Luke Atkinson (‘22) and Girls 4×800 team qualify for the Arcadia Invitational


Dahlia Versteeg

After their race, the girls (from left to right: Tessa Jennings (‘24), Dahlia Versteeg (‘23), Ella McCarthy (‘22), and Taya Small (‘22)) posed with the famous Arcadia logo.

On April 8th, the Amador track team sent five individuals to the Arcadia Invitational, a prestigious meet that featured athletes from 29 states and over 600 schools. 

Over its 50-year course, the meet has hosted 32 national high school records and 179 athletes that went on to become U.S. Olympians, cementing its status as the one of the most well-known pre collegiate track-and-field meets in the history of the sport. 

Under blistering heat, teammates Tessa Jennings (‘24), Dahlia Versteeg (‘23), Ella McCarthy (‘22), and Taya Small (‘22) prepared for the 4×800 relay by practicing baton handoffs and strides. 

All four teammates had run times around 2:30 to qualify for the meet and were aiming for the #3 spot on the AV all-time list.

“The atmosphere was really exciting at the meet. I felt pretty nervous but also really excited to have this competitive experience,” said Small. 

Through the weeks leading up to the meet, the girls did relay-specific training. 

“Relays definitely use a lot of teamwork because each leg is important. You run your part of the race knowing that your team relies on how well you run. That makes it a lot more pressuring, but I was also comforted knowing that three other girls had my back,” said Versteeg

However when race day came, meet conditions were far from ideal. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees, officials decided to push events back by 45 minutes. The girls were unable to finish their warm up due to the schedule change. 

“I was able to run around what I had run in the qualifying race, but I probably could’ve run a little faster with better conditions and more of a warm up,” said Jennings

Meet procedures varied as well, some of them being different from what athletes were used to doing at meets prior. 

“There were specific places for athletes and a podium for photos. Also, the track was all cut up, which meant that we all had to go into the bullpen early, sign in, and be arranged beforehand,” said Versteeg

Despite the challenges, the girls raced well, with all four girls either coming close to, matching, or surpassing past PRs.

On top of the race, the girls were able to enjoy the simpler parts of the trip, like hanging out at the hotel or cheering during the race. 

“I’m happy I was able to go, especially because this was probably the last relay I got to run with Ella and Taya before they leave for college,” said Jennings

For Small and McCarthy, the meet marked a successful end to their high school track careers. 

“Arcadia is just a cool experience, and I’m glad I got to go one last time in my senior year,” said McCarthy.  


One Step for Man…

Jumper Luke Atkinson (‘22) smiles with his parents during the senior recognition ceremony. (Laura Versteeg)

An Arcadia qualification often comes from the culmination of a successful season—and jumper Luke Atkinson (‘22) is no exception. 

At the EBAL Center Meet, Luke Atkinson (‘22) jumped 42 feet, 8.25 inches in the triple jump, becoming the #9 triple jumper in Amador Valley history and leaping straight into an Arcadia qualification. 

“Learning that I qualified for the best meet in California (other than the state championship) was pretty crazy and was a great feeling that after these 4 years of track, I was finally in the top 12 in the state for triple jump,” said Atkinson

Unfortunately, Atkinson was unable to attend due to a pre-planned family trip. 

“I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t go to arguably one of the best high school track meets in the country, but I still have NCS and State to look forward to,” said Atkinson.

For those shooting for bigger meets like Arcadia, Atkinson’s advice is to stay patient and focused. Jumping, like all track events, is mostly a “mental game.” 

“Don’t worry if someone is better than you, or if you didn’t jump as good as you thought. Patience is key in the triple-it takes a long time to get even somewhat decent at it. So, when it’s your turn to jump, make it count,” said Atkinson.