Frazier took the race and made it her own from the gun. (Photo by Jake Prior)
BOSTON, Mass. – North Carolina’s Wesley Frazier wasn’t planning on leading from the start. It just turned out that way.
The senior from Ravenscroft School, and the top-ranked runner in the Girls’ Junior Mile at Saturday night's New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, forged to the front by the first turn and held on for a gun-to-wire victory with a time of 4 minutes, 48.94 seconds at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center. Frazier posted a nearly six-second win over second-place finisher, Bethanie Brown of Waterville (Maine) High, who crossed the line with a personal best of 4:54.57. Connecticut’s Sarah Gillespie of Northwest Catholic High placed third at 4:54.81.
“There was a lot of bumping and I kind of got off the line a little slow so I had to go out faster around the first turn,” said Frazier, who was the two-mile champion at the 2012 New Balance Outdoor Nationals. “When I got up to where I wanted to be I wasn't trying to get up front. I didn't want to do that. But it worked out.”
Even though the N.C. standout never trailed in the race and won by a substantial margin, she still had to shake off a strong challenge from Brown and Gillespie to win her first title at the Grand Prix event. In last year’s race, she finished third.
“I felt great,” she said. “I felt really good, even the last 400. I usually don't feel that good, so it was a good thing for the outdoor season. I feel really good about it.”
Brown, who last year at the New England Indoor Championships became the first-ever high school girl from her state to crack five minutes for the mile, nestled just a few strides behind her rival for most of the eight-lap race. It wasn’t until about 1,300 meters that Frazier could finally break away with a convincing burst on the outside straightaway.
Frazier hit the halfway mark at 2:24 and ran her final 400 in 68 seconds. She appreciated the effort by the Maine runner.
“That was good,” she said. “I liked that. I don't like running up front by myself. When I race, I prefer having people with me. I feel like it pushes me more.”
Frazier’s goal was to break 4:50 in the race. She already has dipped under the barrier once this season with a 4:48.43 back in December at the NC Runners Elite Holiday Classic.
She’s excited about how her season has been going so far.
“It's going really well,” Frazier said. “I just feel a lot stronger this year. My VO 2 is really good. I feel really strong. I have done some extra strength work but that's about it.”
The University of Connecticut-bound Gillespie, who owned the second fastest time in the field with her 4:51.98 best, made a gallant effort in the closing stages of the race to nearly nab runner-up honors. Hovering in third, she broke past Brown with about 200 meters remaining. But the Waterville teen had just enough left with a few meters left to regain her final position.
“I was feeling pretty fresh so I was like I am going to go for it,” said Gillespie, a seventh-place finisher at last year’s race. “I ended up just getting nipped at the line, but I am really happy with it. It's the first race where I could really just test myself all season. I didn’t have to go for points or wins (for the team).This is a fun race.”
Gillespie admitted she wasn’t planning on holding back until the final lap.
“I wanted to get off the line better and be right behind Wesley Frazier,” she said. “You take what the race gives you. Last year I was in the same race, same situation. I didn't handle it well. I have learned to get out and attack and stay focused.”
Frazier’s sophomore sister, Ryen, finished fourth in the race with a PB of 4:59.73. Taking fifth was junior Katie Lembo of Pennfield, N.Y., with a 5:01.04 clocking. Pennsylvania’s Sara Sargent, a senior from Pennsbury High, was sixth at 5:01.56.
Sheridan Wilbur, of La Salle Academy in R.I., one of two tenth-graders in the field and the recent Dartmouth Relays’ mile winner, was up with the leaders for the first 400 but faded to seventh. She crossed the line at 5:02.40.
“I had a lot of adrenaline once the gun went off,” Wilbur admitted. “I probably went out too fast. In the second half it was hard for me to push off and have everything because I kind of gave it my all at the beginning so I was a little tired at the end. Overall it was a great experience.”