After a disappointing marathon debut back in May, 16-year-old Alana Hadley has proven herself at 26.2 miles.
Competing on Saturday, November 2, at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, the hotly tipped high schooler from Charlotte, NC, finished in 2:41:56, taking fourth place and erasing memories of the hamstring troubles that plagued her first try and led to a 2:58:22 in Cleveland.
More important, by running faster than 2:43:00, Hadley met the qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials, becoming the youngest person to do so since 1984, when then-16-year-old Cathy Schiro (now O’Brien) posted a 2:34:24.
On the other end of the age spectrum, 49-year-old Colleen De Reuck won the race with a time of 2:39:22. The 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials champion and four-time Olympian is the oldest athlete to qualify for the 2016 Trials this year.
“I was shocked at first,” Hadley told the Charlotte Observer, describing the moment she crossed the finish line and saw the clock. “I just stood there with my hand over my mouth. Then it hit me that I had accomplished my goal....That’s when my eyes started to tear up. I am beyond happy and excited.”
She showed her excitement later, when she posted on Twitter about the race.
“Ahhh! I just ran a 2:41:55 marathon @ the beautiful @IndyMonumental this morning & qualified 4 the Olympic trials!” Hadley tweeted, getting her time wrong by one second. “Best weekend ever.”
Over the summer, Hadley’s father and coach, Mark, told Runner’s World that he hoped his daughter would meet up with De Reuck during the Indianapolis race, as running alongside someone gunning for a similar time can “give you someone to key off of.”
According to Runner’s World, Hadley kept pace with De Reuck for roughly the first three miles before falling back.
From this point on, their paths will probably intersect and then diverge, as Hadley chases dreams of making Olympic teams and De Reuck, whose personal best of 2:26:35 came in 1996, admits that those days are behind her. But the veteran plans to keep the youngster in her sights—and she expects big things.
“Alana ran a great race,” she said. “She looked so relaxed in the beginning and executed her plan for the race to perfection. She said she felt great the whole way and really enjoyed the race. She sure does have plenty of talent, and [I] look forward to see[ing] her for many years on the racing circuit.”