That’s the strategy that Emily Lipari and Alex Hatz used in their respective mile races during Day 3 of the Nike Indoor Nationals on Sunday.
It’s was a plan that worked to perfection on the banked 200-meter oval at the Reggie Lewis Sports and Athletic Center. Lipari, a senior at Roslyn (N.Y.) High and the defending NIN champion, hung back for nearly the entire race until going for broke the final 80 meters and winning with a nation-leading and personal-best clocking of 4 minutes, 42.64 seconds. Hatz, a senior at Fayetteville (N.Y.) Manlius, was “a bit more anxious” in making his move, taking his first and only lead on the gun lap and breaking the tape in 4:05.50, a PB and another time that topped the U.S. rankings.
In a race determined by inches, Kyle Plante of Colonie (N.Y.) managed to slip by her competition over the final few meters of the 200, nearly matching her season best with an outstanding time of 24.26.
No surprise, it was another exciting day at the NIN. Here’s a recap of the final day of competition.
Claremont (Calif.) High senior Kori Carter won a tight race over senior Bridgett Owen-Mitchell of the Detroit Jets with both runners clocking identical times of 8.40. Saratoga (N.Y.) Springs senior Madalyne Smith was third at 8.43.
Carter, a silver medalist in the 100 hurdles at the World Youth Games in Italy this past summer, admitted she was a little apprehensive before the meet.
“My coach and I were really worried because I was having hamstring problems so we took the last couple of weeks off and then we came back at it,” she said.
Carter had a good start out of the blocks and had a slight edge over her rivals as she cleared the final hurdle.
“I was focusing on my race and trying to get out because in the preliminaries I didn’t do that well,“ said Carter, who posted the ninth fastest time in the prelims with her time of 8.96. “Once I got the lead, I was just going at it.”
A good start out of the blocks catapulted senior Kendall Hayes of Lancaster (Texas.) to a convincing win in the boys’ race where he was more than a tenth of a second ahead of his closest pursuer with a nation-best of 7.80.
“I was worried about my start but I actually got a good start today,“ said Hayes, who was No. 3 on the list prior to NIN. “Normally I get out slow and start to come around at the third or fourth hurdle. I don’t really train too much on indoor.”
In the boys’ race, senior Brady Gehret of Altoona (Penn.) T.C. never led until the final few meters, blazing to a winning time of 47.69 (U.S. #2). Lanett High senior James Harris took the lead after the first 200 and then did a good job in fighting off a challenge from Gehret until the final straightway. He placed second in 47.73 (U.S. #3).
“I came out of the blocks exactly the way I wanted to. (Harris) just came out a little faster,” Gehret said. “I stuck on his shoulders, made my move about the 300 mark and passed him and then he passed me again. Then I just went all out the last 50.”
Briana Nelson, a senior from J.L. Mann (S.C.), lived up to her top seeding in the meet with a fine clocking of 55.0. Seneca T.C.‘s Michelle Brown was the runner-up at 55.19. Nelson remains in her No. 2 slot on the U.S. list, but improved on her best by .19 of a second.
Claudia Francis of Benjamin (N.Y.) Cardoza rested on the infield for about five minutes after cracking the 2:10 barrier.
Francis, a senior, bolted to a 64.6 at the 400 mark and won going way with a final time of 2:08.06 She was two-seconds ahead of second-place finisher Kelsey Margey of Harborfield T.C.. who finished at 2:10.07. Taking third in 2:10.78 was Chloe Schmidt of State College (Penn.) T.C.
“I basically just wanted to start off with an easy pace and finish my last 400 fast,” said Francis, who covered the final 200 in 31 seconds. “I used up my energy a little more and went out a little fast, but I felt like I did well.”
Anthony Kostelec, the anchor leg of last year’s record-setting 4x800 squad from Albemarle (N.J.) that set a U.S. all-time best at NIN, took individual honors in his specialty this time, posting a winning time of 1:50.96 (U.S. #1)
Nick Kaiser of Bedford (Mich.) High did the pace-setting and was ahead at 600, which he passed in 1:23.6. Kostelec stayed within close contact and then shifted into another gear the final 40 meters to snare the victory.
“It was a tough race, really. I just wanted to stay with the leaders. I was happy to do that,” Kostelec said. “When we came around the last lap I didn’t know if I had enough, but I did on the backstretch. I don’t know where it came from.”
In a loaded field that featured five runners that have run at least 4:50 or faster, including Millrose champion Cory McGee, Lipari’s patience proved to be the best approach.
Eleanor Fulton and Blacksburg (Va.) High senior Joanna Stevens took turns sharing the lead through the 800 (2:25) and the 1,000. McGee took charge with 500 meters remaining and opened up a sizable gap with a lap and a half remaining.
She dropped everyone in the field except a determined Lipari, who made her move the last 200 and passed McGee the final straightaway. She covered the final 400 in 65 seconds.
“I guess you’d have to call it heart,’ she said. “When I’m in the mix of a pack for a good three quarters of a race and I watch them pull away from me, I’m just like, ‘I’ve been chilling. Why would I give up now? I want to go for it. I’m still here.’ I just decided to push my feet, started pumping my fist and crossed my fingers until the line.”
The boys’ race looked like a two-man battle for the title between Kirubel Erassa of Grayson T.C. and Colby Alexander of Strongsville T.C. Erassa surged to the front at the gun, but was joined by Alexander at the 800, passed in 2:03. Erassa managed to open the gap by the time he reached 1,000 (2:37.6) and held a 15-meter lead over Alexander at 1,200.
But Hatz gradually reeled in his competitors and took the lead at the gun lap where he finished with a career best by a second. Erassa still managed to hold on until the finish and clocked an impressive time of 4:07.28 for his runner-up placement.
“I kind of let them get away in the beginning,“ Hatz admitted. “I took it out a little too slow. My plan was to be in it and with five laps to go and make a move. I was a little behind but with five to go I still went with it. I got (Erassa) and felt really good and just went with it. I just went after him and it worked out.”
Hatz is enjoying a prosperous season on the indoor boards after missing cross-country this fall due to kidney surgery.
“You kind of get down on yourself when you are out for a long time,” he said. “This season it‘s all about having fun and getting back.” .
Just a week after capturing her second straight title in the 300 at the state championship, Kyle Plante added a NIN crown to her resume outlasting Kyra Jefferson of Case Technical (Mich.) High. Jefferson was just a half-stride behind with her second-place time of 24.3. Sha‘ Keela Saunders of Great Bridge (Va.) High was third in 24.46.
‘The first straightaway and the first turns I just thought it was me and the other girls,” Plante said. “On the last straightaway, I started using my arms and started pulling ahead. I just had more stamina at the end and I won.”
Aaron Brown of Phoenix (Ariz.) Athletics powered his way to the boys crown the final few meters, winning with a time of 21.54 (tied, U.S. #5) Fuqauwan Greene of Track (N.C.) Easter was second in 21.73.
The Trotwood (Ohio) T.C. cruised to a nation-leading and an eighth all-time U.S.. best of 3:16.12. Comprising the winning quartet were Julius Ruby, Jordan Pachual, Michael Jordan and William Henry.
The Garden City (N.J.) T.C. foursome of Emily Manges, Michelle Rotondo, Catherine Cafaro and Taylor Hennig captured the girls’ race with a 3:50.70 clocking.
Cristal Peterson of Phoebus (Va.) T.C. won a close race with her time of 7.5 (tied, U.S. #5). In the boys’ competition, Darryl Wesh of Lands town (Va.) ran the fastest time in the country with a 7.50 clocking.
Jennifer Clayton of Suffern (N.Y.) High, No. 1 in the horizontal leap, was short on her best but still came away with the win at 19-6. Top-ranked jumper Carlton Lavong of Methacton (Penn.) High, won the boys’ competition with a distance of 24-3 ½.
Just two days after winning the event at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships, Morganna LeLeux won her second national title of the weekend with a winning height of 13-6 ¼. She was less than an inch from her performance at NSIC, which she won at 13-7.