Had the chance to catch up with 2016 Shelley graduate LeAnn Larkin for the first time since all-area track last year. She placed sixth in the junior women’s 1,500 at the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships on Saturday to end her freshman year at Utah State with a medal at a meet that drew the nation’s top athletes aged 20 and younger. She became the first eastern Idaho athlete to compete at Junior Outdoors since former Rigby athlete Elsja Mecham.
The Medal Stand: Shelley’s Larkin shares Junior Outdoors experience
By MARLOWE HEREFORD
Shelley High School graduate LeAnn Larkin can now say she’s competed in an international qualifier meet and made it into a RunnerSpace.com photo.
Larkin, who is in a gallery post by RunnerSpace’s Instagram account on Sunday, placed sixth in the women’s 1,500-meter finals of the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoors Championships on Saturday in four minutes, 32.23 seconds to conclude her freshman year at Utah State. The finish gave her a personal best time and a medal from the meet that allowed the nation’s top track athletes aged 20 years old and younger, to compete for spots on Team USA for the Pan Am Junior Championships.
“It was a really neat experience being able to be in that atmosphere of those higher level athletes and getting to compete on the same track as them,” Larkin said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Post Register.
The first eastern Idahoan to compete at Junior Outdoors since Elsja Mecham, Larkin qualified in the 1,500 and 3,000 but extreme heat prompted a change of plans. Temperatures in Sacramento reached triple digits Thursday, the first day of competition, and remained in the 90s throughout the weekend. That led meet officials to revise Thursday’s schedule, move events to earlier in the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and eliminate prelims for some events, including the junior women’s 1,500 originally scheduled for Thursday. It was changed to a finals-only event scheduled for 5:10 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, 39 minutes before the 3,000 finals were scheduled. The revised scheduled shortened recovery time between both events, so Larkin chose to scratch the 3,000.
Larkin said the temperature at the start was hovering around the high 90s, and she stayed hydrated and out of the sun as much as possible. A strong bell lap helped Larkin move up to finish in the medals.
“I knew that I’d be competing with some pretty fast girls and that I would just have to do my best to stay in the race and have a strong finish,” Larkin said. “By the time it came to that last lap, I just kicked it in as fast as I could.”
Junior Outdoors took place the same days as the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for athletes older than 20, putting Larkin in the same venue as Olympians and world champions. Larkin said she walked past 2016 Olympian Kate Grace, who took second in Saturday’s 1,500 finals, and 2012 Olympian Alysia Montano, who ran a 2:21 in Thursday’s prelims while five months pregnant.
“That was cool to watch,” Larkin said of Montano.
Larkin was one of six Utah State athletes to compete, and Saturday marked her last time wearing dark blue and gray for a while. She leaves July 12 to serve an LDS mission in Raleigh, N.C. She spoke highly of her coaches and teammates in Logan, and said she will return to Utah State to finish her cross-country and track career upon completion of her mission.
“I love Utah State,” Larkin said. “My coaches definitely played a big part in helping me get to junior nationals. They helped me set goals for times to meet. Everybody’s been really supportive along the way.”
Some familiar faces will be in Logan after she returns. Coen Haroldsen, who graduated from Bonneville earlier this month, signed with the Aggies, as has Larkin’s Shelley teammate Paytin Drollinger. Larkin traveled to state cross-country in October in Pocatello, where Drollinger won the 3A girls race, and said she got to view videos of Drollinger’s 38-point weekend at state track in May that included new Shelley records in the 1,600 and 3,200.
“Seeing Paytin break my records was really cool,” Larkin said. “She worked really hard this past year, especially coming off her injury.”
Coming up locally
The 21st annual All-American Sawtelle Stampede half marathon, 10k, 5k run/walk and kids 1k takes place Saturday in Island Park. Start times are 7 a.m. for the half marathon, 8:45 a.m. for the kids run and 9 a.m. for the 5k and 10k.
Two events are scheduled for July 4: the 12th annual FireKracker 5k at the intersection of E 25th Street and S Boulevard in Idaho Falls and the Main Street Mile in Rexburg.
Team USA Update
The Phillips 66 National Championships began Tuesday in Indianapolis and Katie Ledecky is already tearing up the pool. On Tuesday, she won the women’s 800 freestyle in 8:11.50 (ninth fastest all-time and a nine second victory margin) less than an hour after placing sixth in a loaded 100 freestyle finals won by Mallory Comerford in a US Open record time of 52.81. On Wednesday, she won the women’s 200 freestyle in a world No. 1 time of 1:54.84. Nathan Adrian edged Caeleb Dressel by one hundredth of a second to win the 100 freestyle, recreating their 2016 Olympic Trials finish.