The Clovis High school cross country website has made this clear about the school-hosted Asics Clovis Invitational Saturday at Woodward Park: "Sorry, this year's meet is full!"
Meaning, no vacancy, not a slot available for the 35th running of a 164-team, 4,000-participant meet that typically offers a semi-preview of the CIF State Championships at the same site seven weeks later.
But for local and state-wide cross country fans well-versed in the accomplishments of seniors Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley and Blake Haney of Stockdale, be comforted.
They will be there.
The best female and male high school distance runners in the nation, right?
Baxter? "Without a doubt," says Rich Gonzalez of www.prepcaltrack.com and the state's leading authority on prep running.
Haney? "He's in the discussion for No. 1," Gonzalez adds. "He's definitely at the level but has company."
Baxter — who has several relatives living in the Fresno area, and whose father, Kevin Baxter, is a 1990 graduate of Fresno High — is unbeaten as a prep in cross country and track and field.
In cross country, she's a three-time state champion, two-time Nike Cross National titlist and 2012 Gatorade National Girls Runner of the Year.
In track and field, she's a three-time state 3,200-meter champion who won June's final by 15 seconds at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
That occurred a little more than six months after Baxter won state gold in the Division I cross race by 30 seconds in a Woodward 3.1-mile course-record 16:40.
And that came a month after she timed 16:00 over 3 miles at the Mount SAC Invitational — a 15-second course record — in what is generally considered the nation's greatest cross country performance by a high school female. Ever.
"The remarkable thing is," Simi Valley coach Roger Evans says, "she's running these stellar times with internal grind and clock — no one to catch her, no one to push her. She feels an obligation to go out there and run as well as she can for the team."
Baxter will fire in the 9:10 a.m. Championship Girls race with little resemblance to the wispy 5-foot, 83-pound freshman that shocked the state at Woodward in 2010.
Today, she stands 5-7 and 110 and with prominent colleges beckoning.
She visited Oregon and Washington the past two weeks, and in November will go to Colorado, where she could possibly team with current Buffaloes freshman and former Buchanan star Hagen Reedy.
"As soon as I know, I'll let people know," Baxter says. "I'm still keeping college open."
Haney appears closer to making the call: "I have an idea, but I don't want to put it out there."
He's visited Georgetown and Stanford the past two weeks, with scheduled trips to Arizona State and Oregon upcoming.
The 5-11, 128-pounder became the first Central Section runner to sweep the state 1,600 (4:06.91) and 3,200 (9:01.65) races in June.
Then, in July, he extended his brilliance internationally by placing fifth in the 1,500 at the IAAF World Youth Championships at Ukraine. His time of 3:44.69 ranked ninth in U.S. history for his age group (17-under).
A year after a leg injury restricted his cross country season, he'll aim Saturday in the 9:45 a.m. Championship Boys race for the six-year Woodward record of 14:24 held by German Fernandez of Riverbank.
"It's nice to get on the state meet course early," Haney says. "I'd like to run really fast and see how fast I can go."
ASICS CLOVIS INVITATIONAL
Saturday: At Woodward Park
Schedule: 16 races, including 10 varsity, from 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Championship Girls and Boys races at 9:10 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.
Admission: Free; $5 for parking
Field: 164 teams, 4,000 runners
The stars: Stockdale's Blake Haney and Simi Valley's Sarah Baxter
Boys on the clock: The state's top-ranked teams in Divisions I, II and III, as compiled by www.prepcaltrack.com's Rich Gonzalez, will be featured in defending state champion Arcadia, Saugus and Brea Olinda. And Madera South — Central Section D-I titlist and seventh in the state in 2012 — is flying again despite losing three athletes now running in college. The Stallions, ranked No. 4 in the state's D-I, have balance in age behind sophomore Eduardo Herrera, senior Michael Marquez and freshman Miguel Villar, who could be the program's best ever by the time he graduates.
Girls on the clock: The motive of Simi Valley's debut at the Clovis Invitational isn't disguised by coach Roger Evans: "The last two years we certainly felt we had the components and talent of being state champions, but we missed. The girls want to be more familiar with the course." The Baxter-powered group, competing in D-II (as determined by enrollment) after D-I last year, is top-ranked in the state overall. Capistrano Valley and Buchanan are Nos. 1-2 in D-I. Buchanan returns five of its top six from a team that was third in the state last season, featuring junior Hannah Benoit-Bucher — fourth behind Baxter in the loaded Woodbridge Classic three weeks ago. Bears coach Brian Weaver says his top senior, two-time Bee All-Star Maddy Nikkel, will remain out for a couple of weeks with a knee injury.
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