The ninth edition of the Festival of Miles was most certainly one of the very best.
A record number of participants competed in the GO! St. Louis Youth Races to kick off the evening. Then the 2016 FOM athlete-in-need, 4-yr-old Triston Walls, was introduced to the crowd at 7pm to a huge ovation. The meet was off to a perfect start.
As has become tradition, the Jr. High Invitational Girls race kicked off the night’s track races. Eighth-grader Niquelette Fazekas took home top honors with her 5:20.16, leading four young ladies under 5:30. But the big show was next as FOM fan favorite Brandon Miller wowed the crowd with a 4:25.02, smashing his own meet record by more than seven seconds and establishing himself as one of the nation’s top eight-graders.
The meet records continued with the Spewak Training Elite Development HS Miles where Colorado’s Madison Mooney ran 4:55.58 to take the victory in the girls race. On the boys side Tennessee’s Joshua Bell ran a smoking 4:11.01 for the win. With beautiful weather (70s, no wind and low humidity) it was clear there were more fast times to come.
The U.S. Marine Corps 800s were next and these HS 2-lap races have become two of the most exciting races at FOM. In the girls race Missouri State Champion Allison Bailey got the win in 2:09.87, keeping the streak alive of a sub 2:10 HS 800s at FOM. For the boys it was Eugene Grayson (OK) who tore up the SLUH track with his 1:51.49.
Next up was the Big River Running Company High School Girls Championship Mile where Iowa’s Stephanie Jenks would be going for her fourth straight FOM title. The deepest field in meet history had other ideas however. In the end it came down to a sprint finish/lean-at-the-tape between Kansas State Champ Cailie Logue and Missouri State Champ Anna West. Logue got over the line first in a near meet record of 4:46.89 with Jenks finishing up her FOM HS career in fifth (4:50.61). All told, 13 girls broke five minutes.
The Saint Louis Injury and Rehab Womens 800 then provided the crowd one of the all-time FOM moments. The sixth year of this particular event, only one athlete had competed in every edition. That would be native Saint Louisan Shannon Leinert (Brooks/Speed Factory Athletics). Facing a monster field that included defending champion LaTavia Thomas, Leinert moved through the field on the backstretch before taking the lead with 100 meters to go and never looking back. The crowd roared as the Eureka HS grad broke the tape in 2:03.19, proving that the sixth time was a charm.
The Big River Running Company High School Boys Championship Section was once again the night’s penultimate event and featured a national level field with athletes from as far away as New York and Wyoming. Fordham Prep senior Conor Lundy (NY) broke the race wide open with a 58-second third lap, forcing the rest of the athletes to chase him down. It took a 57-second final lap from Jon Davis (IL) to overtake Lundy and secure the win in a new meet record of 4:05.29. Lundy ended up a well-earned fifth in 4:09.64. All told, nine boys broke 4:12.0 to once again make FOM one of the top post-season miles in the nation.
And the crowd at FOM knows what comes last. The Saint Louis Track Club Elite Men’s Mile has become a must-see for the St. Louis sports fan. This year’s race featured three-time FOM champ Jordan McNamara (Nike OTC Elite) going for his fourth title but he’d have to fend off challenges from Cristian Sorates (adidas) and Frezer Legesse (Under Armour). The three sub-4 milers hit the one lap to go mark at 3:00, needing a sub-60 to break the mark once again. They did that and more with McNamara rolling a 56.5 to get his fourth win in 3:56.39. Legesse (3:57.24) and Soratos (3:57.39) trailed just behind. Those marks were the 20th, 21st and 22nd sub-4 miles in FOM history.