competes for LSU.
1. 15:14.70-Brendan Taylor (LR Catholic)- Many great male runners have taken a swing at this record and fallen short. Set in 2013, Taylor defeated a prominent Jacob Shiohira, en' route to his only state cross country title. It was arguably one of the greatest boys cross country matchups ever at the state meet. Also from a decorated track and field family, Taylor would fall just 2 seconds short of the overall 3200 record at the time, running 9:12.43, and nearly broke Gross' 1600 record (now Camren Fischer's record)en-route to a 4:13.38 full mile. He enjoyed a successful career at the University of Oklahoma.
2. 15:17.80- TJ Sugg (Har-ber)- Sugg enjoyed as stretch as long as anywhere he was nearly unbeatable, and had an astounding range with a 1:55 800 PR. When he ran 15:17 as a junior, he won the race by 26 seconds. Of the 38 races in his 3-year career, TJ won 25 of them, for an astonishing 66% win rate. He has a 4:09 mile PR, competing at Baylor.
3. 15:18- Jacob Shiohira (Bentonville)-Shiohira's 9:22 3200 meter PR and 4:22 1600m PR don't do him justice. He's currently the only Arkansas runner to ever win Nike South regionals, and his 13th place at Foot Locker makes him the 2nd best Foot Locker competitor in the state's history, behind Camren Fischer. He also boasted a 15:03 5k cross country PR.
4. 15:21.90- Lukas Pabst (Bentonville)- Pabst's time from last year's state championship, in which he was favored to win, but not by a lot, goes down as the #4 time overall. One can only wonder what kind of times Lukas would have been capable of running on the track if it wasn't for the COVID season cancellations.
5. 15:30.10- Aaron Hamilton (Rogers)-Hamilton was a grinder or a runner, if I've ever seen one. Tough as nails, he was never exceptionally fast on the track, but put him on some grass and it was game over. Hamilton finished 13th place at Nike Team Nationals to lead the Rogers team to a 16th place national finish, as the only Arkansas boys team to ever qualify for the Nike race. Hamilton went on to have an All-SEC career at the University of Arkansas.