By Chris Lotsbom
NEW YORK (10-Mar) -- A pair of meet records fell in the distance disciplines here on the final day of competition at New Balance Indoor Nationals, as New York's Sabrina Southerland and Colorado's Elise Cranny stunned those in attendance with marks of 2:03.59 and 4:40.62 at 800m and the mile, respectively. Wrapping up the three-day meet in style, this Championship's distance events played out in dramatic fashion.
Beginning with Southerland's 800m, the finishing time particularly caught the attention of the 17-year-old senior. After going out in approximately 59 seconds for the first half the student-athlete at Benjamin Cardozo High School was temporarily stunned by the split she heard.
"I was like 'oh no, this is really fast," she said later. "It was really fast at 400 meters but I felt like I still had more energy left to keep going."
Southerland powered down the backstretch, doing all she could to maintain the pace. Having separated from the field, Southerland relied on the finishing strength and determination developed with her coach, Ray James.
"We train for this. Coach Ray just tells us to keep going, to run the best as we can and leave it all on the track every time," she said.
Breaking the tape in 2:03.59, Southerland became the second fastest high schooler ever to cover 800m indoors.
"I didn't think I could [run that fast] but I am very happy," said the always smiling Southerland in a slight New York accent. "I was just going for the win and ended up PR'ing.
Only Mary Decker has run faster, a 2:01.80 performance in 1974.
What made Southerland's performance even better was that it came in a discipline which isn't necessarily her specialty. Many consider her to be more of a miler; this year alone she has won the Millrose Games High School mile, the New York State Championship 1500m, and ran the mile anchor leg of Benjamin Cardozo's national title team.
CRANNY WINS MILE
In the Championship Mile, Elise Cranny surprisingly went out with reigning champion and meet record holder Hannah Meier. The differences between the pair's ability seemed vast; Meier had run 4:44.76 this year, Cranny only 4:58. But that didn't deter Cranny, a junior at Niwot High School near Boulder.
"I was just going to sit behind the leader. I didn't have an exact plan because I had never ran against such high competition," said the 16-year-old.
Running close to 15 meters ahead of the chase pack, the two split halfway in 2:21, just over meet record pace. Doing all of the leading duties was Meier, as Cranny sat patiently in her slipstream.
"I wanted to see how the race went out and it went out fast so I was perfectly fine [there]," she said.
Cranny came up on Meier's shoulder at the bell, though was held off by her rival as they made their way down the homestretch of the 200m banked Mondo track.
Not to be denied, Cranny tried once more to get around her opponent as they turned into the finishing straight. This time Meier had no response. Breaking Meier's meet record of 4:42.60, Cranny timed 4:40.62. In the process, she shaved an impressive 18 seconds from her personal best, something she credited partially to coming down from high elevation.
"I had no idea [I could run that fast]," she said. "I knew, coming from altitude, that may give me a couple seconds. But I didn't think I was going to run 4:40 today at all."
Winning in her first trip to New York City was something special to Cranny.
"It's crazy, there's people everywhere," she said.
THREE GET SECOND TITLES
Three distance event athletes earned their second national titles on Sunday. Wesley Frazier added a two-mile title to her national record 5000m from Friday, while Henry Wynne won the mile and Edward Cheserek the two-mile. Both Wynne and Cheserek had been part of winning relays -- the distance medley and Sprint medley, respectively.
Shortly after passing halfway in second (5:10 unofficially), the Duke-bound Frazier took over the lead and immediately gapped the field. Unlike Friday's 5000m -- where a photo-finish was needed to confirm her victory -- Frazier crossed the line all by herself in 10:12.23
"I wanted to perform really well this weekend, and I think I did that," she said.
Fully recovered from the DMR on Friday, Wynne took to the track with hopes of another victory. His confidence went up after seeing that the aforementioned Cheserek was not on the starting line. The Kenyan was originally entered in the event, but decided not to start.
"Not having him in it, the race went out slower than expected," said the senior, who will run at Virginia next year.
Taking the bell with competitors by his side, Wynne went to another gear, just like he had when winning the New Balance Grand Prix earlier this year.
"I knew that I had a little left and that I was going to put it all on the line. Last race of the season and a national championship, there's no reason not to," said Wynne.
Winning in 4:08.1, Wynne came within three seconds of the meet mark.
As for Cheserek, he would comfortably win the two-mile, closing his high school indoor career. Waiting until 500 meters remained to make his move, the senior from St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey kicked home to win in 8:59.00. It was Cheserek's sixth national title indoors over the past two years.
The craziest finish came in the Boys 800m. Coming down the final straight of the seeded section, it looked to be a battle between Tretez's Kinnaird and Jacob Clark. That's when Chris Ibarra passed on the inside with merely a meter remaining. Winning in 1:51.40, Ibarra had timed his kick perfectly, yet he was not the national champion.
Because Nathan Kiley's time of 1:51.37 in the second section was faster, the Virginian was awarded the gold medal. Making the story even better was that Kiley's race had been run during the morning session some four hours before Ibarra's win. The former had stuck around The Armory just in case he sneaked into a top six, All-American spot. Never did he think he'd be the winner.
"I came in here having no idea I could run 1:51," said Kiley. "Seeing that final race and seeing their 600m split was 1:22.5 --which was around what I was-- I was getting nervous and said maybe I'll get All-American. When I saw the final time coming down the final 30 meters, I thought I might actually win this.
"It was just a surreal feeling," he continued. "I had no idea that I was going to ever be a national champion. Especially from the slow heat, that's such a rare occurrence."
Looking forward, Kiley hopes he'll be in the seeded heat come New Balance Nationals Outdoors in June.
"I hope I'll be able to qualify," he said with a laugh. "I hope I get that chance outdoors, to face them one on one. Hopefully I'll have the same kind of outcome."
The conclusion of New Balance Indoor Nationals brings the indoor high school season to a close. Turning their attention outdoors, athletes will again be able to vie for national titles at New Balance Nationals Outdoors, June 14-16 in Greensboro, N.C.