Michigan runners dominated the girls distance events at the Armory last night, as the first day of the New Balance Indoor Nationals got underway.
Junior Erin Finn smashed the girls high school 5000 meter record, running 16:19.69 and dominated the field from the gun using with the sort of aggressive tactics that have come to define her racing style.
"Go out until you die," Finn said after the race. "It might not be the smartest thing and I may have to work on that."
But on Friday night, the strategy worked out just fine. Finn already held a sizeable lead on the pack at the 800 meter mark, which she crossed in 2:31 and, in her words, felt good enoughto break an old mile PR. FInn's next closest competitor was Delaware's Haley Pierce, who also broke the national record with a time of 16:31.86. Pierce even began to chip away at Finn's half-lap lead, but never came anywhere near close enough contact to challenge.
The only thing to match Finn's racing style is her confidence. "I told myself that no one was beating me tonight," Finn said of her pre-race thoughts. Finn, who finished runner-up in the 2011 Footlocker Cross Country National meet, suggested that there was some more room for improvement and could have shed some more seconds with a smarter race strategy.
The other Michigan representatives to make noise at The Armory last night were a team of underclassmen from Grosse Pointe South. Running the event for only the second time ever, the team won in 11:39.29 and missed a meet record by under a second. The team was bookended by junior twins Haley and Hannah Meier, who's specialties are the mile.
In fact, "they're better suited for four by mile," said their coach Steve Zaranek, referring to the relay race tomorrow. But since all four girls are running individual events on Saturday and Sunday, Zaranek said the team, which won the MIchigan's state cross country title in the fall, still has plenty of time to break records.
"We'll go after the record again when the right opportunity comes up," Zarank said.
On the boys side, Ed Cheserek had to work a little bit harder than he would have liked as the anchor of St. Benedict's Prep's national champion Distance Medley Relay. It's not that he had any trouble making up the ground that was lost from the first three legs. But once he got the baton, Cheserek, who's own a mile PR of 4:02.21, had to battle off Piscataway's Tim Ball, who split a 4:10 and nearly passed Cheserek on the final lap. Cheserek split a 4:07.5 and said it was harder than he wanted to run.
Cheserek, who already owns the national indoor high school 5000 meter record 13:57.04, has his sights on setting the 2-mile mark on Sunday. His 8:42.66 came in a race in which he was lapping the runners up and his coach thinks he has a chance to take down Jerry Lindren's 8:40 record. "We'll see," Marty Hannon said.
Another thing Hannon said he's not sure about: Cheserek's status in the boy's Mile run, which is scheduled to go off an hour after he runs in the two-mile. Hannon said he was concerned the workload could be too much. "I don't know about the mile, Hannon said. "We'll see how it goes." Cheserek will also anchor the SMR tomorrow, a 800 meter split
The boys 5000 meter race was an exciting race, even as most of the spectators in the audience had trickled out by the time the event got underway, which was about an hour behind schedule. Peru's Daniel Lennon ran on Idaho's Dallin Farnworth's shoulder almost the entire race and outkicked him near the end to win by a split second: 14:37.25 to 14:37.32.
It was a night to remember.