For the second time in three weeks, a small group of elite preps put up some super marks against collegiate and open competition at Princeton, New Jersey.
Two of them were victorious during Friday night’s Larry Ellis Invite. Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.) senior Cayla Hatton won the fastest of four sections of the 5,000 meters, clocking a US#1 16:14.99 that moved her to #7 all time. In the 800, Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior Ajee’ Wilson claimed the fastest section in a US#1 2:05.28. And in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.) senior Brianna Nerud placed sixth with a 10:27.61.
Hatton’s performance was the latest in a stunning string of long-distance races since she came back this year from injury. Taking the non-traditional route of competing beyond the high school level, she most recently (three weeks ago) had clocked a 33:17.28 for (a mixed) 10,000 meters at the Tufts Snowflake Invite, history’s #2 prep performance. She earlier had great races in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix prep mile (second to Haley Pierce) and the USATF cross-country championships (Senior race; 13th place).
Though Wilson competes for a major state association public school, she has also raced much of the indoor and outdoor seasons against elites. After ending her junior year last summer with a World Youth title at 800, she battled the pros in three major indoor invites with her greatest success coming at the Millrose Games where her 2:04.13 placed fourth and moved her to #2 all-time. However, she also defended her New Balance Nationals Indoor 800 title. Two weeks ago here at Princeton, in the Sam Howell Invite (also college/open), she ran a then-US#1 4:28.59 for 1,500.
Nerud also raced in the Howell meet two weeks ago as she continues to shoot for the Olympic Trials ‘B’ standard. There, she ran US#1 10:24.95 for fifth place – and history’s #2 prep time – and hoped to improve Friday night. Still, she beat 33 older runners in the race. Nerud also competes a busy schedule for North Shore in individual events and relays, and is coming off a summer where she ran the #2 time ever for the 2K steeple (6:29.56) at the World Youth Champs. This spring, with the current USR-holder Maddie Meyers (her World Youth teammate) still competing, she has the US#1 mark in the shorter race over barriers as well (6:49.30).