With the Hawaii state track and field championship just over a month away, the favorites to win titles are starting to show. Most notably on the distance spectrum, Connor Lehl has displayed his dominance consistently every week.
This past weekend - at a small practice meet on the island of O'ahu - the 2016 Cross Country State Champion and Gatorade Runner of the Year foreshadowed what may come next month when he contends for another title.
Lehl competed in the 800m in which he led from start to tape to clinch the win; nearly 50m ahead of second place Timothy Chang, also of Punahou in 1:59.02 to 2:06.25.
"I knew that I was going to have to take the race out fast since I was probably the only one capable of doing so and running under 2 minutes in these conditions."
Connor's goal pace was to pass through 400m in the 56-58 range; he ultimately did so in 57 seconds which was decent enough pace for him to be able to break the two minute barrier without competition. The intense heat of the day restricted any majorly quick times; but Lehl's stride was consistent throughout the race which predicts a tough final at states against Nicholas Georgia and Hudson Lockette who went 1:58 to 1:59 last week at the Ruby Tuesday Invitational.
However, Lehl also holds a freshman PR of 1:58 and on March 18th at the Mustang Relays, Lehl split 1:58 on a 4x800 after winning the boys 1600 in 4:24 over Palo Alto's Ian Irish. Later on in the night, Lehl anchored Punahou's 4x4 team to a time of 3:31.41 with a 51 second split.
Lehl's speed will play a strong aspect in his attempt to possible triple at states (800, 1500, and 3k.) His 4:24 at the Mustang Relays converts to 4:05 for the 1500m; only seven seconds off of the all time state record in the event held by Kaeo Kruse in3:58 set last year. A week later, Lehl he ran 4:04 to finish ten seconds ahead of Kalaheo's Colby Otero at the Ruby Tuesday Invite on March 25th.
His possible 3k title however will be a different story. Until his race this week - where he ran 9:29.23 for the win - he had not competed in the event since sophomore year.
"The goal today in the 3k wasn't really to go hard. I know I have the speed and endurance right now so the goal was just to pace my guys to qualify for the state championship."
In this race the pace was taken out by Iolani's Jason Wang who established a 20 meter gap right from the gun. Lehl stayed in the range of second to fourth place for most of the race until he felt as though there was an opportunity at reeling in the first place contender. With two laps to go he began to close the gap until - at 300m out - he kicked and passed the finish line ahead of Wang who ultimately came through in 9:30.
Connor is still deciding whether or not he wants to contest the three events at states, or stick with the 800 and 1500m. "It's a really tough triple to do, and I'm not sure if it is entirely possible with the competition I might have this year." He has around a month to make a decision since he has already qualified in each of them; until then, he plans to work on his speed more and will try his hand at the 400m in which he believes 50 seconds to be feasible.Currently he is undecided as to which college he wants to commit to. Two of his top choices are Santa Clara University, and Willamette University (where Olympian Nick Symmonds attended.) He plans to make his decision soon and hopes to compete in Cross Country and Track & Field.