Xavier Arellano of Gering continues to build on his pre-high school successes after he captured two gold medals and one bronze medal last weekend in the Minnesota AAU Junior Olympic Region 14 National Qualifier Track and Field Meet in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Competing in his 14-year-old age group, Arellano finished third on Saturday morning in the 800-meter run and then won his 1,500-meter event Saturday afternoon in regional-record fashion. On Sunday morning, Arellano won the 3,000 meters, again in convincing style.
Since the top-eight finishers in each event qualify for the AAU National Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, Arellano earned national berths in the July 28-Aug. 2 national meet at Drake University with relative ease.
“I was happy and excited. It was kind of unbelievable,” Arellano said of his competing at the AAU regional level for the first time.
On Saturday morning, Arellano took third overall in the 800 run after he placed first in his heat in 2:14.84.
As he did in the state 800 run, Arellano led his heat from start to finish and won the heat by 5.69 seconds. The winning time, when heats were combined, was 2:11.82.
In the 1,500 run Saturday afternoon, Arellano again led from the start and crossed the line in 4:33.04, winning the race by 19.22 seconds but also slipping under the regional meet record of 4:34.53 by 1.49 seconds.
“I didn’t know what it was going in,” Arellano said of the 1,500 event’s record, which was three years old. “When they announced the results over the speakers, my aunt Melissa told me I had broken the record but we still didn’t know for sure. We actually found out the next day.”
In the 3,000 run Sunday morning, Arellano ran against older competitors and came out on top in the 14-year-old class with a time of 9:59.15. The age-group runner-up was 33.52 seconds behind.
In the actual combined race, Arellano said he thought he finished about seventh or eighth out of 20 competitors.
“It was fun because I got to meet new kids around the area,” Arellano said of his overall experience of competing in the regional meet, which included about 900 competitors from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Arellano is traveling with seven members, and they are staying with other family in Minnesota through July until Arellano competes in the national meet. The national event is expected to draw about 13,000 competitors from all 50 states.
“I usually run in the afternoon and at night, and sometimes in the morning I go on a long run,” said Arellano, whose workouts are directed via text message by Gering boys’ cross country and distance coach Rick Marez.
As an eighth-grader at Gering Middle School, Arellano won three gold medals at the state scholastic level, including the 800- and 1,600-meter runs at the state junior high track meet on May 17 in Gothenburg. He also won the state junior high cross country championship in October in LaVista.
Arellano won both state track races after finishing fourth in each competition last year as a seventh-grader; the Nebraska junior high events are open-class, open-grade.
In the fall, Arellano won the boys’ state junior high cross country title with a meet record time of 10:12, breaking the previous standard by 43 seconds.
Gering’s cross country season begins in August.