It will be a reunion of sorts Nov. 6 when two members of the 2000 California state champion cross country team both toe the line for the New York City Marathon.
Once teammates, Montgomery High School alums — Kim Conley and Sara (Bei) Hall — are slated to race each other and thousands of others in one of the most competitive marathons on the 2016 calendar.
Both Conley and Hall have forged successful running careers and both are looking at the marathon as the next logical step in their evolution as runners. And the fact that both have been among the top American racers in a variety of distances over the course of their careers makes the fact that they were once prep teammates all the more remarkable.
It’s been 16 years since the Vikings brought home the Division II cross country title from the state meet in Fresno, but the reverberations from that team continue to ripple through the running world.
That was a day Hall, who dropped the surname Bei when she married fellow runner Ryan Hall, raced to her fourth consecutive individual cross country crown and cemented her legacy as one of the greatest prep runners ever to come from Sonoma County.
For Conley, the Vikings’ team win was the first real taste of success in a slowly unfolding career that has blossomed into one of the most successful in Empire history.
After that race in 2000, Hall went on to become a 10-time All-American at Stanford University. Conley, 30, competed successfully at UC Davis but never raced in the NCAA championships. The one year she did qualify, a case of food poisoning kept her from competing.
But since then, Conley — a two-time Olympian — has proven herself a master at almost any distance she tries.
Hall, too, has tried different distances and disciplines including the steeplechase. But now, at 33, Hall is taking aim at the marathon. And she’s going after it hard.
New York marks Hall’s third 26.2-mile race in 2016. She’s posted the fourth-fastest time in the United States this year, behind only the three women who represented the country in the marathon at the Rio Olympics in August.
On the flip side of that schedule is Conley’s. The race next Sunday will mark Conley’s first attempt at a marathon, and comes close on the heels of her Olympic performance in Rio in the 5,000 meters.
It’s funny for former Vikings coach Larry Meredith to think that two of the greatest runners ever to emerge from Sonoma County were members of the same team.
“It’s hard to believe they were, but it’s cool to say they were on the same team,” he said.
And what a team that was.
The seven Vikings were ranked No. 1 heading into the state meet based on their performance at the Mt. Sac Invitational earlier in the season.
“They were ranked No. 1 but they weren’t exactly the overwhelming favorite to win,” Meredith said. “A lot of things had to go right.”
A lot of things did go right — like just about everything. Every single member of the team ran their personal bests that day. Everything they had was just enough — they won by the slimmest of margins: nine points.
“All seven got PRs,” Meredith said. “They all did and most of them were by 40 to 50 seconds. Sara Bei had the toughest PR to get because this was her fourth trip to the meet and she PR’d by like 12 seconds.”