Girls 800 emerges as track’s glamour event in Arizona this year

Mingus’s Meg Babcock leads Division 3 rankings, fourth overall in state

Mingus senior Meg Babcock sits atop Arizona’s Division 3 rankings in the 800, a full 5 seconds ahead of her longtime rival and three-time defending 800-meter state champion, Samantha Schadler of Rio Rico High School. All divisions combined, Babcock has the fourth fastest time in Arizona this year. VVN file photo

Mingus senior Meg Babcock sits atop Arizona’s Division 3 rankings in the 800, a full 5 seconds ahead of her longtime rival and three-time defending 800-meter state champion, Samantha Schadler of Rio Rico High School. All divisions combined, Babcock has the fourth fastest time in Arizona this year. VVN file photo

One month into the season, the girls’ 800-meter run has become the glamour event of Arizona high school track and field in Arizona in 2019.

And right smack dab in the middle of the mix is Mingus Union High School senior Meg Babcock.

Babcock finished fifth Saturday in the National Elite Division of the 79th annual Chandler Rotary Invitational. Her 2:15.02 clocking shaved more than a second off her previous Mingus school record established during her winning effort in the 2018 Arizona Meet of Champions.

This week, Babcock sits atop Arizona’s Division 3 rankings in the 800, a full 5 seconds ahead of her longtime rival and three-time defending 800-meter state champion, Samantha Schadler of Rio Rico High School.

All divisions combined, Babcock has the fourth fastest time in Arizona this year.

Twice already in 2019, two different runners have eclipsed the former 800 state record of 2:07.06 established by Chandler phenom Morgan Foster in 2016.

Foster did it first three weeks ago with a 2:06.13 clocking.

In the Chandler Rotary event Saturday, North Canyon junior Dominique Mustin also dipped under the 2:07 barrier with a 2:06.99 clocking.

Foster opted out of the 800 Saturday after winning the combined 1600-meter/mile run in 4:47.03/4:49.01. Schadler finished second, 6 seconds back.

Overall, Foster is the most dominant 800-meter runner in Arizona history. Of the 21 sub-2:10 clockings ever run by Arizona girls, Foster owns 9 of them, including 5 of the 8 fastest times ever.

Following Saturday’s race, Mustin is now the No. 2 performer in Arizona history at 2:06.99. Two weeks ago, she ran 2:09.64 in a winning effort over Babcock.

Who is really the fastest ever?

As is the case with every distance running event in Arizona, the shadow of the late Kathy Gibbons remains hard to escape nearly 50 years after the Phoenix Alhambra standout was one of the most dominant female runners in America.

Gibbons never ran in an Arizona high school track and field meet. The Arizona Interscholastic Association did not sanction the sport for girls in Arizona until 1974, two years after Gibbons graduated from high school.

Instead, Gibbons cut her running teeth on the old Amateur Athletic Union age group circuit before emerging as one of the nation’s elite runners during her junior year of high school.

In the days of dirt tracks and stopwatches, Gibbons was clocked in 2:07.60 for 800 meters in 1971 during her junior year in high school. Running what, at that time, was the more conventional 880-yard run – slightly farther than 800 meters – Gibbons had a best time of 2:06.7 in 1972.

According to MileSplitUSA’s time and distance converter, Gibbons’ 2:06.7 for 880 yards equates to 2:05.97 for 800 meters, 16-hundredths of a second faster than Foster’s recognized state record.

Run by an Arizona high school girl who never had the chance to run in an Arizona high school track meet.

Gibbons was an alternate on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team at 1500 meters. She was injured leading into the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. The United States boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow.

Gibbons was killed Jan. 12, 1982, when struck by a car in Boulder, Colo., during a training run in preparation for the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials.

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