By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (13-Mar) — High school senior Anna Rohrer had added motivation when she toed the line for the New Balance Nationals Indoor Girls’ 5000m here at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory. Earlier in the day, Rohrer had stopped with her mom and gazed at the large record board in the arena’s hallway leading to the track.
“Just walking around here today and seeing all the names up there of previous record holders, I told my mom that I am going to get my name up there today,” Rohrer recalled. “I was definitely shooting for the record.”
With a flare for the dramatic, Rohrer accomplished just that, winning the 5000m in a national high school record of 16:10.79 thanks to a finishing kick that beat North Carolina’s Ryen Frazier at the wire.
From the gun, Rohrer had her eyes set on the record and gold medal. But 800 meters into the contest her hopes were nearly dashed. A competitor clipped Rohrer’s heals, tripping her up and nearly causing the two-time Foot Locker Cross Country national champion to fall to the banked track.
Thankfully, Rohrer did not fall and managed to regain her composure. Not wanting to risk another incident, the native of Mishawaka, Ind., went to the front and never relinquished the lead.
“I had that stumble and I was like, you know what? You don’t want that to happen again. I’d rather have to lead than fall again,” she said. “It’s happened a couple times before so I just kinda shaked it off.”
Through 1600 meters in roughly 5:15 and 3000 meters in 9:45, only Frazier would remain on Rohrer’s shoulder. Iowa’s Stephanie Jenks –a top junior triathlete– and Virginia’s Weini Kelati had fallen off the pace just laps earlier.
With not even a foot separating the pair, Rohrer and Frazier battled lap after lap, Frazier always centimeters off Rohrer’s right shoulder. Not phased, Rohrer pressed on.
“I knew that [Anna] was the favorite to win, I’ve raced her many times, and I just tried to stay with her as long as I could,” said Frazier. “I was just getting the best race out of myself as I could.”
With meet announcer Ian Brooks yelling splits, the pair soon recognized they had a shot at Tessa Barrett’s national high school record of 16:11.85, set last year. For four consecutive years a national 5000m record had fallen at this meet, and neither Rohrer or Frazier wanted to end the streak.
Passing lapped traffic, Rohrer created the slightest separation on the final lap, a move that Frazier simply couldn’t react quickly enough to. Rohrer broke the tape in 16:10.79, with Frazier just over two seconds back in 16:12.81. Just as she predicted to her Mom hours before, the record and win went to Rohrer.
“It was really, really tough. I’m really happy with the race… I just think I ran really tough and I’m really happy with it,” said Rohrer, who has verbally committed to Notre Dame. “I just hung on and gave it my all the last 400 meters. It felt good. I definitely felt like this is a really, really hard race. But I guess inside your just in a cycle… It went by faster than I expected.”
Frazier, bound for North Carolina State University in the fall, smiled despite taking home the silver medal. She will race in either the mile or two mile –or both– on Sunday.
Rohrer will now make the 12-hour drive back to Indiana with her parents, a gold medal, All-American crown and the finish break tape in her hands.
The Boys’ 5000m also came down to a sprint finish, as Idaho’s Elijah Armstrong and New York’s Mike Brannigan battled for the win over the final circuit. Armstrong, the race’s leader from the gun, had built up a lead through the mile. But Brannigan, who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old, battled his way back to join the 2013 New Balance Nationals Indoor champion in the discipline.
Shortly after taking the bell together, Brannigan swung wide with 150 meters remaining to overtake Armstrong. With the crowd’s roars increasing for Brannigan –the Sports Illustrated High School Athlete of the Month for February– Brannigan’s lead increased around the final bend. Yet Armstrong wasn’t done yet.
Down the homestretch, Armstrong replicated Brannigan’s move and jolted into the lead, breaking the tape in 14:41.72. According to the meet announcer Brooks, Armstrong’s final 400 meters was run in 59.5 seconds, giving him a step’s advantaged on Brannigan (14:42.33).
“I just tried to stay calm and relaxed when he went past,” said Armstrong. “It’s just a huge honor especially going up against these guys, especially Mikey.”
Both Armstrong and Brannigan spent a part of last summer training together at an elite camp in Oregon. The pair are friendly, and consider today’s race a battle they’ll remember.
“I had some track speed, I keep pushing hard and practicing and keeping my mind set on myself and my next race in the future,” said Brannigan, sporting a Cow Harbor New Balance singlet that paid homage to his hometown of Northport, Long Island.
“I got to know him and he’s a cool guy, a humble guy. He’s a strong guy,” Brannigan said of Armstrong.
Spirit of Pre (Saline, Mich.) took home the Boys’ Distance Medley Relay win thanks to a bold and courageous front running job by mile anchor Logan Wetzel. Wetzel, this year’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix junior mile champion, held off a very hard charge from Darien, Conn.’s Alex Ostberg down the stretch. The winning time was 10:04.30.
“We just had to have all the pieces come together and that’s what happened today,” said Wetzel, who will compete for an open mile title on Sunday. He was joined on the winning team by Kevin Hall, Brian Blankenship, and Josiah Humphrey.
Pre-meet favorites, Suffern of New York, took home the Girls’ Distance Medley Relay title in 11:53.57. Kamryn McIntosh, Imani Solan, Mary Hennelly, and Rachel Ludwikowski combined to defeat Impulse TC (Delaware) and North Rockland (New York).
“We just kept thinking we could do it all season and we did it!” said an exuberant Ludwikowski, who ran the anchor leg.
Action continues here tomorrow with the 4xMile and 4x800m relays. On Sunday, finals of the 800m, mile, and two mile will be contested.