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Distance preview for New Balance Nationals Indoor 2014

Published by
DyeStat.com   Mar 11th 2014, 2:22am

Most of nation's top distance runners at NBNI

By Chris Lotsbom, ArmoryTrack.com and Dyestat.com

Many of the top high school middle and long distance athletes from across the country will be racing this weekend at at The Armory at the New Balance Nationals Indoor, making for a meet to remember. Here's a preview of events ranging from the 800 meters through 5000:

Boys 800:

Experience could be the key factor, making New Jersey's James Buser and Pennsylvania's Jeffrey Wiseman the favorites. As juniors, Buser and Wiseman clocked 1:52.21 and 1:54.04 respectively at New Balance Nationals Indoors last year, with the former taking the sixth and final All American spot. 

This year, Wiseman has run 1:51.36, the second fastest time in America (national leader Kyle Francis is not on the start lists as of Monday morning). Buser is ranked seventh in the nation, having won the Eastern States Championship at The Armory in 1:53.27. 

Others expected to be up with Buser and Wiseman are Derek Holdsworth (ranked fifth with a best of 1:53.15) and Terrell Jackson (sixth, 1:53.24). 

Girls 800:

Judging by the start lists, the girls 800 meters could go down as the best race of the weekend. Headlining the field are Colorado's Elise Cranny and Rhode Island's Maddy Berkson, incidentally both Stanford signees.

Cranny returns to The Armory a year after setting a NBN meet record in the mile, timing 4:40.62. Coming off a stellar cross country season that saw her place second at Nike Cross Nationals and win the USATF National Junior Cross Country title, Cranny will unleash her speed for four laps.

Challenging Cranny will be Berkson, last year's third-place finisher and one of the most consistent runners this season. Berkson has run 1:32.96 for 600 and 2:49.29 for the 1000 this year. A third Stanford commit is Karina Shepard, a senior from Massachusetts who is ranked fifth with a season best of 2:10.68.

Ersula Farrow (Michigan) has the fastest time of those entered, having run 2:10.17 to win the Spire Scholastic Showcase in Ohio. Joining her on the line will be All American Emma Gallagher of Garden City NY (season best of 2:13.61), New Jersey's Corinne Myers (2:10.52), NYRR Millrose Games miler Kennedy Weisner (2:12.14), and Maryland's Jessica Harris (2:12.51). New York's Jazmine Fray, a finalist last year, also returns and she timed 2:11.34 to finish seventh in 2013.

Boys Mile:

The big matchup here pits US#1 Luke Gavigan of Tappan Zee NY against Foot Locker XC champion Grant Fisher of Michigan, a USA team member at World Youth last summer. Gavigan clocked a blazing 4:08.96 to win the New Balance High School Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games, a win on his home track that he considered the biggest of his career. A national title from New Balance Nationals would surely rank right up there. Fisher broke 3:50 last summer for 1,500 meters and deserves to be rated a co-favorite.

No other athlete in the field has broken 4:12 this season, though a handful are right around the 4:13 mark. Garrett O'Toole, a senior from Massachusetts, has recovered from an injury- plagued cross country season and is ready to improve upon his 4:12.91 clocking from the USATF New England Championships. Also from Mass. is Newton North's Gabe Montague, who won the MIAA State Championships 1000 in a new meet record of 2:27.78. 

Tennessee's Wesley Pectol and New York's James Burke have both broken 4:14 this year. 

Girls Mile:

If the NYRR Millrose Games was any indication, we can expect a meet record to fall in the girls mile, as Camas, Wash. junior Alexa Efraimson returns to The Armory. At Millrose, Efraimson held her own against a field of top professionals and collegians in the Wanamaker Women's Mile, finishing in 4:32.15 -- the second fastest prep time in history only behind Mary Cain. Fastest in the New Balance Nationals field by more than ten seconds, Efraimson should challenge Cranny's 4:40.62 meet record from a year ago.

Efraimson has further proven that she is the top high school distance harrier in America by timing 9:00.16 for 3000m this year and winning Nike Cross Nationals in 2013. It would be a surprise if she wasn't on top of the medal stand in New York.

Of course, other competitors could have a great day and challenge for the win. Weisner, second at the NYRR Millrose Games High School Invitational mile, returns with a 4:48.16 season best; she finished sixth as an All American last year in the mile. Mady Clahane PA, Berkson, and Kelly Hayes NY are ranked seventh, eighth, and ninth in the nation this year, and all have shown promise in the event. Of the three, only Clahane has dipped under 4:50 indoors in 2014. Berkson is also entered in the 400 and 800.  

Boys 2 Mile:

Arguably the most competitive field of New Balance Nationals Indoor can be found in the boys 2 mile. Both sections of this race will be highly anticipated, as national leaders, reigning All Americans, and state champions clash. 

Both Aaron Templeton TN (third in 2013) and Thomas O'Neill NJ (fifth) return seeking to improve upon their finishes a year ago, though will be challenged by a plethora of local and national talent. Connecticut's Christian Alvarado, ranked first with a season best of 9:00.29, is entered, as is Dan Curts ME, US#1 at 3000m. 

New York and New Jersey will be very well represented. From the Empire State are Brian Cook (US#2 at 3200m) and Northport High School teammates (and brothers) Jack and Tim McGowan. From New Jersey, a trio of Christian Brothers Academy athletes in Blaise Ferro, Mike McClemens, and Tom Rooney look to stay hot after a strong showing at the NJ Meet of Champions. University of Oregon-bound Kyle Levermore (Don Bosco Prep) will try and cap off his prep career with a national title. 

Also entered are Utah's Conner Mantz (9:09.44 for two miles, US#5), Washington's Mahmoud Moussa (part of the NXN winning Gig Harbor Boys team), and Massachusetts' O'Toole (8:29.27 for 3000m).

Girls 2 Mile:

Just like on the boys side, the girls 2 mile is packed with talent. NYRR Millrose Games New Balance High School Invitational Mile winner Caroline Alcorta VA returns to The Armory (boasting a US#2 3200m of 10:22.29), as does 2013 Foot Locker Cross Country National Champion Tessa Barrett PA. Barrett claimed the Pennsylvania state 3000 title earlier this month in 9:36.45. 

Hannah Debalsi of Staples (CT) is the national leader at 3200 and two miles, entering with a season best and national sophomore class record 10:12.95 -- a time earned while winning the New England Championships. Michigan's Audrey Belf was third overall last year as a sophomore, the top returner from the 2013 Championships. She's run 10:26.95 for 3200m this season.

Don't count out New York natives Bella Burda (Arlington) and Denise Branch (Benjamin Cardozo). Both have raced at The Armory many times this season, as it is their home track -- something that could play to their advantage. 

Ohio's Annie Heffernan enters with the fourth best 2 mile time in the nation, 10:46.32.

Boys 5000:

Though it is rarely run by high schoolers indoors, the 5000 is always exciting at New Balance Nationals. The clear favorite going in has to be Elijah Armstrong of Pocatello, Idaho. Armstrong won last year's national title with a strong 14:54.27 performance, and has run very well this year clocking 9:08.60 for two miles and 4:15.63 for the mile. He is familiar and comfortable racing on the big stage. 

While Armstrong appears to be the favorite, he could be pushed by juniors Alex Ostberg (Connecticut) and Conner Mantz (Utah). Ostberg is ranked second in the nation for 2 miles, having run 9:02.74 earlier this month to place second at the New England Championships. Mantz has also showed strength at 2 miles, clocking 9:09.44 at the New Balance Boise Indoor Meet. 

Collin Martin (PA), Stephen Garrett (DE), and Colin Tierney (RI) are all ranked in the top eight nationally for 3000m, and could contest for All American positions.

Girls 5000:

All eyes will be on the first national championship event contested of the weekend, the girls 5000. Bringing together many noteworthy athletes and storylines, this should be a race to remember. Topping the field is Barrett, who has a knack for the distance. As the top returner from a year ago, Barrett has experience on her side: she ran 16:42.99 to finish fourth in a race that produced the national high school record in 2013. 

Connecticut's Claire Howlett (9:43.37 for 3000) and Burda (10:36.63 for two miles) surely will give Barrett competition, as will Massachusetts standout Abbie McNulty (10:38.38 two mile). Also keep an eye on Jessica Lawson (NY), Mackenzie Barry (NJ), and Stephanie Jenks (IA).

North Carolina's Kayla Montgomery, featured last week in the New York Times and on the Today Show (after being profiled on DyeStat last fall), has become a big story for national news outlets because she competes with multiple sclerosis. Ranked in the top 20 nationally over 3200, Montgomery could take home All American honors with a strong race. 

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