PORTLAND, Ore. — Christina Aragon rewrote the middle distance records in Montana over her four years at Billings Senior, but after graduation she set her sights higher with the Olympic Trials.
Aragon traveled to the Portland Track Festival on Sunday to jump into a 1,500-meter race in hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trials in just a few weeks. This was her best chance of running the required standard to compete of 4 minutes, 9.5 seconds.
On Sunday, Aragon punched her ticket to Eugene, Oregon, when she ran 4:09.27, the fastest time by a high schooler this year, to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
“That was pretty much my only goal in my mind going into this race,” said Aragon. “I wasn’t too concerned with place.”
Aragon not only ran the time she needed to, but she won with a 64-second last lap. She opened up a gap on the rest of the field, which included professional runners and fellow recent high school grads, Katie Rainsberger of Colorado and Ella Donaghu of Oregon. All three set new bests as well as the top three high school times this year.
“I knew even if I died with 100 (meters) to go, it was better to go and try to get everything out of myself and die than to be picking it up down the last straight and not quite be able to do it so I just decided last lap and go,” said Aragon.
Earlier this year, some began to think Aragon may have a shot at qualifying when she ran 4 minutes, 11.24 seconds on May 1 to win a 1,500-meter race that included professionally sponsored runners at Stanford in the Payton Jordan Invitational. It was two seconds slower than the standard required to compete at the Olympic Trials in Eugene from July 1-10.
And while members of the running and track and field communities have taken notice of the recent high school grad, Aragon says she doesn’t really feel the buzz since she generally stays away from social media.
“I don’t see it quite as much,” said Aragon, who will run in college at Stanford. “I just try to focus on each race.”
For the foreseeable future, that focus will bring her all over the West Coast. She will race an 800 meters at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle June 18 and will head south to Clovis, California, the following weekend. And then will be the biggest race of her young career, the Olympic Trials.
“In regard to the Olympic year, it’s a bonus,” said her dad Chuck Aragon before the race. “It’s the cherry on top. She’s had a great high school career. We’re very thankful for that. If she by chance gets to compete in the Olympic Trials, wow.”
As of Sunday, Aragon will get her chance.
“I’m obviously going to be pretty nervous, but I’m just going to try to channel that nervousness into more excitement because that’s just an awesome opportunity and I’m really lucky to be able to have that so I’m just going to go out there and have fun and run fast hopefully.”
Her parents will be there, regardless, just as they were Sunday.
“It’s our one decadence,” said Chuck Aragon. “We’ll fly clear across the country to watch our kids run for four minutes and if they run for 3:59, we’re even happier.”
And even though she’s excited for what she thinks will be great experience, Aragon’s racing instincts will still be there, too.
“Honestly, I’m just really excited for that whole experience,” said Aragon. “If I could get out of the first heat that would be awesome.”