By Chris Lotsbom
GREENSBORO, N.C. (14-June) -- The first day of New Balance Nationals Outdoors here, the American national championships for high school athletics, ended with remarkable record runs over 5000m by North Carolina's Wesley Frazier and North Dakota's Jake Leingang. Both seniors timed meet records of 15:55.94 and 14:11.61, respectively. Frazier's national title --her fourth at the meet in the past two years-- makes her one of the most decorated athletes in high school athletics history.
Under the lights of North Carolina A&T's Aggie Stadium, Frazier became the first girl in meet history to break 16 minutes for 5000m in what played out to be a hunter/hunted race. While West Bloomfield, Mich.'s Erin Finn took the pace out blisteringly fast --much like she did at New Balance Nationals Indoors three months ago-- Frazier decided to hold back and let her go, taking on the hunter role.
"I felt the pace was kind of fast at the beginning, too fast," said the smiling Frazier, holding a piece of the finishing tape in her hand. "Through the first 800 meters I saw about 2:30 on the clock and knew I wasn't going to run five-minute pace so I backed off a little bit."
Hitting 6:58.81 for 2200 meters, the leading Finn was well ahead of Ashley Erba's meet record pace of 16:18.21. At one point in the first half, Finn held close to a ten meter lead on Frazier.
Though behind by three seconds at two miles (3218m), Frazier slowly but surely began to reel in the tiring Finn, just as she did at New Balance Nationals Indoors.
"I just watched where she was," said Frazier, who came up on Finn's shoulder at the ten minute mark of the race. "I figured that if I was feeling good in the last half I'd try to see what I could do."
With just over a kilometer remaining, Frazier made her decisive move, injecting a 75.27-second lap that dropped Finn immediately. With that, the national title was hers.
"It's always good to win and run here," said Frazier, who would break the finishing tape with hands above her head in 15:55.94. "It's my last season in high school, the last chance I get so I might as well make the best of it."
Finn, visibly dejected, finished second in 16:17.89. Following the awards ceremony, Finn said that she was disappointed with her race before excusing herself from the interview with tears in her eyes.
Frazier's winning mark ranks as #5 on the all-time USA high school list, and was extra special considering Aggie Stadium is Frazier's home track of sorts; the Duke-bound Frazier resides in Raleigh, about 70 miles away.
Frazier will return to Aggie Stadium's blue track Saturday and Sunday, when she runs the Championship Two Mile and Mile. She'll need to do whatever she can to recover, quickly.
"I'll sit on two bags of ice for the ride home," said Frazier.
In the Boys 5000m, reigning champion Jake Leingang successfully defended his title with a 14:11.61 performance. Taking the lead within the first kilometer, the 18-year-old from North Dakota was able to separate himself from the chasing field as the race wore on.
Despite what looked to be a loaded field entering the race, no one gave Leingang much of a challenge. The only athlete to follow in his slipstream for part of the race was Illinois's Jack Keelan.
"Going into it I knew some of the guys had run very fast times. I was looking at it just like any other race, that they are going to be with me," said Leingang. Ultimately, he would win with a 17-second cushion, setting a meet record in the process.
"I couldn't ask for a better night under the lights," said Leingang, who shaved more than 13 seconds from Edward Cheserek's previous meet mark of 14:25.74. "I wanted to take it out and see what I could do. I felt pretty good the whole race and couldn't ask for anything better."
Ohio's Nicholas Elswick placed second in 14:28.73, with New Balance Nationals Indoor champion Elijah Armstrong third in 14:28.97. Keelan wound up finishing fourth.
Friday's competition was made up of mostly Emerging Elite and Freshman events, with championship sections coming up Saturday and Sunday.
One performance worth noting came in the Junior High Girls Mile, where Texan Julia Heymach ran away with the victory. Her winning time of 5:03.50 is very good considering she is not even in high school yet.
PHOTO: Wesley Frazier of the Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, N.C., celebrates after winning the 5000m at the 2013 New Balance Nationals in a championships record 15:55.94 in Greensboro, N.C. (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)