By Christopher Hunt
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Katherine Walker remembered crying last year when she failed to even make the Virginia state meet. She remembered when she talked to her mom, who told her that she could either commit, really commit, or hang her spikes up.
And when she pushed toward the finish line she thought about how far she had come; how she couldn’t believe that she was about to be a national champ. Then she needed to shake it off because North Carolina’s Wesley Frazier was charging hard. Walker made it to the line first, winning the 5,000 meters on the first day of the New Balance Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A & T University Thursday night in 16:57.58.
Walker made her move at the mile mark, escaping a pace that felt too easy.
“I got to the mile around 5:20 and that was about eight seconds too fast, but it felt like it was eight seconds too slow,” Walker said.
When she took off she felt even better.
“I felt like I was floating,” she said.
The senior, who is headed to the University of Virginia, led the rest of the way even when she started to tighten up on the bell lap. Walker still put enough room on Frazier that the freshman couldn’t reel her in. Frazier finished in 16:59.19 with Nicole Irving of Shenendehowa third in 17:10.88.
“I heard my coach saying that I had to go and sometimes when you hear that all you want to say is I’m tired,” Walker said. “But you know what? This is my last weekend running in high school and wanted to give it what I had.”
The boys 5,000 took much longer to unfold. The pack stayed tight for more than two miles before Neal Smith (Tx.) took off with three laps to go, which essentially started the race. Mohamed Abushouk (N.C.) and Matt Mizereck (Fla.) quickly followed . Abushouk surged hard with 800 left but Mizereck overtook him on the curve.
Abushouk pushed again with 250 left but Mizereck refused to let him through. The effort broke Abushouk while Mizereck accelerated again at the 200 mark to win in 14:37.17. Abushouk was second in 14:41.47 and Smith third in 14:42.35.
“I couldn’t let him get around me,” Mizereck said. “If he gets around me then he gets the lead. I didn’t want him to get the feeling that he’s going to win. Then he gets in front and goes even faster. I can’t just let him in front. I have to make him at least suffer a little.”
Abushouk said he was aware of Mizereck’s kick and thought he should have made an earlier move. But the pace forced a physical and tactical race and in the end, Abushouk knew that it would come down to himself and Mizereck.
“I knew with two or three laps left that he was going to be there,” said Abushouk, who will race at North Carolina next year. “I knew if anyone was going to win they were going to have to get around him to do it.”
Notes: Shen’s Irving ran in the lead pack for most of the race until Walker surged at the mile mark. She fell to third afterward and remained there until the finish. She said her legs simply gave way after the 2-mile mark. She will compete at Wake Forest next year.
“I wanted to place top six, make the podium and run under-17:30 and I did all of that so I’m happy,” she said.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.