After running at New Balance Nationals Indoor last year, I got to experience the meet from a different perspective last weekend. The New Balance Nationals indoor mile was one of the highlights of my high school running career and a breakout moment for me, so I was excited to see which high schoolers would have those breakthroughs this year. I know we say this every year, but it felt like this year’s meet was faster and more competitive than ever! Lots of personal bests fell, meet records were shattered (including my own!), and many runners established themselves as national stars. Amid all these highlights, a few performances really stuck out to me.
Here are my highlights from the distance races at New Balance Indoor Nationals.
Ellie Shea’s Weekend
If there’s one thing I love in track and field, it’s a front-runner. If you know you’re the best runner in the field, why waste time sitting around in a pack? I’d like to think that’s what Ellie Shea thought this weekend when she took the 2-mile and 5000m by the horns and pulled away from the competition in the first 400m of both. There’s something exciting about watching a race and having to think to yourself, “are they crazy fit, or just crazy?” It didn’t take long to realize that Ellie Shea is not at all crazy; she knew what she was capable of and didn’t waste time to get after it. She was rewarded with a 9:49 two-mile and a 15:46 5k and easily some of the most exciting moments of the weekend. And after all of that? Ellie came back for a third straight day and finished off her weekend with a third-place finish in the mile and a season’s best 4:40.
Tyrone Gorze Lulling The 5k Field to Sleep
Coming into the 5k, a lot of eyes were on Lex Young (rightfully so) and his attempt at the national record. The attention on Young meant that distance stars Tyrone Gorze and Daniel Simmons flew under the radar a bit. As the race played out, Young, Simmons, and Gorze began to break away from the pack, settling into a rhythm of 34-second laps. Then, Tyrone Gorze’s decisive move came in the blink of an eye. In just one lap, Gorze dropped the pace by nearly 3 seconds a lap and pulled away from his competitors. It was a powerful move that showed Gorze was within himself during the whole race and just waiting to strike. After closing his last K in 2:34 and setting a new national 5k record in 13:56, Gorze hit us with the sleeper celebration. For a guy like Gorze who has an elite resume but still flew a bit under the radar coming into the race, it just made sense. A dominant performance followed up by a great celebration; what else can you ask for?
Depth in the Boys 800m
The Boys’ 800m is sneaky deep right now. In this race alone, we saw 4 of the top 10 all-time 800m performances from Tinoda Matsatsa (#3), Alex Leath (#4), Dan Watcke (#8), and Andrew Regnier (#9). After the year that Cade Flatt and Will Sumner had in 2022, it seemed pretty difficult for this year’s group of mid-distance runners to match that level of hype in the event, but they’re ahead of schedule! Matsatsa and Leath even surpassed Flatt’s meet record from last year, with the two of them running 1:48.27 and 1:48.46 respectively. Granted, it will take another step forward to see them target that 1:46 mark, but I wouldn’t count either of them out. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning NXN Champion and 1:48 man Aaron Sahlman, who had an off day at NBNI but is sure to be a name to watch outdoors. The Boys’ 800m might just be the most exciting distance race in HS right now.
Jackson Heidesch’s Breakout Continues
Jackson Heidesch’s breakout certainly hasn’t just begun, but New Balance Indoor Nationals was another big step for the Iowa senior. There’s running fast, and then there’s learning to run fast and win. He came up a bit short in the 2-mile, finishing 2nd in 8:44, but Jackson came back in the Mile two days later and had one of the most impressive wins of the weekend. Holding off a charging Devan Kipyego in the last lap, Heidesch grabbed the meet record running 4:02.25 and secured his first national title. Winning the NBNI mile last year was a huge confidence boost and jumping-off point for my outdoor season, and a year later, I think the same could be true here.
I’m really excited to see what Heidesch can do outdoors because he’s quickly building one of the most impressive distance resumes in the country with times of 4:02 for the mile and 8:42 for the two-mile this indoor season. He’s hardly just begun on the national stage, but I can’t help but feel like we haven’t seen the best of Jackson Heidesch yet.
Cuthbertson High School Girls’ Relay Triple
As I looked through the results in preparation to write this article, I realized that I had missed one of the most impressive performances of the weekend. Representing the Carolina Cavaliers, Alyssa Preisano, Justine Preisano, Charlotte Bell, and Stella Kermes of Cuthbertson High had a dominant weekend across the distance relays. Kicking it off on Friday, they picked up a dominating win in the DMR, running a US #7 all-time 11:35.51. Returning the next day, the same four girls finished second in the 4xMile and clocked a sub-20 performance, finishing in 19:55.21. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Cavaliers saved their best performance for last on Sunday afternoon. Holding off a valiant effort from Union Catholic, the Cuthbertson girls set a new national record in the 4×800 running 8:48.02! It’s easy to overlook relays for highlights in individual events, which – in my opinion – makes it even more important to recognize the significance of what these girls were able to pull off. Any one of these three performances would be a highlight for the weekend, but to run all three on back-to-back-to-back days is unreal.