No. 5 - Kelsey Chmiel's Best Week Ever
There has always been a quiet humility to the Saratoga distance program. Since 1987, they have managed to place one or more runners in the Top Ten at the XC State Meet in all but two years. It's only fitting they're called the Blue Streaks. More recently, it's been Kelsey Chmiel at the helm of the Saratoga squad. Placing Top 5 at NXN both her freshman and sophomore years, she followed those up with Indoor and Outdoor National Class Records for the longest standard races on the track. Always reserved in interviews and interactions with others, it can sometimes be easy to hide in New York's crowded landscape of female distance running. But for one streak this spring, she was hard to miss. It was truly, Kelsey's best week ever.
It all started at the Loucks Games DMR night, on May 10th. Saratoga came into the race as a mystery. North Rockland, who had won the past three National Titles in the event, plus the coveted Penn Relays title just weeks before, were the heavy favorites. Besides Chmiel, Saratoga was relying on Amelia Mahoney, still returning from injury in the fall, Mimi Liebers, a breakout hurdler, and Keellyn Cummings, consistent over the past year. The quartet had run to 5th at Penn, just over 12mins, with the bulk of the work held by Kesley with a 4:49 anchor. But 12 mins wouldn't catch the former National Record Holders, Rockland.
The gun went off, and North Rockland took off. They had swapped their lineup, and star anchor Katelyn Tuohy was blasting the 1200m leg. For Saratoga, Cummings was keeping them right in the mix with the chase pack, handing off 5th at the exchange, but still a whole fourteen seconds off the lead. That's the kind of deficit that can be race-ending. North Rockland followed that up with a 57-leg for 400m, as did Saratoga. No change in distance between the pair. On to the 800m leg, and North Rockland once again blasted away. Alex Harris would go on to split 2:11, five seconds faster than anyone else in the field, and 8 seconds faster than Saratoga's leg. By the final exchange, Rockland would have a 23-second lead over the field. Then Chmiel got the baton, still in fourth, 150m down from the lead. The chase was on.
The laps began to tick away. Chmiel made quick work of 4th and 3rd, then set her eyes on the leader, across the turf from her. Through 400m, Chmiel's establishing sprint cut the gap in half, down to 75m. Another lap down, and it was down to 50m through 800m. Chmiel began to smell blood in the water, and was gaining fast on Rockland's anchor, Haleigh Morales. Morales, sensing the danger, began to open up stride, but Chmiel was now within 5m heading into the bell lap. One final surge, and with 300m to go, Chmiel moved into the lead. The wheels still churning, Chmiel began to separate. The reminder of the meet record reverberating from the PA began to ring. Chmiel held her pace through the final stretch, and crossed the line for the win. As her teammates came to embrace her, the split rang out. 4:42.9 for the win, fastest mile in the country. They had come back from nowhere, to set a US #1 that would withstand the entire season. And still, for Chmiel, this was only the beginning.
Fresh off a coveted Loucks relay title, Chmiel was back just 24hrs later. It was time for an individual effort: defending her title in the 3200m, where she set the Frosh National Record one year prior. The field was no short measure, with Jackie Gaughan (11th at Foot Locker Nationals that Fall) chief among the challangers. The New Hampshire standout was fresh, but no doubt heard of the herculean efforts of Chmiel the night before. Both knew the race wasn't going to be a sit-and-kick affair.
Gun goes off, and the pair quickly separate. Chmiel goes to the lead, Gaughan just 5m off. They click off even laps, the gap never growing nor shrinking. 2:25 through 800m. Then it was 4:57.3 through the 1600m. The pace then increased, dropping a 2:17 for the next 800m, coming through in 6:14.6. That's when the lead began to grow. The hard pace had taken it's toll. Chmiel continued to pound, now at 8:46 with only a lap to go. At 3000m, Chmiel splits 9:23.6, a best by 3-seconds at the time. Powering away, it came to the line, and with a minor dip, Chmiel breaks 10mins for the first time in her career. It was a new National Record for 15-year-olds, but short of the 9:55 Soph National record for the full 2-Mile, set by Hanah DeBalsi in 2014. She was 16 at the time. It also ranks NY #3 All-Time, just behind Aisling Cuffe and Molly Huddle.
However, Chmiel wasn't done. One week later were the Eddy Games, an annual invitational that brings in the best of Section 2. Chmiel was back on the track, looking at the 3000m. Running on tired legs, Chmiel took to Lane 2 for much of the race. Again, she began clicking off even splits lap after lap. With the bell lap rung, she pushed even further. She would come across the line at 9:18.09, a new Sophomore National Record for 3000m. Two State Records in one week, and three national leaders. Not only that, but she would go on to run 9:53 once again, three days later.
Chmiel would take a hiatus for 8 days, then come through with another impressive streak over the next three weeks, that would include two 4:30's (1500m), two fast 3k's (9:48,9:34), a Top 10 Road Race Finish amongst the Pro's, and a Outdoor National Title for 2-Miles. It was a very busy spring for the Saratogan, and with two more years to go, the bar has been set pretty high.
Fast Stats - Kelsey Chmiel - All-Time Marks
US #16 - 3000m Outdoor
US #21 - 2Mile Outdoor
US #7 - 3000m Indoor
US #19 - 2Mile Indoor
NY #3 - 3000m Indoor
NY #4 - 2Mile Indoor
NY #9 - 1500m Outdoor
NY #2 - 3000m Outdoor
NY #3 - 2 Mile Outdoor