Nike Outdoor Nationals: Haile breaks 5K meet record

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Even when Solomon Haile didn’t look as indestructible as people have been accustomed to, his pace still proved abusive to those that followed. Even when his stride length shortened and his lead shrank, he surged again and stifled any hope of chasing him down.

He wanted more. He wanted to run faster. But what Maryland’s Haile would, well, settle for, was a meet record in the 5,000 meters and a national championship at the Nike Outdoor Nationals Thursday night at North Carolina A&T. The Sherwood senior finished in 14 minutes, 32.36 seconds, an outdoor personal best in his last high school race. Haile will compete at Arkansas next year.

“I was expecting a little more,” he said. “I was expecting to run 14:10 or under that. I mean I’m happy with the win. I should be running faster.”

For Haile, every race is an assault on the clock, another chance to be better than himself. Zac Ornelas of Cedar Park, Texas., admitted that everyone else simply went along for the ride.

“We all knew what was going to happen,” he said. “We could even go out like it was the NCAA meet and jog or we could go after him.”

Ornelas chose the latter. He stalked Haile most of the race, just close enough to maintain contact. Ornelas tried to cover every surge until Haile simply proved too much. Ornelas finished second in 14:50.19. Haile’s time topped the record set two years ago of 14:38.23 by Adam Vess of Xavier in Connecticut. The national title concluded a stellar scholastic career for Haile, one that was marred this fall with suspicions of age ineligibility that put his name in the press even more than normal and provided more than enough message board banter. Plus a sub-par 3,000-meter race at Penn Relays where he struggled with illness and allergies.

“I’ve been through a lot of things this year,” he said. “I really learned a lot in the last year. It gives you a stronger personality, going through those things. It makes you a stronger person.”

Haile said he wasn’t frustrated by his performance or the fact that he hadn’t run as fast as he wanted to before he ended his high school career. But he looked forward to racing in college next year, where for the first time in a long time, he won’t be the dominate runner on the track.

“I just want to run faster,” he said. “I’ll be happy to run with people that are better than me because they are just going to push me to run faster.”

Like Haile, Parkway Central (Mo.) junior Emily Sisson led the majority of the race in the girls 5,000. That was until Suffern (N.Y.) senior Shelby Greany pulled alongside her shoulder after two kilometers and eased ahead with seven laps to go. Sisson latched on when Greany inched ahead and a half lap later uncorked a surge over the next 300 meters and dropped Greany and put away the race.

“I just felt good so I figured I could surge,” she said.

Sisson won in 16:34.36, the second-fastest time in the meet’s history. Sisson admitted that her 71-second first lap was faster than she wanted to start the race but she said felt uncomfortable with the pace once she settled in and only Greany challenged her before Sisson ran the last six laps alone. It was probably her best race in what she described as a rough season after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease after the cross country season, the same illness than Olympic champion sprinter Gail Devers overcame in her professional career.

For Sisson, it just meant that she would push back her training. It meant 30-minute runs with a cap on how fast she could run. Sisson is on medication but is clearly handling her disease.

“I just feel really good,” she said. “I’m really thankful.”