RRW: New Balance Nationals Begins With Record Run by Tessa Barrett

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
March 14, 2014

NEW YORK — Day one of New Balance Nationals Indoor 2014 began with a bang, as Pennsylvania’s Tessa Barrett shattered the national high school indoor record for 5000m by clocking 16:11.85. Running wire to wire out front, Barrett claimed the first of what she hopes is two national crowns this weekend.

Coming in with the goal of winning and setting a national record, the 18-year-old Barrett powered lap after lap in 38 to 39 seconds. Joined early on by Iowa sophomore Stephanie Jenks, Barrett went through 1,600 meters in 5:03.4.  When she heard her split, Barrett was a tad startled.

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“I was like ‘Oh boy, the last two [miles] are definitely going to be uncomfortable,'” she said with a laugh.

In the middle mile, Barrett let up ever so slightly. While Jenks faded back in second, Barrett kept pressing, glancing up at the clock to gauge her pace. She passed two miles in roughly 10:15, a time that would be a new personal best.

“All season it was my goal,” she said of maintaining record pace through the finish. “Throughout the whole race I just felt really comfortable so I was like ‘I may have a chance to do it.'”

Barrett, last December’s Foot Locker National Cross Country winner, knew that she had the right stuff to etch her name in the history book. Coming down the homestretch all by herself, she broke the finish tape nearly seven seconds faster than Wesley Frazier’s previous national and meet record from 2013 (16:18.01). For the fourth consecutive year at New Balance Nationals, a girl’s 5000m national high school record had been set.

“I can’t even, like, explain it. I was hoping to get my second national championship but to break a record is really unreal. It’s just unreal,” exclaimed Barrett, a wide smile across her face.

As is tradition, Barrett got to pose next to the finish clock that showed her record time, a dream come true for the Penn State-bound student-athlete.

“I’ve always seen the pictures of everybody with the clock so that was a really fun part,” she told Race Results Weekly.

Also setting records were Jenks, who broke the sophomore class record (16:37.50) en route to finishing second, and Corning, N.Y., freshman Jessica Lawson, who broke the freshman class record with a time of 17:08.45. She finished sixth as the final All-American.

Placing eighth overall in 17:16.82 was North Carolina’s Kayla Montgomery, a senior who has multiple sclerosis. Montgomery’s inspirational story has made national headlines.

“It’s really exciting to be able to raise so much awareness for MS, to just help people and be an inspiration for others,” she said. This weekend, Montgomery will appear on the Today Show on NBC.

In the Boys 5000m, Conner Mantz of Utah powered away from Tennessee’s Aaron Templeton for the title. While Templeton led early on, it was Mantz making a decisive move in the middle mile. Picking up his pace with 400 meters remaining, Mantz went on to clock 14:24.33 for the win, No. 5 all-time.

“It’s finally good to have a great race,” said Mantz, who was seventh at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in 2013. “I just kept thinking I’ve done the training, I’ve mentally thought it out, I just got to go and do it.”

Setting a meet record to win the Boys Distance Medley Relay was Cardinal O’Hara of Pennsylvania. Kevin James, Isiaih Cooper, Nick Smart, and Jim Belfatto combined to time 10:00.75, the second best mark all-time for high school runners and fastest ever at New Balance Nationals.

Coming in, the quartet had the national record of 9:59.94 on their minds.

“We’re pretty pumped. We knew at the beginning of the season that we could get close to the national record if everything went right. Everything almost went 100 percent right but we’re pumped to just have a national championship. This is probably the greatest thing that’s happened to our program,” said James, the lead-off leg.

After fast runs by James and Cooper, Smart and Belfatto secured victory thanks to FAT splits of 1:53.69 and 4:11.51 for 800m and 1600m, respectively.

“It’s exciting,” said Belfatto, whose split is a personal best by about five seconds. Flyers TC (NY) placed second in 10:04.37, while Warrior TC (PA) was third in 10:04.45.

The Girls Distance Medley Relay title went to West Springfield (VA), who held off Haddonfield Memorial (NJ) down the stretch, 11:43.39 to 11:43.94. West Springfield anchor Caroline Alcorta, the NYRR Millrose Games New Balance High School mile champion, crossed the line with an impressive 4:47.57 1,600 leg.

Distance competition continues on Saturday, as the 4xMile and 4x800m relays are contested. A free live webcast of New Balance Nationals can be found on the New Balance Nationals Facebook page, www.facebook.com/newbalancenationals.