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Reebok Boston Indoor Games

Reggie Lewis Center, Boston

urday, February 7, 2009

Playing into Parry's hands

Though she had by far the best PRs coming in, the Canadian hoped for a slower pace.  Her foes obliged

By SteveU

Photos John Dye and Jeannette Seckinger

There was very little difference in the way the pack looked during the first lap (above) and during the fourth (at right).
With 2008 PRs in the 800/1500 of 2:06.00 and 4:20.59 coming in, as well as last year’s runner-up finish in the Reebok Boston Indoor Games girls junior mile, it was reasonable to think that London, Ontario’s Jessica Parry could win as she pleased – whether that be leading from the gun, using a mid-race surge, or kicking at the end.

What her competitors didn’t know was that the Catholic Central HS senior had been under the weather part of the previous week and had no intention of pushing hard from the gun.  And the combination of the recent illness and what had happened for her in the race last year – when she pushed hard after halfway, only to get gapped at the end by Jillian Smith – had her reluctant to try anything in the middle laps.

All of which adds up to the fact that if some of the other top contenders – say, Cory McGee or Emily Lipari – had wanted to push hard from the gun or make a huge move at 800, they might have broken the will of the Canadian … maybe. 

But this was one of those races where the field unwittingly plays into the hands of the favorite.  Parry was more than willing to follow a slow pace, and her competitors obliged.

It didn’t necessarily look like it would play out that way at first.  Lipari, the Rosyln NY junior who had won the Hispanic Games and finished 3rd at Millrose, took control of the first few laps and passed the quarter in 72.  McGee was right on her back and North Shore NY junior Brianna Welch was just behind on the inside, while Parry and Collins Hill GA sr Amanda Winslow – a 4:48 1600 runner outdoors – were right there on the outside.  The pack was extremely tight and one had the sense that if the pace let up even slightly, McGee or someone else would pounce.

But nothing happened.  Lipari let the pace relax to 37/38-second laps and everyone waited for someone else.  Oh, McGee edged into the lead after 800 meters, and Parry covered it by moving up on the outside, but the pace didn’t change.  By the time the pack approached the three-quarter mark (3:43), it was clear that it was going to be a kickers’ race.  Just before that point, Lipari – who had gotten herself in quite a box – pushed hard to move between Winslow and Parry and surged into the lead.

Stephanie Brown, the Tri-Valley IL senior, had been lurking in 5th/6th most of the way.  With the 2nd-best 800 PR in the field, this pace had been ideal for her and she went right with Lipari.  Parry watched this and effortlessly increased her tempo just enough to cover.  On the next backstretch, Brown really let it out and sailed by Lipari, with Parry in tow.  The race was on!

On the homestretch, Parry knew she couldn’t wait any longer and went by Brown.  Lipari had been left alone in third, while Winslow and McGee battled for fourth.  After the 35 on the penultimate lap, Parry continued to pick it up, with a hard – but controlled – final kick.  Brown kept her reasonably close for most of the backstretch, but started really losing ground around the bend, with Lipari passing her at the top of the homestretch.

Covering the final lap in 32, Parry reached the tape in 4:51.62, faster than any prep has run a mile in the States this year.  Lipari finished in an indoor PR 4:53.29, evening her tally with McGee and showing perseverance.  Brown was third in an overall PR 4:54.87, perhaps the surprise of the night.  McGee would nap 4th (4:55.88) ahead of Winslow (4:57.46).

“My training was not as good this week because I was sick,” Parry said after the race.  She was more than content – because of that and getting beat at the end last year – to wait and see how she felt and let the other runners control the race until the end.  “I anticipated it going a little bit faster,” she said, “so I felt confident and strong going through the first kilometer.

Brown makes the first game-changing move, with Parry following and Lipari pressing to stay in contact.
“With three laps to go, I started feeling like I was ready to move, but after last year’s race, I decided to wait a little bit longer this time.”

Parry’s father later noted that she had missed a little training and school early in the week.

Meanwhile, the responses of the other top placers was a mix of some satisfaction at their places and times, but also some frustration, bewilderment, and certainly a sense like they’d been through a battle with all of the jostling.

Lipari’s legs, in particular, looked like they’d gotten in a fight with a briar patch – and lost.  “I came out with a little battle wound, but I’m going to be ok in the end.”

She even allowed that it might have been self-inflicted.  “When I was making my move with two laps to go, I think it was like a mess of people, and I jumped through two people … and I have a feeling one of my spikes must have hit my skin.  But I didn’t feel it and it doesn’t even hurt.”

As far as taking the early pace, Lipari said her coach had given her times to try and hit (70-71 at 400), explaining why she took control early and ran her own race.  “Nobody wanted to take the lead,” she said.  Later, she added, “I did feel the pace slowing down and I felt a couple girls coming on my back.  I was going to fight them … but as soon as I felt them pull away, I pulled with them.”

Parry looks comfortable as she approaches the tape.
Lipari also acknowledged she’s been racing an awful lot, with more to come with qualifying for the New York state meet.  “It was supposed to be my off season, but so far it hasn’t been,” she said.

McGee admitted that it didn’t do her much good drafting off the shorter Lipari and that everyone in the race apparently “went out with the same idea.  I thought someone would push it at the start, but we were all being conservative.”  She said she didn’t have as much to give as the previous week but finally said – given her very late start in cross-country and still rebuilding overall strength and fitness – that she has “not reached what I can do yet.”

Brown looked really disappointed with her finish at first, despite a PR, but later said it was more fatigue than seriously being down about it.  She was reasonably happy with the PR and getting third, especially since she rarely gets competition in her small school class in Illinois.  She was just a little miffed at the way she faded late.

“I felt good when I made my move … I’d fought a lot in the race; I kept getting boxed in and going on the outside and cutting back in – just a lot of movement in the race I’m not used to,” she said.  “So I go to make my last move and once Parry passed me, she cut in really quick.  I chased her and I guess it just got the best of me. I lost my focus in the last 50.  But it happens, and when you’re not used to all that competition, I don’t really handle it as well, I guess.  But I’m going to get better by having this experience: it’s really positive.”

The finish was not as deep as the boys race, even with the slower tempo.  Suffern NY sr Shelby Greany (5:00.60), Newton South MA sr Bridgette Dahlberg (5:02.70) and Welch (5:08.45) all lost ground late, though Dahlberg was closest to recent form.  Brittany Koziara FL and Alyssa Allison MO, with 1600 PRs of 4:53 and 4:51, were both at 5:17 and three-time Foot Locker Finalist Emily Jones MA – reportedly feeling lightheaded and the onset of illness – did not finish.

But the racing aside, all of those interviewed gave two thumbs up for the weekend experience.  “They treated us like goddesses and gods,” said Brown.  “They really treated us well and made us feel like we’re elite athletes.”

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