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Wright, Erikson share Arcadia Invitational experiences

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

Two District 6 track athletes traveled to the Golden State over the weekend to compete at the storied Arcadia Invitational and test themselves against some of the nation’s best high school athletes.

Shelley’s Ty Wright and Idaho Falls’s Zach Erikson, both juniors and Idaho state track medalists, competed a day apart at the 51st annual meet which draws nationally ranked talent and has produced 179 U.S. Olympic athletes. Erikson was the first to compete, running Friday evening under the lights in the boys rated 3,200 meters. He was in the first heat of three in the event, which ultimately had 92 finishers.

He compared the atmosphere to Nike Cross Northwest and Foot Locker West Regionals, which he competed in a month apart during cross-country season.

“Compared to track meets (I’ve been to), it’s way better,” Erikson said Wednesday by phone. “Nothing in track compares to Arcadia. I came into the race knowing that I may not have the fastest seed time or anything, but I was ready to race against some better people and throw down a fast time.”

Erikson moved into the top five of his heat within the first 400 meters, then into the top three and into the lead with 1,000 meters remaining. He said he would have preferred to have gotten off to a faster start — the lead pack went through the first mile in 4:44 — but the pace picked up and the second mile was completed in 4:37.

He was able to gauge his time upon seeing the first and second place runners from his heat cross the finish line. He finished in nine minutes, 21.97 seconds, putting him 31st overall in the final results compiled from the three heats and giving him a personal best by 13 seconds. That time is currently the fastest by an Idaho boy of any classification for the 3,200 thus far this outdoor season per athletic.net.

“They ran a 9:18 and I knew I was within five seconds of them,” Erikson said. “I knew it was a pretty quick time. I was really excited in my head, but the rest of my body was really tired.”

Erikson medaled in all three distance events with personal best times at last year’s 4A state track meet, and he is turning his attention to setting personal bests in the 800 and 1,600 by the end of this season. Competing in his first Arcadia Invitational, however, was an opportunity he won’t soon forget.

“I watch and read a lot about the top runners in the nation,” Erikson said. “Every year, Arcadia is just the No. 1 meet that these athletes go to. It’s always been a dream of mine to go.”

Wright also got his turn to compete under the lights in the boys invitational high jump finals Saturday evening. Two-time defending 3A state champion, Wright compared Arcadia’s atmosphere to other big meets he’s been to this year but with a few notable differences.

“It was super fun … All the Nike stuff and the announcing, all the great athletes there,” Wright said Wednesday by phone. “It was definitely a lot different than Idaho. The humidity was crazy. It was hot, but I like competing in the heat.”

Wright, who entered Arcadia having cleared an outdoor personal best six feet, eight inches at the Utah Valley University Invitational on March 31, finished tied for sixth place with Daylon Hicks of Clayton Valley (Calif) by clearing 6-5. Neither Hicks nor Wright was able to clear 6-7. Tyler Cronk of Kentridge (Wash.) won the event by clearing 6-9. Cronk later attempted 7-0 twice but was unable to clear it. There were 15 competitors Saturday evening.

“I wasn’t super thrilled with my performance,” Wright said. “The week before, I got through 6-8 clean. This meet, I missed 6-5 twice. It was definitely a good experience. It helps you in the long run.”

Wright said he and his coaches started looking for bigger meets to send him to after he cleared 6 feet, nine inches to win Simplot Games in February. Arcadia was recommended to Wright by Shelley co-head track coach Drew Wilson, who was familiar with the meet and helped him complete the necessary paperwork to be able to go.

Having competed in his first Arcadia Invitational and clearing 6-8 by early April, Wright is now turning his attention to the elusive height he first attempted at Simplot: seven feet.

“I’ve been training pretty hard because I wasn’t expecting super big results the first half of the season,” Wright said. “As we get closer to the second half of the season, I’ll start tapering and hope I can get that seven feet.”

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