Anna Rohrer (16:16), Alex Ostberg (14:16) Dominate New Balance Nationals 5,000m

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
June 13, 2014

GREENSBORO, NC, USA (13-June) — Runaway 5,000m victories by Indiana’s Anna Rohrer and Connecticut’s Alex Ostberg kicked off the distance competition here at New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2014, as the high school juniors cruised to wins in 16:16.97 and 14:16.61, respectively. Breaking from the field during the second mile of their races, Rohrer and Ostberg each claimed their first national high school championship title on the track.

For Rohrer, winning the 5,000m crown was extra meaningful. In 2012, she broke onto the national scene by capturing the Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championships title, finishing ahead of Catarina Rocha and Maria Hauger. Rohrer had hoped to follow up her win with a successful track season, but a pair of stress fractures – one in each foot – would derail her for roughly a year.

Completely recovered, thanks to many hours spent with doctors in Indianapolis, Rohrer was able to lead the charge early on in the girls 5000m, contested under the lights in comfortable temperatures. With hundreds of fans screaming encouragement from lane five of the track, Rohrer pushed hard through 3,000m in 9:49. Shortly thereafter, she broke from challenger Ryen Frazier and was all alone.

Racing like a metronome – form consistent, steady, and strong – Rohrer would click off the final two kilometers in 3:12.0 and 3:14.8, breaking the tape in 16:16.97. Her mark was the second fastest in meet history and nearly 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Natalie Rathjen.

“It means the world to me since I was hurt for so long. I really have such a passion for running even more so now that I’m able to come back,” said Rohrer.

Watching other athletes – especially those back home in Indiana – go on to run fast times motivated Rohrer while she was unable to compete. Dedicated to coming back stronger and faster than ever before, Rohrer focused on her form and fitness.

“It really pushed me to want to bring my running to the next level,” she added. “I originally didn’t want to take the lead [tonight] as soon as I did, but I was feeling great and I just wanted to go for it.”

“My strength is my strength,” she added with a grin.

Similar to Rohrer, boys champion Ostberg made a decisive move midway through his contest to ensure victory.

After Ryan Forsyth, Elijah Armstrong, and Aaron Templeton aggressively took the pace out in the opening kilometer, Ostberg decided to tuck into fourth, biding his time and waiting for the clip to slow just a tad. Although he felt comfortable, Ostberg knew his best bet was to be patient.

“The race went out pretty quick but I felt relaxed. I had done a lot of training to prepare for this race,” he said. “I was able to stay relaxed, stay within myself, then I was able to move.”

With the pace settling and the leading group beginning to bunch, Ostberg glanced around multiple times and decided to go. Spurred on by the many teammates and family members dispersed around the track, Ostberg accelerated with only Armstrong matching his move meters behind.

Like Rohrer had done mere minutes before, Ostberg’s surge was firm enough to escape all chasers, including the persistent Armstrong. At the finish, Ostberg’s lead was twelve seconds; he would win in 14:16.61, a new personal best.

“It’s been my dream, I think it’s everyone’s dream, to be a national champion. I wasn’t coming in here not expecting to win; I came in here with my sights on being the national champion tonight,” he said.

Ostberg’s victory was all the sweeter considering he had to skip New Balance Nationals Indoor last March after contracting bronchitis.

“I was just so upset in indoor,” he said. “I was really ready to go out there and show them what I had in the 5,000m. I got sick and it just didn’t work out. From that point on I was thinking about this race and I’ve been thinking about it for the past three, four months. It all came together tonight and I’m so thankful for that.”

Armstrong would finish second in 14:29.58, while Zach Dale rounded out the top three in 14:29.95.

On Saturday, distance action continues with the championship two mile and 2,000m steeplechase, as well as the 4 x 800m relay.