(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Greensboro, NC, June 14, 2014 -- Colorado's Bailey Roth brought the crowd to its feet here at New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2014, establishing a new national high school record for the 2000m steeplechase. Roth's 5:41.67 showing was just one highlight stemming from the distance events on the second day of competition at America's high school track and field championships.
Stepping onto the blue track at Aggie Stadium, Roth felt he was in prime shape to break Steve Guerrini's national record of 5:43.9 (hand timed) and Cory Thorne's meet record of 5:49.11. Guerrini's mark had stood since 1991 --before Roth was even born-- and Thorne's time had lasted nine years.
"I knew I was capable of [the national record], but coming into races I don't usually like to shoot for records or all that," said Roth. "I knew what I had to do, running my splits as close as I can, and if it's within reach with two laps to go then I'm going to go for it."
Indeed, Roth did go for it with 800 meters remaining, creating a sizable gap that would only increase. Taking the title with ease in 5:41.67, Roth let out a big fist pump.
"It feels so good to come out here, run healthy for once and run strong," he said, noting that all through cross country he'd battled viruses and illness.
Roth's success in the steeplechase is intriguing. One year ago, Roth entered the 2000m steeplechase here only having run the event once before in his life. Despite his inexperience, Roth won the gold medal from the unseeded section, surprising all with a time of 5:49.24.
In the twelve months since his 2013 national title, Roth only ran the steeplechase three more times before today -- once at the USATF World Youth Track & Field Trials and twice at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine. At the latter meet, Roth finished seventh in the final.
Because Colorado does not offer the event on the high school level, Roth has to wait until national or international competitions to compete in his favorite discipline. He does not practice hurdling until a major competition is approaching.
"I try as best as I can with hurdles, no barriers," Roth said, smiling while clutching an American flag and flowers. On Friday night, little more than 12 hours before his race, Roth came to the track here and practiced jumping barriers, gaining confidence and knocking any rust off his form.
Roth will attend the University of Arizona in the fall, where he could develop into one of America's next best steeplechasers. He plans to race the 3000m steeplechase at the USA Outdoor Championships, USA Junior Championships, and hopefully the IAAF World Junior Championships later this summer (he has never raced the 3000m distance before).
"I definitely think it is in my future," he said. "My title could be steeplechaser in the future [as opposed to simply distance runner]. I like steeplechase so we'll see where it goes...I like the looks of it due to the fact that I have a lot of endurance, so that's always good."
THREE TEAMMATES UNDER NINE MINUTES FOR TWO MILES
For the first time in American high school history, three teammates dipped under 9:00 for two miles in the same race. The Northport (NY) trio of Mike Brannigan, Tim McGowan and brother Jack McGowan clocked 8:53.59, 8:56.60, and 8:57.57, respectively, to take first, third, and fourth in the boys competition. Only sophomore Andrew Hunter of Virginia would break up the group in second.
"It means a lot," said Brannigan, whose kick with 300 meters remaining was too tough for anyone to handle. "I can count on these guys."
Brannigan, only a junior, was diagnosed with autism --a developmental disorder that affects development in the brain-- when he was 18 months old.
Only one team in history had previously had three athletes under 9:00 in the same season -- the famed 1975 Hammond (Indiana) High School squad of Rudy Chapa, Tim Keough and Carey Pinkowski. Chapa would go on to become an American record holder and NCAA champion, while Pinkowski is currently the race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. However, those three athletes broke 9:00 in different races, unlike Northport.
"We really wanted to go out with something special and having three guys in the same meet on the same day break 9:00 including one of them being a 9:20 guy in the beginning of the season [Jack McGowan], it kind of means everything to us," said Tim McGowan.
"It is a team. Really a team sport," said Brannigan.
In the women's two mile, sophomore Hannah Debalsi of Connecticut took the pace out hard from the gun, passing the mile in 4:57.85. Never relinquishing the lead, she'd win her first national crown in 10:09.08.
Debalsi described the win as a redemption of sorts after falling in the final 400 meters during the New Balance Nationals Indoor two mile last March, when she was in prime position for a run at the title.
A disastrous travel scenario didn't derail New York's Kate Zendell in the girls 2000m steeplechase. After boarding her flight on Friday and buckling in, the flight crew told passengers they had to get off the plane and that the flight was cancelled.
Waking at 3:30 this morning, Zendell boarded a plane from New York and arrived in Greensboro ready to run. Similar to Roth, she'd lead the entire race and win in 6:51.89.
"You're just focusing on getting there and it makes you realize just how much you really do want [to win]," she said. "I almost didn't get a chance to so I knew that I was going to make the most of it."
St. Xavier of Ohio defeated Blacksburg of Virginia by the slimmest of margins in the 4x800m relay, 7:37.26 to 7:37.31. Western Branch of Virginia took the women's 4x800m in 8:52.38.
Of note, Olivia Baker of Columbia (New Jersey) split 2:06.85 for the 800m anchor leg in the girls 1600m sprint medley relay, leading her team to victory in a national record time. She's also entered in the open 800m, 400m, and 4x400m on Sunday.
Photo: Baily Roth setting a national high school 2000m steeplechase record of 5:41.67 at the 2014 New Balance Nationals Outdoor in Greensboro, NC. Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly.