NEW YORK – Erin Finn decided that she’d had enough of driving to the lead in big races and then getting passed at the end. That happened to her in the Foot Locker XC Finals this past December and it happened again at the Brooks PR Invitational two weeks ago.
It didn’t happen on Friday.
Instead , the junior from West Bloomfield, Mich. charged to the front and kept on charging. She buried the field on the way to smashing the U.S. high school indoor 5,000 record by more than 15 seconds – crossing the finish line in 16:19.69 to win her first national championship at New Balance Nationals Indoor at The Armory. The previous record was set in this meet just last year: 16:35.15 by Waverly Neer.
“I told myself this is my chance,” Finn said. “I’ve come in second and third too many times. This is my race, my night, and everything worked out so well. God blessed me tonight, I’m so happy.”
Haley Pierce, of the Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) – who was second at NXN and second ahead of Finn in the Brooks PR two-mile – figured there was a chance that she could stick with her evenly paced plan and catch back up to Finn. She briefly edged closer in the middle of the race, but Finn’s pressure was too relentless.
Finn opened with 2:31 for 800 meters and went through 1,600 in 5:07. She then hit a succession of laps mostly in the 39s, with just one over 40.
“I was a little disappointed that I was slowing down,” Finn said. “I think my ego got the best of me. I knew if I went out and held on as long as I could I’d (get the record).”
Pierce also had reason to think she could break through with her biggest win since last year’s 3,000 at the Penn Relays.
“I was pretty confident,” Pierce said. “I know she goes out hard, but sometimes you can pull her back in, you know? I was just trying to stay relaxed in my head. I was trying for the national record and I could win if I got the record, but (Finn) ran an amazing race so I can’t feel too bad.”
Pierce also ran under Neer’s 2011 standard, running 16:31.86. Brianna Nerud from North Shore (Glen’s Head, N.Y.) was third in 16:43.56 and 2011 New Balance Outdoor 5,000 champ Wesley Frazier of Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) was fourth.
Finn wasn’t the only success story from Michigan on Friday.
The girls distance medley relay squad from Grosse Pointe South (Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.), featuring junior twins Hannah and Haley Meier, chased Mountain View of Utah’s 8-year-old national record (11:35.43) and came up just four seconds short.
GPS turned in the No. 4 time in history, clocking 11:39.29 and winning by nine seconds. And it could return intact next year to make another attempt. In addition to the Meier sisters, the quartet included sophomore Kelsie Schwartz (800 meters) and freshman Ursula Farrow (400).
Hannah Meier took the final baton pass needing to run about 4:42 to get her team the record. And the mixture of adrenaline and nerves drove her to a 65-second first 400.
“There was a lot of nerves,” she said. “I felt different than I usually do before races. I just got out there pretty fast and went for it.”
Meier, who won the mile at the Brooks PR Invite two weeks ago, split 4:47.3.
The third final for girls on Friday was the high jump, and Kell, Ga. junior Kendell Williams lived up to her No. 1 ranking in the event. Williams needed a third attempt to make 5-9.25 but then cleared 5-11.25 on her first try.
Williams, who will begin the indoor pentathlon Saturday and also has the 60-meter hurdles on her plate, was able to overcome nagging discomfort in order to focus on her event and win the high jump title. She spent at least 20 minutes trying not to think about her full bladder.
“I’ve never had to high jump when I had to go to the bathroom like that,” Williams said. “I’m just glad I could still jump. I just tried not to think about it, to look at something else.”
After outlasting 2011 runner-up Maddie Morrow of Hoover (North Canton, Ohio) and Dakota Dailey-Harris of LaSalle Academy (Providence, R.I.), Williams was given permission to leave the competition for a few minutes to address her emergency and then returned to take three attempts at 6-0.5.
In the boys DMR, the irrepressible Edward Cheserek made his first appearance in the meet a memorable one. He anchored St. Benedict’s of Newark, N.J. to the championship in 10:10.08.
Cheserek took the stick in sixth place but burned through a 54-second 400 to catch everyone in front of him and move up to the lead. From that point he ran only as hard as he needed to in order to stay in front of Piscataway’s Tim Ball.
Ball made Cheserek work for it, but the Foot Locker champ and 5,000-meter record holder had enough in the tank to bring his team the victory. He has three more events on his weekend to-do list: The sprint medley relay on Saturday and the two-mile and mile on Sunday.
The meet concluded Friday with a stirring finish in the boys 5,000. Foot Locker finalists Daniel Lennon of Peru, N.Y. and Dallin Farnsworth of Pocatello, Idaho traded the lead and neither one of them could shake the other. For 25 laps they went, not separated by more than a stride.
Lennon sped to the lead with 220 meters left and tried to put the race away but Farnsworth responded. Coming around the final curve Farnsworth slide wide and tried to make one final pass but he ran out of room and lost by less than a foot. It was Lennon in 14:37.25 and Farnsworth, the Simplot Games two-mile champion, in 14:37.32.
Lennon was gracious, calling it a “co-championship” because the race was so close.
“I got to the last 100 and started to see his shadow and thought, ‘I’ve got to go,’” said Lennon, who summoned everything he had to get to the finish line first. “I had no idea (who won). In all honesty, I thought he was going to get me. I consider it a co-championship. He closed on me faster than I closed on him and it was both of us together the whole race.”