The Iona sophomore clocked a 4:38 mile to finish second at the Columbia Lions Invitational.
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NEW YORK — Here at the Columbia Lions Invitational at The Armory, Iona College’s Kate Avery ran her first ever indoor track race. Never before had the 22-year-old sophomore from Newton Aycliffe, England, toed the line on an oval inside.
“Up until last week I had never stepped foot on an indoor track,” said Avery, moments after placing second in the mile with a time of 4:38.24.
Last fall, Avery surprised many with her third-place finish at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. In that race, Avery took the pace out hard and opened up a lead, only surpassed in the final two kilometers by eventual champion Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth and runner-up Emma Bates of Boise State.
Now, more than two months later, Avery found herself on The Armory’s 200-meter banked Mondo track, a bit different atmosphere than the cold, windy confines of Terre Haute, Indiana, and the LaVerne Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Interestingly enough, Avery hadn’t intended on competing indoors at all this year.
“Going into this season I decided I wasn’t really going to do indoors,” she said. “This winter was going well and that’s why I changed my plans to do some indoors.”
Her debut race turned out quite well.
Leading through 800 meters in 2:17.4, Avery looked poised and in control. She would continue out front until 300 meters remained, when New Jersey/New York Track Club’s Stephanie Charnigo slid past her right shoulder and into first.
Charnigo opened up a gap through the finish, winning in 4:33.87. Avery came in nearly five seconds later, second in very respectable 4:38.24.
“I just wanted to get a hard run in,” said Avery. “It’s alright for the first time out. I can’t be disappointed. I wanted a hard run and that’s what I got.”
Moments after her race, Avery touched upon the confidence gained from a very successful cross country season that not only saw her finish third at NCAA’s, but also represent Great Britain at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade. There she placed fourth in the Under-20 race.
“I definitely didn’t expect the performances I had [in] cross ’cause out of the three — roads, track and cross country — I definitely had the least confidence in cross. It’s probably still that way because I absolutely love the track and roads,” she admitted.
When asked if she’d run longer distances indoors this season, perhaps the 5000m, Avery was hesitant.
“I’m not so sure about 5000m indoors. That’s a lot,” she said with a chuckle, adding that the 3000m would be her ideal distance. “I’m definitely in the best shape I’ve ever been in so I’m very excited.”
Other distance highlights from the meet included two wins for Stephanie Charnigo. Roughly an hour and a half after her mile victory, Charnigo, 25, claimed the 800m in 2:06.52.
Having completed her degree at the University of Findlay in Ohio, Charnigo has now moved back to New York to train under coach Frank Gagliano of the New Jersey-New York Track Club.
“It feels good to get back on the track again,” said Charnigo, pointing out that she didn’t race at all in 2013. “I’ve been hitting workouts hard and it gives me a judge of where I am at. It’s a good opener for me; I’m excited for things to come.”
In the men’s mile, Columbia alum and current New Jersey-New York Track Club member Kyle Merber won in 4:01.07, finishing just ahead of Columbia senior John Gregorek, who timed 4:01.65 for second. Gregorek is trying to join his father, a 1984 Olympian by the same name, as a sub-four minute miler (his father’s personal best was 3:51.34, according to statistical website Tilastopaja.org). Masters ace and 1992 Olympian John Trautmann, ran 4:22.12.
Merber also took second in the 800m (1:50.75) behind Columbia’s Harry McFann. McFann’s winning time was 1:49.91.
Patrick McGregor, also of the NJ-NY TC, cruised to an easy 7:57.59 victory in the men’s 3000. Princeton’s Emily de La Bruyere took the women’s 3000m in 9:37.38. Rob Napolitano (Columbia) and Elizabeth Bird (Princeton) claimed wins in the 1000m, timing 2:25.84 and 2:52.95, respectively.