She won by one one-hundredth of a second over Erin Finn of Michigan.
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
NEW YORK — Day one of competition at New Balance Nationals 2013 ended with a photo-finish national high school record, as North Carolina’s Wesley Frazier clocked 16:18.01 to edge Michigan’s Erin Finn by one-one hundredth of a second in the Girls Championship 5,000m. Frazier’s win capped off an impressive day of dramatic finishes and record setting performances at the New Balance Track and Field Center at The Armory in Upper Manhattan.
Executing her conservative strategy to perfection, Frazier began well off of the hot starting pace of Finn. While the defending champion went out at national record pace, Frazier chose to sit back and consistently run 38 to 39-second 200 meter laps.
“I’ve always, always gone out too fast in most indoor races,” said Frazier, who will run for Duke University next year. “I was just trying to stay on my pace and not get too caught up on how far away she was and get discouraged by that.”
Passing 1,600 meters in 5:03.7, Finn had already created a sizable gap of more than a straightaway on the trailing Frazier. Crossing 3,000 meters in 9:33, it seemed as if Finn was going to break her own national record of 16:19.69 with ease, set here a year ago.
In the fourth kilometer, however, the wheels began to slowly fall off for Finn, who earlier in the week had said that she was battling a severe virus and sinus infection. Her once seemingly insurmountable lead began to slowly dwindle.
Realizing that her friendly rival was fading, Frazier quickened her pace. That’s when intuition took over.
“With two or three laps to go, I saw I was catching her faster. I said to myself, ‘maybe I can hold back a little bit and see how close I can get in the last two laps,'” said Frazier.
Behind by 20 meters at the bell, Frazier was kicking. Down the backstretch she gained more and more ground as Finn, pumping her arms and calling on everything she had, began to enter the final turn. Passing lapped traffic, Finn drifted outside into lane two with just meters to go, the finishing tape in sight. Barely a meter from the line, Finn raised her hands in celebration for just a split second as Frazier –finally having caught her– sneaked by on the inside.
As the two broke the tape simultaneously, all eyes went to The Armory’s scoreboard, which for a brief moment had Finn’s name listed in the top spot. Frazier’s name didn’t immediately flash in second, showing the officials had gone to the finish photo to determine the victor.
It was Frazier’s name that soon appeared in first, next to the time of 16:18.01, a new national high school record. Finn, timing 16:18.02, also dipped under her old national mark (16:19.69).
For Frazier, the win was a shock.
“In that last 200 [meters] I just felt so good and so strong,” she said, clutching the finish tape in her hand. “I knew it was going to be a fast race and I was hoping I’d get a PR. I didn’t know I could do 16:18.”
As Frazier was speaking with reporters, Finn sat meters away with the medical staff tending to her for close to twenty minutes. Illness, combined with the fast pace, had taken its toll on her.
Understandably, Finn did not speak with the media post-race; she appeared pale and a bit disoriented.
In the Girls Distance Medley Relay, Benjamin Cardozo TC finished in 11:39.10, the fourth fastest prep time ever. Made up of Denise Branch, Deajah Stevens, Shaniqua Kirkpatrick, and Sabrina Southerland, the quartet from nearby Queens was clearly the class of the field.
Maintaining the lead from the second leg on, Cardozo TC came close to matching the meet mark of 11:38.60. Southerland, the 2013 Millrose Games High School Mile champion, did her best with a solo anchor 1600 meter leg of 4:47.42, but it came up just short.
“I was just trying to hold the lead and bring it home,” said Southerland, who will run the Championship 800 or mile on Sunday.
On the Boys side, Staples TC of Connecticut came from behind to win the national title in 10:07.01. Getting the baton in sixth, Staples TC anchor Henry Wynne was solely focused on moving up through the field one athlete at a time.
“I just wanted to move up slowly through the pack, and hopefully do what I just did: get on the lead pack with a few laps to go and see what my speed could do,” said Wynne, who won the New Balance Grand Prix Junior Mile earlier this year in Boston.
He did just that, ultimately taking the lead from Brothers TC (Christian Brothers Academy) down the homestretch. Joining teammates Peter Elkind, Jack Scott, and Walker Marsh post-race, Wynne said the victory was the greatest moment of their lives.
“This is the craziest thing that’s ever happened,” said Wynne. “To do this with my teammates and have these guys next to me is the greatest.”
Idaho’s Elijah Armstrong powered away from Max Norris down the final stretch to take the Boys 5000m win in 14:54.27. Armstrong credited both his recent training and coming down from altitude for the win.
“I trust my training, and coming down to sea level is a major help,” said the resident of Pocatello, elevation 4462 feet (1360m).
On Saturday –day two of three– national champions will be crowned in 12 events on both the Boys and Girls sides. Among the anticipated distance events are the 4x800m and 4xMile Relays.