NEW YORK (24-Jan) -- Abbey D'Agostino, whose rise from near-obscurity to NCAA 5000-meter champion was one of the biggest surprises in American athletics last year, is excited to step down in distance for the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at next month's 106th Millrose Games here. A psychology major at Dartmouth College from Topsfield, Mass., the 20 year-old runner sees running the mile as a way to improve both her speed and racing acumen in advance of the outdoor season where she will again focus on the 5-K, defending her NCAA title, and possibly making a World Championships team.
"I'm definitely excited to step it down in terms of the length of races," she told reporters gathered at the New York Track Writers Luncheon via Skype on Tuesday. "It's such an opportunity to practice the tactical element. A different feel than cross country, but definitely the base that I established will help me."
D'Agostino's most recent accomplishments demonstrated that her fifth place at last summer's USA Olympic Trials at 5000m, where she ran a personal best 15:19.98, was no fluke. Last November at the NCAA Cross Country Championships she finished second in the 6-kilometer race in a three-way sprint against Iowa State's Betsy Saina and Oregon's Jordan Hasay (she lost by just three-tenths of a second), and nearly became the first Ivy League woman to win the NCAA individual women's title. Then, on 13 January, she clocked an early world-leading and personal best mile of 4:34.15 on Dartmouth's flat, 200-meter track. A week later, on Yale's banked 200m track in New Haven, she ran 2:45.42 for 1000m, a personal best and school record.
"That was so fun to be at our home track competing," she said of her mile run at the Dartmouth Relays. "It's great to feel the energy of your teammates in a race, not just on the sidelines --they were there too-- but to know we were all feeling the same way at the same time, for the most part is an experience."
Calling out the splits was D'Agostino's coach Mark Coogan, a USA Olympian in the marathon in 1996. Coogan hadn't recruited D'Agostino for the team --that was done by a previous coach-- and only met her on the first day of practice. He quickly realized that D'Agostino had great potential.
"We've had a good relationship from Day One," Coogan told Race Results Weekly last November. "Abbey's a special runner; there's no doubt about it. She'd be successful with anybody. But, I think we do hit it off very well."
For the Millrose Games, scheduled for 16 February, D'Agostino will again face Hasay, but also Colorado's Emma Coburn, the USA Olympic Trials champion in the steeplechase; Emily Infeld, the 2012 NCAA 3000m indoor champion; and Nicole Sifuentes, the Canadian Olympian and former Michigan star who has the fastest 1500m time in the field (4:04.76). It's both the competition and camaraderie which excites D'Agostino who has never competed on an individual basis at the Armory Track & Field Center in Upper Manhattan where the meet will be held for only the second time.
"I'm thrilled," said D'Agostino looking giddy. "I was pleasantly surprised when Mark told me about it. I've never been to Millrose Games before; I've only heard wonderful things of it. So, it is definitely an honor to be competing there." She continued: "I'm so excited that there are other collegiate girls that I'll hopefully get to know better on Friday, Saturday. Maybe --I don't know what will happen with the whole rooming situation-- maybe I'll end up rooming with one of them. I'd love to make those connections because, you know, we have such a different perspective on the collegiate level."
At last year's Millrose Games, the women ran 1500-meters while the men ran the mile. This year, both men and women will run the mile which will allow collegiate athletes like D'Agostino to earn a qualifying mark for the NCAA Indoor Championships in March (1500m times are not accepted). D'Agostino thinks that the Armory is an ideal place to run fast, but not just because of the fast track.
"The energy in there is great," she said.
PHOTO: Abbey D'Agostino of Dartmouth College speaks to the media after the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)