He's qualified because: In meets at Woodward Park's 3.1-mile course, he won the Tri-River Athletic Conference (15 minutes, 21 seconds) and and Central Section Division I (15:19) before placing fourth in the CIF State Championships D-I race in 14:51 – a section record by 11 seconds, eighth in state meet history and No. 1 all-time for a junior at Woodward.
The time beat his previous best by 28 seconds, smashed the Central Section record and placed fourth in the state's elite cross country division.
But, for Buchanan High junior C.J. Albertson, it was much more.
What he also did by blistering Woodward Park's 3.1-mile course in 14 minutes and 51 seconds at the CIF State Cross Country Championships in late November was run himself into a massive spotlight.
Actually, there's not a bigger, brighter one for prep cross country in the nation – the state of California's Division I boys.
And today, based on that performance six weeks ago, Albertson would be considered the favorite for next year's race.
"I've always thought of being a state champion, it has always been a goal," says The Bee's boys cross country Runner of the Year.
The only times among five divisions better than Albertson's in the state finals were by seniors in his D-I race – Arcadia's Ammar Moussa (D-I record 14:43), Patrick Henry-San Diego's Ryan Urie (14:45) and M.L. King-Riverside's Lane Werley (14:46).
The quality of the race was unmatched in the meet's 24-year history, and it drew a performance out of Albertson that left him numb on a cold, wet day that runners actually deemed ideal.
Entering the meet, a 14:53 by South Pasadena's Samuel Pons in the 2009 Clovis Invitational was the best time by a junior in the history of Woodward Park, for three decades the state's recognized home venue.
And this was no secret to Clayton Jordan Albertson, who had done his research: "I always looked at the all-time Woodward Park list and the junior [class] times, and they were pretty crazy fast. I thought some day I could run it, but when I actually did I was kind of shocked."
His time not only would have won the state D-I race in 21 of the previous 23 years, it would have dominated.
And he delivered it 15 days after running a then-personal record 15:19 while winning the section D-I title by 12 seconds ahead of teammate Kevin Barnard.
Buchanan won the section D-I team championship and placed fifth at state.
The Bears also won the section boys track and field title in the spring, and Bee All-Star Albertson contributed 16 points by placing third in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600 and 3,200 – a triple as unusual as it was demanding.
"He's an amazing competitor," Buchanan coach Brian Weaver says. "And for him to become the fastest junior ever at Woodward Park is truly amazing. He had something to prove. His freshman and sophomore state [cross country] meets didn't go as planned. He wanted to prove all the time, energy and things he sacrificed to become a great runner would pay off, and they did."
Albertson's cross country momentum will flow into the spring track and field season. And it is there that he will arrive already ranked second in Buchanan history and eighth in section annals in the 1,600 (4:12.75).
He'll take aim at the school record of 4:10.04 by Jonathan Sanchez in 2009 and the section standard of 4:06.4 by Reedley's Peter Romero in 1967.
"I love track and I feel the 1,600 is my main event, the perfect distance," Albertson says. "I want to first break the school record and then just be up there and compete for the state title."