With the postseason in full swing, only a few members of the girls winter track team qualified out of the North Jersey Section 2 Group III Sectional to run at the Group III Championships on February 20—and fewer still qualified for the Indoor Meet of Champions to be run on February 27.
Lou Mialhe ’16 ran in the 3200-meter run at Groups and qualified for MOC. She ran a personal record of 11 minutes, 14.86 seconds, placing sixth. The top six placers automatically qualified. “I just wanted to get through [to MOC],” Mialhe said. “I settled, knowing I had to finish sixth.”
Entering the race, Mialhe had specific goals in mind. “Going into Groups, I first of all needed to PR since my 3200 times from indoor and outdoor last year were basically the same,” she said.
Chloe Taylor ’18 also competed in the 3200-meter race, placing tenth. In the sprint distances, Jackie Patterson ’18 placed ninth in the 400-meter dash, while Jordan Vine ’16 placed twentieth in the 55-meter dash and tenth in the 400-meter dash.
While none of those performances qualified the individuals for a spot at MOC, Vine’s performances earlier in the season earned her a spot in a 200-meter showcase event at the meet. “I found out I was running the 200-meter showcase at Meet of Champions last week, and it was kind of a big [surprise] because I didn’t realize I was going to do that until my coach told me,” Vine said.
The showcase chooses New Jersey sprinters based on the fastest times posted during the regular season by athletes across the state. “[Selection] is based on your state rankings and your times,” Vine said. “They take the top 25 girls in the 200.”
Head Coach James Smirk said that the qualifications for MOC are a result of consistency and the right mindset. “Lou has been a really good runner for us for a really long time, but there have been moments in those big competitions that it’s been hard to access that next level,” he said. “What we saw … for Groups was a veteran who really understands what her limitations are, what’s required for success. She put it all together, and that’s what you want to see.”
Smirk noted that Vine has overcome serious difficulties to be where she is today. “[She’s] had her challenges—a couple injuries that set her back entire seasons,” he said. “[It’s amazing that she has] the fortitude to— in those really tough moments where people are telling her, maybe give up the sport—to say to herself, ‘This is something I really want, something I’m willing to sacrifice for, do the hard work”.
According to Smirk, the most significant work done by an athlete isn’t during race day— it’s the preparation leading up to it. “The hard work, it’s not particularly glamorous,” he said. “It’s the hard work in the weight room and the hard work during [physical therapy] where no one is out there cheering.”
Overall, both Vine and Mialhe were excited for the opportunity to race fast athletes and push themselves to personal bests. “I’m really excited for this. This is my first time competing in Meet of Champions individually,” Vine said,“It’s going to be strong competition: people will probably be running under 26 [seconds] so that’s going to be good for me,” she said. “My current personal best is 26.4 [seconds] … Hopefully I will break 26; that is my main goal.”
Mialhe plans to go out aggressively,aiming to break the indoor 3200-meter record set in the 2012 by Elyssa Gensib ’12 of 11 minutes, 6.96 seconds. “I’m definitely trying to break 11 minutes,” Mialhe said. “[Meet of Champions is] a really great opportunity to compete with some of the best runners in the state.”
Smirk said that having both a distance runner and a sprinter qualify for MOC is significant, considering PHS’s history. “The biggest change in our program over the last ten years is the fact that we’re finding greater and greater balance in our program,” he said. “We’re not just having a distance standout or a sprint standout. We’re developing these runners across years to get them to the point where they’re ready to go and compete at the Meet of Champions consistently.”