Preview the action at the Midwest Distance Gala

As we round out the state championship season of track and field in the Midwest, it also marks the yearly migration of some of Mid-America’s best distance runner’s to the track at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. This year’s version of the Midwest Distance Gala will be marked by some additions and some of the strongest fields that the meet has ever put together. Outside observers were likely worried about the pull of the Gala when it was announced there would be an elite prep mile put together in connection with the Golden League meet hosted in New York over the same weekend this year, but, overall, the Midwest Distance Gala has done very well and it’s depth, especially in the male events, is what will keep athletes coming back year after year. Like always, fast times are expected and as many athletes are appearing in their final tune-up before New Balance Nationals, there won’t be much holding back. Meet director Scott Bush has brought together some great fields, so let’s get started on breaking them down and we will begin with the boys’ mile.

Bush put it this way, “This is easily the deepest field we’ve ever had for the Gala mile,” and that is an impressive statement, especially after last year’s event saw four athletes dip under 4:10 and 10 go under 4:15. Colin Barker (Photo above, by Margot Kelly) (Bishop Kenny HS, FL) and Taylor Wardall (Appleton East, WI) are the headliners based on their sub-4:11 PRs for 1600 meters, but the entry list is not lacking for credentials. There is North Carolina Class 4A State 1600 meter Champion Blake Williams (Northern Durham, NC), Missouri Class 4 State 1600 meter Champion Daniel Thater (Kickapoo HS, MO), Texas Class 4A State 1600 meter Champion Ethan Doherty (Boerne Champion, TX), Golden South 800 meter champion and 2009 NIN 800 meter champion Bill Ledder (Photo left) (Gonzaga College HS, DC), and World Junior Cross Country team member Walter Schafer (Cherry Creek HS, CO). That doesn’t even include Wade Voyles (Chapel Hill HS, GA), Miles Schoelder (Ocean City HS, NJ), or Kyle Graves (Our Lade of Good Counsel, MD), all of whom have 1600 meter times under 4:14 in their own right this year. Put all this together, along with an honest pace, and we might see a record number of athletes dip under that 4:10 mark.

*(Michigan D1 State 1600 meter champion Omar Kaddurah (Grand Blanc, MI) and 4th place finisher in both the D1 1600/3200 Jeremy Dickie (Swartz Creek, MI) had been added to the field, but the MHSAA deemed the meet illegal and all Michigan underclassmen have now been taken out of the mee. Bios for both are below.)

Last year’s girls’ mile was a great duel between Stephanie Brown and Lizzy Hynes as the two ladies ended up 4:50.12 and 4:51.91. Bush has even higher hopes this year, “A sub-4:50 time is the goal here,” and the line-up has some impressive credentials to make it interesting. Leading
the entries is a rising star in Emma Brink (Photo right) (Sacred Heart Academy, KY), who is still flying under the radar nationally. Brink has battled with Pass Christian’s Cory McGee on several occasions, including at the Mobile Meet of Champions, where McGee clocked 4:49.76 for the full mile and Brink ended up 4:52.51. Colleen Quigley (Nerinx Hall HS, MO) is looking to make things interesting, though, and her credentials are very impressive as well. Quigley was Missouri’s Class 4 State runner-up in both the 1600 and 3200 meters this year running 4:54.90 and 10:53.60, respectively. The group of Margaret Connelly (Fenwick HS, IL), Jenna McMiller (Wakesha North HS, WI), and Molly Seidel (University Lake HS, WI) will all be looking to dip under the 5 minute barrier for the first time and with all of them having PRs for 1600 meters under 5:03, there is a great likelihood that things could work out for all of them.

Last year’s boys’ 800 meter race featured Nick Kaiser taking aim at that 1:50-barrier and coming up just short, but this year, that is the focus of the entire race. “(The Boys 800 meter race is) our deepest field in event history. The pace will go out at sub-1:50 pace.” Indiana 800 meter state champion Austin Mudd (Center Grove, IN) and runner-up Nathan Hendershot (Pendleton Heights, IN) both enter coming off of clockings in the 1:51-range at last weekend’s state championships, while state champions Dalen Fink (Photo left) (ft Zumalt North, MO) and Gabe Genovesi (Homestead HS, WI) both enter with PRs under 1:52 as well. New Jersey’s Kevin Byrne might be the biggest name coming in, even though his 800 PR is only 1:52.81, due to his indoor 1k PR of 2:26.78, set at the New Balance Collegiate meet earlier this year, which was one of the 10 fastest prep performances ever at that distance. The field is so strong that some very good athletes like Ryan Van Portfliet (Regis Jesuit, CO) and Nathan Prom (Dundee-Crown HS, IL), are undercards in the fastest heat. It would take something impressive to make us forget about Kaiser’s performance even for a short time, but with the depth of this group, it just might happen.

If the boys’ 800 meters is exciting, the girls’ race might be described as mind-blowing coming into the meet. Laura Roesler (Photo right) (Fargo South, ND) is entered and her list of accomplishments is long and impressive. She suffered her first loss since 7th grade at the North Dakota Track and Field State Championships two weeks ago……as a senior! Now if you aren’t buying that, then buy this: Runner-up in 800 meters @ 2009 USA Junior Nationals (2:07.41), 800 meter PR of 2:03.08 (season best of 2:05.76), and, don’t forget, 10th place at the 2008 US Olympic Trials……as a SOPHOMORE! Roesler will definitely bring all of her experience to the table, but Shelby Houlihan (Sioux City East, IA) will be ready to counter with her own abilities. Houlihan brings in a 2:08.58 PR for 800 meters and will be nipping at Roesler’s heels for the length of the race. Molly McNamara (Red Bank Catholic HS, NJ) comes in with a strong resume as well, coming off her double win at the NJSIAA Group Championships (2:09.63 for 800 meters/5:00.22 for 1600 meters) and already has a 5th place finish from this year’s NIN 800 meter race as well. Adding the real depth to this race, and definitely looking to stay close, will be Jahnell Horton (Evanston Township, IL), Michelle Frigo (York, IL), and Jamie Burr (Onalaska, WI). Here are Bush’s comments on the race, and I can’t help but agree, “Perhaps our most exciting race of the evening, as US#2 Laura Roesler and US#6 Shelby Houlihan square off.  We are working to make this race very special.”

As for the boys two mile race, it was a big deal to see three athletes break 9 minutes last year, but Bush thinks more performances like that are possible this year. Texas Class 5A state 3200 meter champion Ryan Dohner (Photo left) (Klein Oak, TX) is the biggest name among the entries, but a couple more Texas products will keep it interesting as Tim Cousins (The John Cooper School, TX) and Jeff Arnier (Arlington Lamar, TX) both make the trip up wit 3200 meter PRs under 9:10. Maksim Korolev (Harrisonville HS, MO) and Kevin Colon (Lee’s Summit West, MO) were the 3200 meter champions in Class 3 and 4 respectively in Missouri, while Chris Walden (Carmel, IN) brought home a state title in Indiana at the 1600 meter distance. Michael Bradjic (Bay HS, OH) and Matt Jablonski (Loyola Blakefield, MD) both have sub-9:09 clockings coming in and Danny Nicolls (Regis Jesuit, CO) was here last year and ran a strong 9:16.00 then. Last year’s race was about the star power and the fast times, but only four athletes total broke 9:10. This year, the goal is to increase the number of athletes going under that 9-minute barrier and the 9:10-barrier and with the field assembled, it seems that is more than reasonable.

The steeplechase event was very successful last year with the emergence of Connor Martin of Westfield, Indiana, who would go on to gain a spot on the World Youth Team after winning the World Youth Trials last summer. His time of 6:01.97 at this event last year caught plenty of people off guard, but his name is definitely on the radar now and it will be interesting to see if he can match that after a 6th place showing in the 3200 meters at Indiana’s State Championships. Entering to challenge is Ryan Smith (Dixie Heights, HS) who hasn’t yet run the steeplechase, but has solid credentials with a 15:32 PR for 5000 meters and a spot to run for the University of Mississippi in the fall. The girls’ version will be the very first this year and could be a chance for some ladies to break out. As for entries, Bush was waiting for some athletes to look at the field before they decided whether or not to run the steeplechase.

*(Martin has pulled out of the steeplechase in favor of running in the two mile and the girls steeplechase has been dropped from the list of races apparently due to lack of entries.)

Finally, there is the boys’ freshman mile that was a great event last year. Bush feels very confident about this year’s field, but also made a surprising comment about the freshman who may post the fastest time on the day: “6 athletes have gone sub-4:35, with two of them going sub-4:29.  Our top frosh registrant, Jacob Thomson from Kentucky (4:21 Mile PR), is running our regular mile.”

As we near the final deadline for entries, this preview will definitely be updated and we will notate that as it becomes available to us so stay tuned.

It isn’t hard to figure out the fact that this year’s edition of the Midwest Distance Gala could be the best yet and if you haven’t been out yet, you should know that it is a sight to be seen. The crew that has been working on this whole concept has done a great job of thinking through what they want and making sure that the product they put out on the track each year is worth not just the cost of the trip for the athletes, but the cost of admission for everyone on hand. We hope to see you out at the races!



Highlights for each of the top entries:


Boys Mile



*Omar Kaddurah (Junior, Grand Blanc HS, Grand Blanc, MI)
    MI Division 1 State 1600 meter champion (4:07.67, MI State Championship Meet Record); 4th place in Mile @ NIN (4:13.33); MITS State 1600 meter champion (4:14.46);

Colin Barker (Senior, Bishop Kenny HS, Jacksonville, FL)
    FL Class 2A State Champion in 1600/3200 (4:18.09/9:24.85); 3200m PR 8:56.80 @ Arcadia, 1600m PR 4:10.85 @ FL Class 2A Region 1 meet; Foot Locker Finalist 2009 (14:53 for 8th at Foot Locker South)

Wade Voyles (Junior, Chapel Hill High School, Douglasville, GA)
1600m PR 4:11.21 @ 2010 Georgia Olympics (3rd); 800m PR 1:54.40 @ 2010 Georgia Olympics (3rd)

*Jeremy Dickie (Junior, Swarz Creek HS, Swartz Creek, MI)
    MI Division 1 4th place finisher in 1600 and 3200 meters (4:11.53/9:18.72); MI Division 1 State XC runner-up (15:50.2)

Blake Williams (Junior, Northern Durham, Durham, NC)

    NC Class 4A State Champion in 1600 (4:13.11)/runner-up in 800m (1:54.76); NC Class 4A State Champion indoors 1600 (4:28.78); 20th @ Foot Locker Finals 2009 (15:44.90); 3200m PR 9:04.36 @ Raleigh Relays 2010, 1600m PR @ Apex Relays 2010

Miles Schoelder (Junior, Ocean City HS, Ocean City, NJ)
    4th @ NJSIAA Meet of Champions (4:11.46); 13th in mile @ 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals (4:18.12); 1500m PR 3:58.60

Daniel Thater (Senior, Kickapoo HS, Springfield, MO)
    MO Class 4 State Champion in 1600m (4:12.95)/runner-up in 3200m (9:15.94); 10th @ 2009 Nike Cross Midwest (15:32.60); MO Class 4 State Champion in CC 2009 (16:12.00)

Bill Ledder (Senior, Gonzaga College HS, Washington DC)
    2010 Golden South Champion in 800 meters (1:51.23); 7th in 800 meters @ 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals (1:54.13; 2009 Champion); 1600m PR 4:11.77 and Mile PR 4:13.24 both @ 2010 Southern Track Classic

Walter Schafer (Senior, Cherry Creek HS, Greenwood Village, CO)
    3200m PR 8:57.77 @ 2010 Arcadia; 2nd @ USATF Junior XC Championships and 44th @ World Junior XC Championships; 22nd @ 2009 Foot Locker XC Nationals; Mile PR 4:14.57 @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala

Kyle Graves (Senior, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Olney, MD)
    3200m PR 9:10.53 @2010 Draper Invitational, 1600m PR 4:13.34 @ 2010 Pepsi Florida Relays; 12th in 2-mile (9:21.07) and 18th in Mile (4:20.61) @ 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals

Ethan Doherty (Senior, Boerne Champion, Boerne, TX)
    TX Class 4A State Champion in 1600m (4:14.19); 1600m PR 4:14.11 @ Texas Relays; Member of Nike Cross Nationals Team Champion (98th, 16:17.4)

Taylor Wardall (Senior, Appleton East HS, Appleton, WI)
2010 WI Division 1 State Champion in 1600 meters (4:10.62)/Runner-up in 800 meters (1:52.78); WI Indoor State Champion in 1600 meters (4:14.46); 4:11.06 Mile @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala

Boys 800m

Austin Mudd (Junior, Center Grove, Greenwood, IN)
    IN State Champion in 800 meters (1:51.01); 1600m best of 2010 4:19.82 @ Franklin Sectional

Nathan Hendershot (Senior, Pendleton Heights, IN)
    Two-time IN Runner-up in 800 meters (1:51.63 in 2010, 1:51.49 PR); 11th in 800 @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala (1:54.84); 14th in 800 @ 2009 Nike Outdoor (1:53.19)

Dalen Fink (Senior, Fort Zumwalt North HS, O Fallon, MO)
    MO Class 4 State Champion in 800 meters (1:51.29)

Kevin Byrne (Junior, Red Bank Catholic HS, Red Bank, NJ)
    NJ Group Champion in 800 meters (1:52.81); 6th in 1600 @ NJ Group Championships (4:17.00); Indoor 1000m PR 2:26.78; 14th in 800 meters @ 2010 Nike Indoor (1:54.80)

Gabe Genovesi (Senior, Homestead HS, Mequon, WI)
2010 WI Division 1 State Champion in 800 meters (1:51.55); 800m PR 1:51.23 @ Homestead Last Chance

Ryan Van Portfliet (Senior, Regis Jesuit HS, Aurora, CO)
    6th in 800m/1600m @ CO Class 5A State Championships (1:55.38/4:30.20); 800m PR 1:54.96 @ Liberty Bell Invitational; 1600m PR 4:24.48 @ Continental League Meet

Nathan Prom (Senior, Dundee-Crown HS, Carpentersville, IL)
    IL Class 3A Runner-up in 800 meters (1:53.56)

Boys Two Mile

Ryan Dohner (Klein Oak, TX)
    TX Class 5A State Champion in 3200m (9:00.15)/5th in 1600m (4:17.65)

Tim Cousins (Senior, The John Cooper School, The Woodlands, TX)
    1600m PR 4:12.41 @ The Woodlands Regional Qualifier; 3200m PR 9:05.48 @ Texas Relays; 800m PR 1:55.66 @ Nick Finnegan Spring Invitational

Michael Brajdic (Junior, Bay HS, Bay Village, OH)
    OH Division 2 Runner-up in 3200 meters (9:08.41); 27th @ 2009 Nike Cross Nationals (15:43.60); 2009 OH Division 2 State XC Champion (15:49.81)

Maksim Korolev (Senior, Harrisonville HS, Harrisonville, MO)
    MO Class 3 State Champion in 1600m/3200m (4:13.60/9:14.69); 3200m PR 9:08.72 @ Al Davis/Mike Lillis Relays; MO Class 3 State XC Champion (15:48)

Jeff Arnier (Senior, Arlington Lamar, Arlington, TX)
    5th place in 3200m @ Texas Relays (9:09.06); 5th @ Nike Cross South (16:08.20); 4th @ 2010 TX State XC Championships (15:16);

Chris Walden (Junior, Carmel HS, Carmel, IN)
    IN State Champion in 1600m (4:10.70); 9:17.20 in 3200m @ Carmel Sectional; 11th @ 2010 Foot Locker Nationals (15:37.70); Runner-up @ 2009 IN State XC Championships (16:01.00)

Kevin Colon (Senior, Lee’s Summit West HS, Lee’s Summit, MO)
    MO Class 4 State Champion in 3200 meters (9:12.09)/runner-up in 1600m (4:17.12)

Danny Nicolls (Senior, Regis Jesuit HS, Aurora, CO)
    Runner-up CO Class 5A 3200 meters (9:18.06); 26th @ 2009 Foot Locker Nationals (15:48.20); 2-mile PR 9:16.00 @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala

Matt Jablonski (Junior, Loyola Blakefield, Baltimore, MD)
Danbury Dream Invite Champion in 2-mile (9:02.00); Runner-up in Mile @ Southern Classic (4:10.64); 5th in Mile @ Nike Indoor Nationals (4:15.33)

Boys Steeplechase

Connor Martin (Junior, Westfield HS, Westfield, IN)
    6th in 3200 meters @ 2010 IN State Championships (9:11.88); USATF World Youth Trial Champion and World Youth Championship Team Member 2009 in 2k Steeplechase; 2000m Steeplechase PR 6:01.97 @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala;

Ryan Smith (Senior, Dixie Heights HS, Covington, KY)
    KY Class 3A Runner-up in 1600m (4:22.07); 5k PR 15:32 @ 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals

Boys Frosh Mile

6 athletes have gone sub-4:35, with two of them going sub-4:29.  Our top frosh registrant, Jacob Thomson from KY (4:21 Mile PR), is running our regular mile.


Girls 800m

Laura Roesler (Senior, Fargo South HS, Fargo, ND)
    Countless State Championships in 100,200, 400, and 800 in ND Class A; 800m PR 2:03.08, season’s best of 2:05.76; 400m PR of 53.25 @ 2010 Class A State Championships; Runner-up in 800 meters @ 2009 USA Junior Nationals (2:07.41); 10th @ 2008 US Olympic Trials (2:04.03)

Shelby Houlihan (Junior, Sioux City East HS, Sioux City, IA)
    800m PR of 2:08.58; Runner-up in 800m/4th in 1500m @ Class 4A State Championships (2:09.80/4:40.15)

Molly McNamara (Junior, Red Bank Catholic HS, Red Bank, NJ)
    Runner-up in 1600m @ NJSIAA Meet of Champions (4:51.13); 1st in 800m/1600m @ NJSIAA Group Championships (2:09.63/5:00.22); 5th in 800 meters @ Nike Indoor Nationals (2:13.37)

Jahnell Horton (Sophomore, Evanston Township HS, Evanston, IL)
    5th in 800 meters @ 2010 IL Class 3A State Championships (2:14.41)

Michelle Frigo (Junior, York, Elmhurst, IL)
    3rd in 800 meters @ 2010 IL Class 3A State Championships (2:13.53)

Jamie Burr (Junior, Onalaska HS, Onalaska, WI)
    3rd in 800 meters @ 2009 Midwest Distance Gala (2:15.69); 10th in 800 meters @ 2010 WI State Championships (2:18.57)

Girls Mile

Emma Brink (Junior, Sacred Heart Academy, Louisville, KY)
    KY Class 3A State Champion in 800m/1600m two straight years (2:13.26/4:53.66); 1600m PR 4:52.77 @ Eastern Relays; Mile PR 4:52.51 @ Mobile Challenge of Champions; 2-time State XC Champion

Colleen Quigley (Junior, Nerinx Hall HS, St. Louis, MO)
    MO Class 4 State runner-up in 1600m/3200m (4:54.90/10:53.60); 800m PR 2:14.75 @ McCullough/Douglas Invitational; 3rd place MO Class 4 State XC Championships (19:03)

Margaret Connelly (Senior, Fenwick HS, Oak Park, IL)
    10th Class 3A 3200 meters (10:49.64); Indoor 1600m PR 5:00.61, Season Best 1600m 5:01.95 @ New Trier Invitational

Jenna McMiller (Junior, Waukesha North HS, Waukesha, WI)
    2nd in 1600 meters (5:00.67)/3rd in 3200 meters (10:53.81) @ 2010 WI Division 1 State Championships; 4th @ 2009 WI Division State XC Championships (14:50.50 for 4k)

Molly Seidel (Sophomore, University Lake HS, Hartland, WI)
    2010 WI Division 3 State Champion in 1600m (5:06.39)/3200m (10:39.88); 2009 WI Division 3 State XC Champion (14:33.90 for 4k); 2009 State Champion @ 1600 and 3200 meters (5:02.52 and 10:49.98)