Northern Arizona's Estrada leads pack of record-holders to race at Payton Jordan
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Northern Arizona's Diego Estrada, a 2012 Olympian and nine-time All-American, will take on 23 of the world’s best distance runners in the 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational on Sunday in Palo Alto, Calif., a year removed from qualifying for his Olympic bid at the same meet.
“Diego [Estrada] has not run a 5,000-meter race outdoors yet this season, so he’s looking to go run a fast race,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said. “The main goal will be for him to get his qualifier for not only the Big Sky Outdoor Championships, but for the NCAA West Regional meet as well.”
Estrada has always performed exceptionally well throughout his storied career with the Lumberjacks at the meet, held annually at Stanford's Cobb Track and Angell Field. In fact, his current personal bests in both the 5,000 (13:26.94) and 10,000 meters (27:32.90) came at Payton Jordan in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Estrada’s Payton Jordan appearance last April in the 10,000 meters was his meal ticket to becoming an Olympian for his native Mexico, while his 5,000-meter time from 2011 is the second fastest in NAU and Big Sky Conference history. Because Estrada’s time in the 10,000 meter came during his redshirt season, however, it did not count in school or conference record books.
The field around Estrada is among the toughest he has faced while wearing an NAU uniform, but after finishing the indoor season second nationally in the 5,000 meters and fourth in the 3,000 meters, he is up to the challenge. Just four other collegians have entered the race, two of whom Estrada beat at NCAA indoor championships in the 5,000 meters, while the rest will be a mix of athletes competing unattached, for club teams or for their national teams.
As far as post-collegiate runners are concerned, two-time NCAA cross country champion Sam Chelanga, formerly of Liberty, American mile record-holder Alan Webb, former Stanford All-American and recent USA Cross Country champion Chris Derrick, American 10,000-meter record holder Chris Solinsky and Evan Jager, who finished sixth in the steeplechase at the London Olympics, will all be competing on Sunday.
To put Payton Jordan’s prowess as a distance relay event into perspective, according to Stanford’s website, 22 of the 40 fastest times by American men were run at the 2012 meet. Among those times, the men’s 5,000 last year featured four of the seven top American times and 13 of the top 50.