Northern's Marlee Starliper Ready For Star Turn At NBNI

By David Monti, @d9monti

(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

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While Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland High School in Thiells, N.Y., has rightly grabbed most of the headlines over the last two seasons in U.S. high school girl's distance running, another young athlete, Marlee Starliper of Northern High School in Dillsburg, Pa., has been making some news of her own. 

Starliper, 16, was the youngest competitor in the two-mile event at the recent Toyota USATF Indoor Championships in Staten Island, New York. She had qualified for those championships by running a Pennsylvania high school state indoor record of 9:20.91 for 3000m at the Penn State National Invitational in University Park on February 26. The overwhelming favorite to win the state indoor title, she passed on her state meet to run in the open national championships, instead, facing a field of 28 elite athletes. Her decision paid off when she clocked 9:58.22 in the "B" heat of the two-section final, finishing 18th overall. Her performance made her the #6 USA high school indoor performer of all time, even though --like Tuohy-- she is only a junior.

"It was amazing," a beaming Starliper told reporters in Staten Island. "I really didn't know what to expect coming in to this race. All I knew was that I wanted to break 10 minutes.  That was my goal."

Thirteen women ran in Starliper's heat, and after five laps she was in last place. She said that she was trying not to get overexcited and stick with her race plan.

"I didn't know where I would place, but during the race I think I was, like, dead last for a while," she admitted. "But, I just tried to focus on my race, hit my splits as best I could, finishing with all I had left."

Ticking off 200-meters laps in just under 38 seconds, Starliper began to move up through the field. With two laps to go in the 16-lap race she was in seventh place, and was able to squeeze her pace down to 35.50 and 35.14 seconds, respectively, for the final two laps to finished seventh in her heat. She said that maintaining her focus was key.

"Yeah, I mean, I always try to focus on what I'm doing, how I'm feeling and still pay attention to what's going on around me," she explained.  "But, just really focusing in on myself, how I feel I need to be running. I feel with this race it was surprising how it turned out. I think I probably placed a little better than I expected.  But, yeah, it was just really cool knowing how, when, I can just zone in like that.  It just works. I felt pretty good, and was able to run that consistent pace."

Ironically, Starliper may end up ultimately being a stronger in the 1500m than in longer distances. On February 9, she won the prestigious high school mile at the NYRR Millrose Games in New York, clocking a meet record 4:41.66. She was supposed to face Tuohy in that race, but her rival withdrew due to illness.  That win gave her a lot of confidence, and was one of the reasons that she decided to skip her state meet to run at the open USATF Indoor Championships. Her expectations have been raised.

* Starliper won an open collegiate 3K race at the Penn State National Open earlier this year

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"I decided to do this meet instead of my state meet which was a hard choice because I just love seeing all the people from PA, all my friends," she explained. "But, I feel so blessed.  I was able to run two state records in the mile and the 3-K this season, and then come States, I was like, well, I don't know exactly what I'm fighting for anymore because I was also able to win both of those events my sophomore year. So, I thought that running at this meet would be such an awesome running experience, and I thought it would be a lot more rewarding to see what I can do."

This weekend, Starliper will compete at the New Balance Nationals Indoors at The Armory in New York City. She's entered in the mile where she will face, among others, Victoria Starcher of Ripley, W.V. (reigning champion Katelynne Hart of Glen Ellyn, I.L. is entered in the two-mile). Tuohy has opted to compete in the DMR, SMR and the 2-mile, where she will go after Mary Cain's national record of 9:38.68.

The championships 1-mile girls record is a stiff 4:36.61 by Katie Rainsberger, who now competes in the NCAA system with the University of Washington. Starliper finished fourth last year in 4:46.80.

Starliper's chances cannot be discounted. She's worked hard over the last 12 months and gained a lot of confidence from her first sub-10:00 two-mile 11 days ago, something she couldn't do the year before.

"That was my goal last year to break ten," she said. "I basically had one opportunity to go after it, but I really wasn't feeling good that day and it didn't turn out well. But, it was just so fun to be able to do that today and being that I'm able to see all of my training, all my hard work and training pay off in a really cool way.  It's so cool."

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The three-day New Balance Nationals Indoors kicks off on Friday at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory. The Twitter hashtag is #NBNationals.

PHOTO: Marlee Starliper of Northern High School in Dillsburg, PA, running in the two-mile at the 2019 Toyota USATF Indoor Championships (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)