For high school track and field enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than the Arcadia Invitational. Billed as “The Home of National Records,” the annual showcase attracts the top track and field student-athletes in the country, and even the world.

But while this year’s event hosted participants from as far away as New Zealand, some of the weekend’s best performances came courtesy of student-athletes who attend school in our very own archdiocese. Here are two Los Angeles-area Catholic school products who turned a lot of heads on Saturday.

rnBoys performance of the night: Matt Katnik (St. John Bosco)

When the participants in Saturday’s men’s shot put lined up next to one another prior to the event, St. John Bosco senior Matt Katnik already stood out in the crowd. But the beefy, imposing Katnik wasn’t just a man amongst boys in appearance; he was also far and away the best shot-putter in the event.

The USC-bound Katnik executed throw after throw with textbook technique that culminated in a vociferous grunt as he let the shot fly. But as loud as Katnik was when he launched the shot, he couldn’t match the volume of the spectators watching the shots land, time and again, 10-plus feet farther than anyone else’s.

Katnik’s best hurl of the day occurred in the second round when he sent the shot 71-3.5 feet, shattering the current national best and missing the all-time national record by a mere .76 inches.

“I felt really centered and good,” says Katnik of the record toss. “I was really fast throughout the ring, and when it (the shot) came out of my hand, I knew it was going to be a good throw.”

With the rest of the pool trailing by an insurmountable margin, Katnik’s only real competition remaining was the record marker (set by Fallbrook’s Brent Noon in 1990). Despite a valiant effort, which included tosses of 70-4.5 and 69-3.5, Katnik was unable to eclipse the record.

“After that 71 foot throw, I was like ‘Alright, I gotta improve an inch just to get the record.’ I was upset I couldn’t do it, but I’m happy with the PR [personal record].”

Although Katnik couldn’t surpass the record, his throws were more than good enough to win him the gold medal. The only participant to land a shot in Katnik’s neighborhood was silver medalist Nathan Bultman of West Ranch, who, like Katnik, is headed to USC in the fall.

Bultman’s second place performance has Katnik very excited about what the two of them can accomplish when they join forces next season.

“I love it. I love it how we went 1-2 in a big meet like this, the most competitive meet in the nation, in my opinion,” says Katnik. “Hopefully we’re going to do it at Mt. SAC, and for the next four years at SC.”

rnGirls performance of the night: Kaitlyn Merritt (Santa Margarita)

In stature, diminutive Santa Margarita senior pole vaulter Kaitlyn Merritt is the polar opposite of Katnik. But in her ability to dominate the field of competition, Merritt is precisely the same.

For the third straight year, Merritt captured the women’s pole vault gold medal in convincing fashion. In a highly competitive event that saw eight girls clear 13’01”, Merritt was able to outlast her competition and clear a 13’08” pole, which matched the Arcadia Invitational record she set in 2013.

“I take every bar as a new challenge,” says Merritt. “I just have so much fun pole vaulting. I think that’s what keeps me jumping high. I have such a passion for it, and each practice is just so much fun. It’s a challenge getting each technical element, so that’s what really helps me get higher ... and if I mess it up, I just laugh and try it again.”

Merritt had very few mishaps to laugh off in the event, as she had a chance to eclipse the national best of 14’01”. Though she came remarkably close to doing so on three straight attempts, each try ended with her nicking the pole just enough to knock it down.

“It’s a little frustrating being close but not quite there, but I think that will just add fuel to the fire,” insists Merritt. “That was basically as close as I could’ve gotten without being a make, so I’m happy with it. Yeah, I wanted a make, but I’m proud of the jump it turned out to be.”

While Merritt received a great deal of support from the impressed crowd, Merritt claims that no one encouraged her more than sophomore teammate Kate Thomas, who also finished in the top five.

“Kate’s an awesome teammate,” says Merritt. “It’s so cool having her here, especially at the night meet. We definitely just push each other and cheer each other on. It’s such a family I get to jump with. I’m so lucky.”

rnOther standouts

Vista Murrieta junior Michael Norman, recently profiled in the L.A. Times, set an Arcadia Invitational record by recording a time of 45.91 seconds in the Men’s 400 meter dash. He also played a major role in helping the Broncos finish the 4x100 relay in a national best 40.68 seconds. Archdiocese of Los Angeles representative Chaminade finished a very close second with a time of 40.80 seconds.

Oaks Christian sophomore Lauren Rain won four medals, including three golds in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and the 4x100 relay. The Lions’ 45.57 second time in the relay is a national best.

Roosevelt senior Jasmyne Graham set the national mark for women’s 100 meter hurdles with an outstanding time of 13.21 seconds. She dashed off the field just as quickly to make the starting gun for another major event: her senior prom!