Who’s Coming to 2017 NBNO? Part 4: The DISTANCES

by Steve Underwood

This is the fourth in a five-part series, a joint effort with the NSAF and Runnerspace.com, highlighting some of the exciting confirmed entries for the 2017 New Balance Nationals Outdoor in each event category! Previously: Part 1: Throws  |  Part 2: Jumps  |  Part 3: Sprints/Hurdles. Coming in the days ahead: Part 5: Relays |  FULL ENTRIES |  FULL START LISTS 

Katelyn Tuohy – Gunning for individual titles this time

If it seems like Katelyn Tuohy should be at least a sophomore or junior at this point, perhaps it’s because we’ve seen her so many times already on the national stage – looking so much like the seasoned veteran while leading her North Rockland HS (NY) teammates to major relay titles with her strong DMR anchor legs. It started at the 2016 NBNI with her 1600 leg to finish off a national record (11:34.85), continued with another clutch anchor to win a tight NBNO battle three months later (11:29.39), then snowballed in ’17 with an NBNI title defense (11:41.04) and a first Penn Relays triumph (11:45.11). Meanwhile, unless you were in New York following the regular season meets, you didn’t see Tuohy much in major meet individual events.

Well, that’s changing now. In final stages of her freshman year, Tuohy is simply getting faster and faster, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer she has the right stuff to win on the national level individually as she prepares for the NBNO mile as the girl to beat. The final performance that made that crystal clear came last week at the New York state meet when she smoked a 4:18.51 1,500m, moving into the top 15 on the all-time list and second only to Bronxville, NY alum Mary Cain among 9th-graders in history. Whether or not comparisons to Cain – a prep legend who turned pro and who’s had athletic ups and downs since – are relevant, Tuohy has joined the legion of young super-talents in girls’ distances and it will be exciting to see her take the next step here.

Rey Rivera – Long-awaited breakthrough

When you think of sub-1:50 prep 800-meter runners, you tend to think first of Cameron Cooper and Brandon McGorty – who have each been at that level for a while now and been lead contenders for NBN titles – and then perhaps Sam Worley, the 4:00 miler who has the US#1 1:48.25 this spring. But if you’re in New Jersey, you think of Rey Rivera – the Old Bridge senior who’d been pushing that barrier since his sophomore year in 2015 and has now surpassed it during his past two outings. Rivera last lost an 800 in NJ more than two years ago and it was at the ’15 outdoor Meet of Champs that he first ran a 1:50-point – a shocking 1:50.82, to be exact, for someone who had a 1:54 PR at that point.

The past two years, Rivera had added several 1:50s to his resume, including a very impressive 1:50.04 runner-up finish to Cooper at NBNI this past March – beating McGorty, to boot. Then finally in his Group 4 state meet a few weeks back, he hit 1:49.59 to finally get the breakthrough he’d been yearning for. He followed up with 1:49.96 to win his 3rd Meet of Champs title. Now he’ll face Cooper and McGorty again in Sunday’s NBNO 800 final, knowing he, too, is a member of the sub-1:50 club.

Jessica Lawson – Steady progress

It seems like Jessica Lawson has been part of the elite distance running scene in New York for so long that it will seem strange without her next year when she’s off to college. She started her career at Corning HS in NY as a freshman back in 2013-14 as an elite runner from the get-go – winning state and Fed titles in XC, then capturing 3k crowns in both indoor and outdoor track. Lawson ran as fast as 9:41.55 for 3k, made Foot Locker Finals in XC and was a 5k All-American at NBNI. With that elite of a start, and having lost pretty much her full 2015 track season to injury, she still has continued to make steady progress. National titles at either 5,000 or 2 miles are within her grasp this weekend.

Missing track 2015 was tough, coming after a strong sophomore XC campaign. But the following fall Lawson would rally by earning her 2nd Fed title and improving her Foot Locker finish from 27th to 11th. During the 2016 track season, she took 3rd in the NBNI 2M at 10:18.30, lowered her 3k all the way down to 9:24.36 outdoors, then smoked a 16:52.36 for 3rd in the NBNO 5,000. Now as a senior and Stanford signee, she made it up to 8th at NXN Finals in XC, improved to 2nd in the NBNI deuce and recently PR’d in the 1,500 behind Tuohy at NY state with a 4:22.38. National titles in the longer races are now the next step.

Josh Hoey – Getting it together at the right time

Josh Hoey really made a big name for himself when, as the sophomore younger brother of senior Jaxson Hoey, he won the 2016 Penn Relays mile with a PR 4:11.90. Jaxson had been an established star at Downington West HS in PA – having run 4:11.07 himself for 5th at Millrose that winter. But while he had an off day at Penn, Josh broke out and seemed poised to become the next great young American distance runner. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing since. Josh (4:11.36 1,600) and Jaxson (1:51.58 800) would each have 3rd-place finishes at state, then neither ran their best at NBNO. Then it was off to Penn State for Jaxson.

Meanwhile, Josh Hoey transferred to Bishop Shanahan, also in Downington, PA. He had season-ending struggles in XC that kept him out of state, but during indoor he got back to full fitness and then some. He captured the NB Indoor Grand Prix mile at 4:09.30, the state 800 at 1:52.21, then was a strong 4th at NBNI in the mile at 4:08.59. Outdoors, Josh was off form at Penn – taking 4th – but has closed the season very well with a PR 1:50.13 state title run and a 3:50.71 1,500 at the John Hay meet. That makes him the guy to beat in the NBNO mile – along with Dalton Hengst (who is registered for the 2M, as well, and may not contest both). That promise displayed in 2016 continues to grow.

Caitlin Collier – Rolling the dice, moving up

You’ve got a recent PR of 2:03.32 at your best distance, the 800, but the two-time World Champion with a 2:00 PR is in your event. You’ve got a bit less glamourous PR in your next best event, the mile, where you’re 4:46 is in the mix – but you have potential for more. Which event do you run if you’re Caitlin Collier? The Bolles School (FL) junior has rolled the dice for the mile, where her 4:46.63 best dates back to last spring. She has run 4:50.48 for 1,600 this year – when she was Florida 2A champ – but there’s an important 1,500 performance from ’16, a 4:19.05 for 5th at the Adidas Boost meet, that suggests she can run closer to 4:40. Maybe Collier can match strides with the favored Tuohy (see above).

In any case, it’s been a stellar junior year for the Florida standout. She’s been winning state titles since she was in 8th grade, the first coming in the ’14 2A 800. As a sophomore, Collier really began to break out, running 2:06 or faster three times, including a 2:04.89 in her prelim at USA Juniors (she was 6th in a super deep final). 2017 has been even better, with the 2:03.32 coming vs. elites at the Festival of Miles, and with a 2:10.65/4:50.48/10:30.39 (PR) triple at her state meet that is another crowning achievement. Collier has at least 56-second 400 speed, which could make the difference in that mile.

Clayton Mendez – Emerging super talent

One of the great “who is THAT?” moments for national track fans this year came late in the indoor season when Clayton Mendez – a junior at Chicago’s Whitney Young HS – ran 9:01.89 for 3,200 at the Proviso West Invite (actually in the middle of the Illinois season). The mark was a PR by more than 20 seconds and took the national lead at that point – and no one outside of Illinois had heard of Mendez. The mark wasn’t a huge shock to those who knew him, though. Even four years earlier in middle school, Mendez had run 1:57 for 800 and he had been a strong 12th in the 3A state XC meet in ’15 as a soph. It was just a matter of health, fitness and the right race at the right time.

Since then, Mendez has been a bit up and down, but has certainly more than confirmed he belongs. He would win the state indoor 3,200 at 9:11.30, then outdoors hit 8:59.46. Outdoor state wasn’t quite as great for him, with a 9:08.75 3rd-place finish in the 3,200 and a 4:17.55 (near PR) for 7th in the 1,600. Two weeks later, however, Mendez had a big breakthrough in the 1,600 – hitting 4:11.26 at the Midwest Distance Classic. In the NBNO 2M, with a lot of entries within 2-5 seconds of 9:00, he’s right in the mix.

Clare Martin – Senior year synchronicity

There was never a question whether Clare Martin had the talent – or the range – to be one of Massachusetts’ best distance runners and even among the national elite. That much was clear to some extent her freshman year at Newton South HS (MA), and certainly so her sophomore campaign – with marks of 2:10.27 for 800 and 5:01 for the mile. There were more good marks in 2016, with a bit of improvement, but perhaps not the consistency she would have liked.

But in spring 2017, it all seems to be coming together for the Martin as she closes her prep career. In early May, she blasted a 6:46.63 2k steeple (an event she had done in the summer before) and took the U.S. lead for almost a month. In the 2M, a rare event for her, she crushed a 10:27.73 PR a few weeks later. At the All-State meet, she won the mile with her first career sub-4:50 – 4:48.88 – and also took the 800. Then at New Englands she was beaten, but ran a fine 2:07.91 PR. Here, she’s listed in Saturday’s steeple (#2 seed) and Sunday’s 800 and mile, with at least a double attempt likely and a great chance for high podium finishes.

Ian Shanklin – Local standout in the spotlight

If local fans from the Greensboro area are searching for someone to cheer for this weekend during NBNO, they need look no further than Friday evening’s featured boys’ 5,000 meters – where a somewhat unlikely favorite has emerged. W.H. Page HS senior Ian Shanklin certainly was a “rising star” coming into this spring, but hadn’t necessarily distinguished himself with credentials that would have suggested a national championship favorite by June. Opportunities to race in loaded, fast-paced fields will sometimes usher in breakthroughs for less accomplished athletes and that’s what’s happened here.

Shanklin carried over a 9:21.90 2M PR from last year, had run 15:19 for 5k in the fall (10th at GAXC, 5th at 4A state), then 4:22 for 1,600 indoors. But at the Raleigh Relays in late March, he unexpectedly won the deep 3,200 at the Raleigh Relays in 9:01.17. Suddenly Shanklin was in a vastly different league and earned an invite to the Arcadia Invite, where depth is measured by how many runners break 9:00. The senior proved he belonged, with a solid 12th place finish and another big PR at 8:50.79. In tougher conditions at state, he was 2nd at 9:02.89, beaten only by top-seeded Connor Lane (8:47 at Arcadia himself). Shanklin has never run a track 5,000 before tonight’s race, but with that 8:50, he’s the man to beat.


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