Marin Catholic sophomore runner Samantha Wallenstrom set a new personal best on Saturday at the Distance Fiesta at Dublin High School, breaking five minutes in the 1600m.
Wallenstrom, who clocked a 4:59.38, set a sophomore meet record, becoming the first sophomore in meet history to go under the five-minute mark. Her time placed her 12th in the United States in the 1600m, seven seconds back of the national leader.
“The girls who were running this were just phenomenal,” Wallenstrom told RunnerSpace. “I wasn’t even planning on breaking away. I was just going to try to hang on with them, and just try to stay with the top pack and get a PR.”
Wallenstrom was on the shoulder of the leader with 200 meters to go, before she turned on her signature kick and finished 2.03 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
“If there’s anyone near her with 200 to go, it’s over,” Marin Catholic head track coach Wayne Patton told the Examiner. “If she can keep herself in the race and run the race to win it, she has such a phenomenal kick, and such great foot speed, she’s going to out-kick whoever’s near her. It’s a sight to see.”
Last season, Wallenstrom opened eyes on the coaching staff when she ran 58-59 second 4x400m splits — exceptional for a freshman — and ran well in the 800m, clocking a 2:16 and making the Meet of Champions at UC Berkeley. Then, she set a personal best in the 1600m with a 5:09.
Coming into her first meet this season, two weeks ago, the goal was to hit a 5:10 in a home meet against San Marin, and shoot for specific 400m splits. She won the race with a 5:12 and the nearest competitor was nearly 30 seconds behind her.
In eight years at Marin Catholic — including five as head coach — Patton has not seen a runner like Wallenstrom.
“She’s one of those girls who could probably train to compete in anything between the 200 meters and the 3200, and win them in most dual meets, and even some bigger meets,” Patton said.
The plan before the race on Saturday was for Wallenstrom to get out in the top four early, and after 400m, she was in fifth. She moved up to fourth at the midway, and through 1200, she was right on the leader’s shoulder in second.
“On the back stretch, we told her to go at 200 meters,” Patton said. “At 200 meters, just like clockwork, she went, and she almost put two seconds on the girl in the last 200.”
The win and time earned Wallenstrom — who has won all seven races she’s entered this year, including the 800m — an automatic qualifier for the prestigious Arcadia Invitational the weekend of April 5, and she’s qualified for the Stanford Invitational the weekend before. Patton said the staff may have her run the 800 at Stanford, and then the mile at Arcadia.
“I wanted to break five this year, and the fact that I’ve done that, I want to lower my PRs going into championship season. I want to get to state,” Wallenstrom said. “I didn’t get to state last year.”