While her outdoor season is in limbo due to the coronavirus outbreak, Makayla Paige remains optimistic she'll get to run her fastest 800m soon eough
By Denise Spann - MileSplit Correspondent
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Three-time Massachusetts state champion Makayla Paige may have found incredible success at 600 meters this indoor season, but her junior year -- or what remains of it -- continues to have a larger goal.
The 800m will be her imperative focus.
Finding time and people to train with might be harder than ever now, with the season in limbo as the coronavirus delays or all together cancels seasons across the country, but the Tewksbury Memorial junior says she remains focused, and her goals are to work on strength and patience in the first half of her race in order to transform into an elite 800 meter runner.
Since the beginning of the 2019 indoor season, Paige has led the nation at 600m. Opening her season two seconds faster than the previous year at the distance, her success urged her to continue chasing a new personal best while also simultaneously competing in her other strength, the 800m.
"I was really hoping to get a PR in the six because the season started off really well," she said. "I almost got it at the very beginning, but then only ended up running .01 faster."
While slightly disappointed in her PR of one-hundredth of a second at the MIAA Division 3 Championships (1:29.70), she's found that her 600m has prepared her for what her best 800m should feel like.
"I would say it helps with the very beginning and the end of the race because you get out hard and you know how to finish fast," Paige said. "Also, I do use my time in the 600m to help me run my 800m. I take my PR and I add two seconds and say, okay the goal is to try and come through in this time and give my all to the finish."
* Makayla Paige ran a US No. 8 mark in the 800m in 2:08.01 in January
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By the end of the indoor season, Paige, who finished the year No. 22 on the MileSplit50, was still US top 10 in the 500m (No. 3) and 800m (US No. 7), though with only one attempt at each distance. However, she says she doesn't want to get caught up in chasing US No. 1s. Rather, she believes it will be the times which will make her the most successful.
"It's [US No. 1] just exciting for next year and what could possibly happen," she said.
Paige ran an indoor PR of 2:08.01 in her first and only 800m of the season at the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic. Going into last weekend in New York, the plan was to improve her performance from 2019 at New Balance Nationals Indoor, when she finished 10th in the girls championship out of the third heat. She ran 2:08.97.
A year wiser, she said her goal this time around was to run 2:04. Unfortunately, with the event canceled due to public safety concerns, a new PR will have to wait for another day.
"I was actually lying in bed, waking up to get ready for school," Paige said. "My mom walked in to wake me up and told me that it's cancel and I just jumped out of bed. I couldn't believe it. It was at the point where it was so close I could almost feel it and then all of a sudden it's just taken away."
But it didn't take away from what Paige was able to accomplish in 2020. She dominated in her only performance at The Armory previously this winter when she won the 600m at the NYRR Millrose Games.
At NBNI, the championship field was full of elite athletes that Paige had experience against, including 600m American record holder Athing Mu; 800m US No. 3 all-time Juliette Whittaker; and returning NBNI champion Roisin Willis, not to mention New Balance Nationals Outdoor champion Michaela Rose.
The Tewksbury Memorial junior was prepared for any type of race.
"I (was) ready for the field to go really fast, it's a big meet that everyone (was) excited to run in," she said.
As for her next 800m, that opportunity is suspended until the outdoor season, but maybe the extra time could be what she needs to better last year's breakout season. The MIAA Board of Directors postponed the start of the spring season to March 30.
In 2019, Paige broke 2:10 for the first time outdoors to win her first MIAA All-State Championship in 2:08.41. She finished the season by becoming an All-American with her third-place finish at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in 2:06.27.
Looking back at that race, Paige said she knows what she
needs to do differently.
"Don't stress out too much," she said. "Because I was really freaking out before my first indoor nationals and I sort of got into my own head. I didn't really try going out with the front pack. But then during outdoors, I was able to stay a little calmer before and during the race; so that helped me once I was in that tough position of, to go or not to go."
The junior said she's back in better shape, reminiscent of last year, and she's ready to stay positive and mentally dive into competition. Another big confidence booster? All that 600m training.
"During these meets, when it's more of a solo, I tell myself to just try to go out and have fun and not overthink it," Paige added. "You've run plenty of 800's in your life and if you run it the same way you have before, you'll be fine."
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Follow Denise Spann at @itsdspann on Twitter