|JORDAN HASAY | 07-08 dyestat girls athlete of the year|
This is the beginning of a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2007-08. Following the announcement of the DyeStat Girls and Boys Athletes of the Year will be The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series, which will include top honors for boys and girls distances, sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, relays, and multi-events. Selections are made by DyeStat editors and are based a combination of multiple major victories/honors won and performances on all-time and yearly lists. Performances from outdoor track, indoor track, and cross-country are taken into account.
As a junior high school phenom, her modus operandi was as follows: Get out fast; push the pace; try to hold on.
|Photo by John Nepolitan|
It was only a year ago that whenever her coach would enter her in an 800-meter race, she’d conveniently ‘miss’ the start.
And it was in the biggest race of her career this summer that it took her exactly one second to totally botch the prescribed race strategy.
But make no mistake about it, Jordan Hasay continues to learn, continues to improve, and continues to dominate.
In delivering what became recognized as the most remarkable stretch of distance races by a female prep in national history, the already popular 16-year-old rocketed multiple tiers higher in terms of notoriety and fame, all the while recording an unbeaten high school track season, setting a national high school record, earning a berth in the U.S. Olympic Trials final, and then placing fourth in the world at the IAAF Junior Track and Field Championships.
She also vanquished the fastest race-day threats in prep history, besting incredible challenges from both Christine Babcock and Laurynne Chetelat to keep her Arcadia Invitational and California state meet win streaks intact for a third consecutive year, and then won her second consecutive Junior Nationals title.
For her unrivaled achievements – which included being the yearly national leader at 1500 meters and 3200 meters – Hasay has been selected as DyeStat’s 2007-08 Girls Athlete of the Year.
“Thank you,” said Hasay in acknowledging the honor. “It’s been an amazing year and it’s still kind of all sinking in. To get a big PR in the 3200, to win all my races, win state and Arcadia again, then to make the Olympic Trials final … it just was amazing to see everything fall into place.”
In fact, her track season was so magical that the only time she was really ‘defeated’ by a high schooler took place off the track as Pennsylvania’s Chanelle Price was named as Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year, with that subjective determination being made well before the biggest – and most successful – meets on Hasay’s schedule.
“I was a little bit upset, I have to be honest,” said Hasay of not capturing the Gatorade honor. “I think (Chanelle) was really deserving and had a great year. … but I knew my best was going to come during the summer and it’s unfortunate that they make the decision before the season is over.”
Hasay doesn’t figure to lament for long, instead refocusing for her senior year of high school, the college years ahead, and the sought-after goal of representing the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
But for one to fully appreciate where she has already arrived, one must first understand just where she’s come from.
“I don’t have a kick” and “I can’t peak”
It was as a wide-smiling and precocious seventh and eighth-grader at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in San Luis Obispo, California, that Jordan Hasay’s name repeatedly came to us via shocked fans, stunned coaches and beaten race-day adversaries. The emails used different words and different perspectives, but the message was usually the same: “This girl is unreal!”
Reports streamed in from open races with little competition, road runs in the heat, all-comers meets on dirt tracks and time trials, all hailing the arrival of an unbeatable five-foot tall talent (right, photo by Jim Barodte). But in nearly every communication the same pattern emerged: Her in-race splits revealed she was a fast starter en route to wins, often against individuals more than twice her age. Negative splits were not in her vocabulary.
“She’s an amazing talent with a high threshold for discomfort,” said her club coach at the time, Jim Barodte. “At this point in her young and promising career, my main focus is on keeping it fun for her. She’ll learn and improve as she goes along.”
Her finish times were undisputable. Age-group records fell by the handful, all the while her legend mushrooming by the week. Having seen several age groupers go down in flames amid escalating expectations, overzealous parents and coaches and the like, the decision was made at DyeStatCal to ‘limit’ her appearances on the web site’s main page as a junior high school student, mostly to protect her from, and gently ease her into, the monstrous fishbowl that surely awaited on the high school scene.
Her anticipated litmus test before high school came weeks after her junior high graduation and occurred at the 2005 Golden West Invitational, a meet whose top races are geared toward leading national prep talent. Hasay was entered in the mile, finding herself shoulder to shoulder – er, shoulder to rib cage – with several recognized college-bound talents.
As soon as the starter’s gun boomed, the diminutive wonder scampered briskly into the lead. Very briskly. She put a gap of 15 meters on All-American talents Annie St. Geme of Southern California and Erin Bedell of Texas, among others, just a half lap into the race. The small crowd buzzed as her flowing stream of blonde hair whirled in the wind while she jettisoned down the straightaway. At race’s midpoint, both St. Geme and Bedell found themselves with a deficit they likely had never experienced that year. But already winded and beginning to labor, Hasay had just made her final chess move of the race. The veterans still had their castles, bishops and knights to play. Two laps later…. Checkmate.
St. Geme, Bedell and two others measured their efforts off Hasay’s pace perfectly, reeling her back in before the finish. Hasay finished an impressive fifth while learning that the high school wars would be tougher. When asked afterward about her breakneck pace, she explained it was the only manner in which she was comfortable with.
“It works for me. I don’t have a kick,” she shared. “I was hoping to tire them out and hold them off.”
A few months later, Hasay – the class valedictorian at St. Patrick’s – arrived at Mission College Prep under the tutelage of a new coach and an entirely new athletic program as the school was offering cross-country and track and field for the first time.
It was there that Hasay crossed paths with Armando Siqueiros (left, photo courtesy Armando Siqueiros), a former All-American distance runner who sought out Mission College Prep’s startup program as a means to coach his son at the school. Hasay’s synchronized arrival was mere coincidence, but Siqueiros’ experience, wisdom, fatherly demeanor and patient style would prove to be a perfect fit.
In the season’s first month, Hasay immediately revealed how strong she was. Competing in a cross-country race on a beachside path and along sand, her finish time matched up faster than a former Foot Locker national champion and at least one other Foot Locker finalist had posted on the course years earlier. True, the layout was affected by tide patterns each year, but her talents were clear. In the weeks to follow, she continued to wipe away course records while beginning to gain national attention.
She won the Division V state individual championship by 98 seconds. She also had the fastest time of the day, all divisions combined. Next fastest? It was Annie St. Geme, the same girl who handed Hasay her last defeat just months earlier at Golden West.
Next came victory at the Foot Locker West Regional, eliciting strong debate as to whether this acclaimed frosh could actually win the national title seven days later. She not only won – she dominated, winning by 14 seconds over eventual four-time national finalist Marie Lawrence of Nevada. The victory margin remains the second-largest in the last decade, bettered only by Amber Trotter’s record run of 2001 when held on the Florida course.
From there, attention was going to turn to the oval for track season – her specialty.
Siqueiros sat down with his protégé, ready to map out a plan for the months to come. It was then that he realized the newly crowned national champion lacked the gleaming confidence one would expect, perhaps a partial result of that loss at Golden West the year before, but also perhaps a pattern which had afflicted her since the start of her competitive career.
“As a freshman, I tell her, ‘We’re going to work our training plan on achieving a peak at state,’” Siqueiros recalled. “She comes back and tells me, ‘That approach doesn’t work for me. I don’t peak.’”
Facing a Golden Era for female distance running
Regardless of any understandable confidence shortfalls she experienced as a 9th grader, her own immense aerobic talent, superior leg strength and will to win remained unmatched. She won her first state title at 3200 meters, recording times of 10:07.56 and 10:13.55 as a frosh, the faster mark setting the Arcadia Invitational meet record. She also posted a 4:43.09 seasonal best for 1600 meters and ripped a career-best 4:42.21 full mile in winning the Golden West Invitational, beating a solid field that included future collegiate stars Alex Kosinski and Nicole Blood.
A week later, she ran only a long hair slower (4:42.27) and took third at the Nike Outdoor Nationals – behind Danielle Tauro and Annie St. Geme – in her best track showing to date against high-end talent. She was in contention and had the lead on the final lap, but was outkicked by her more-experienced rivals. Even in losing a race, she clearly was gaining valuable experience.
Each of the next two years, she was unable to re-claim the Foot Locker national cross-country title she’d won as a freshman, but it was nothing to do with regress, injury, or a slump.
Athletes the likes of Hasay—2006 Foot Locker champ Kathy Kroeger, 2007 Foot Locker champ Ashley Brasovan, stamina stars Aurora Scott and Alex Gits and rising star Emily Sisson—were quickly raising the performance bar. Toss in additional all-time talents like Christine Babcock, Alex Kosinski and Laurynne Chetelat on the track, and this group indeed was establishing a golden era of prep distance running.
“It’s just unfortunate that she won the title as a freshman and then has to come back against just a monster group of runners both last year and this year,” said girls’ distance historian Mike Kennedy last fall. “Look at Kroeger…she won it last year and she’s not the favorite this year either.”
Brasovan ended up snaring the title in 2007, with Kroeger second and Hasay third. Yep, the top three finishers each now had a national title to their name … and all three will return in the fall of 2008.
Even so, Hasay was on a different timetable than her peers, aiming for the bigger meets in the summertime. The plan worked as Hasay smoked a career-best 4:16.98 to win the 1500-meter title at the 2007 USATF Junior Nationals in Indianapolis last June. She also claimed two USATF Junior Cross Country crowns in the late winter of 2007 and 2008 (above, in photo by John Nepolitan), both in dominating fashion.
Major turning point at Arcadia
Since February of this year, Coach Siqueiros created the ambitious blueprints for Hasay’s junior season of track and field, including a bid for a sub-10:00 at Arcadia in April, the quest for another state title in late May, Junior Nationals in June, the U.S. Olympic Trials in early July and the World Junior Championships in Poland in mid-July.
The second weekend of April was to provide the ultimate showdown between Hasay and the reigning Foot Locker champion, Ashley Brasovan of Florida, but the latter was still recovering from injury and had just returned to racing. She withdrew from the race rather than electing to face a fresh and primed Hasay. But Southern California four-lap phenom Christine Babcock opted to “race up” in distance, pitting the two-time defending California state 3200m champion against the two-time defending California state 1600m champion.
The race was a classic battle that saw the two titans each work hard to set the pace, with Hasay reverting back to her old ways in torching a 69.8 for the first lap, and the savvy Babcock right in tow (left, in photo by John Nepolitan). With nighttime temperatures still in the low 80s (the mercury crept close to 100 degrees during the afternoon), the duo battled and the pace slowly began to drop off, with a stunning halfway split of 4:57.8 bringing the crowd to its feet. Babcock bravely took the lead, but Hasay latched onto her pace like a magnet. By the sixth lap, Hasay regained the lead, only to have Babcock – the presumed superior kicker – open a gap on her as the last lap got underway. This was Babcock’s race for sure, right?
Hasay unveiled the wheels to erase the gap and purr past Babcock on the final straight, holding on to win in 10:03.07. Babcock, also running the race of her life, was second in 10:04.03. Neither cracked 10 minutes, largely because the early pace and the heat were brutal. But this race proved to be more about guts and tenacity than minutes and seconds.
“If there’s a race I was in awe of her this year, it was at Arcadia,” Siqueiros beamed. “To come from behind twice in the race and beat Christine (Babcock), that’s when she turned the corner… That’s when Jordan finally really started to believe she could finish.
“She began to understand that if the pace is fast enough, she can out-kick anyone. I told her, ‘Hey, you just need to make sure that last 800 or that last 1000 is screaming, because I don’t think there’s any high school kid that can go with you.”
Because of the newfound confidence, Team Hasay decided to stray from the blueprint and add another key meet onto the schedule, the Peyton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University in early May. Running against professionals and collegians, Siqueiros felt this could be a perfect dress rehearsal for the pressure of the Olympic Trials, and perhaps some of the magic from Arcadia would even resurface.
Instead, she arrived to meet day battling a cold. Unfazed, she followed the race plan to perfection in letting the veterans set the pace while establishing her own rhythm. Although never in contention for the win, she closed well and ran 4:17.46 to miss her personal best by less than a second. Her ability to stick to a more conservative pace than she was used to – and while under the weather – was a positive step forward, but her body was breaking down.
She admitted to arriving tired to the Central Section Finals – the first time she could recall such a feeling, and it led to a rare feeling of dissatisfaction as the won the Valley title, but her time was in the 10:20s. Even so, she said she felt even worse the week before, so was just glad to avoid disaster.
“That was the second year in a row we think we overdid it after Arcadia instead of holding back a bit,” she explained. “I really ran bad at (Central Section Finals). I didn’t feel my best mentally, then (Laurynne Chetelat) runs 10:05 to win her race, so I was getting a bit nervous about myself going into state.”
Another clash, another breakthrough
Now rested and healthy, Hasay was looking forward to a showdown in the quest for a third consecutive California state 3200 title. Chetelat, however, was equally motivated and just as prepared.
With a near-capacity crowd at Cerritos College already whipped into a frenzy after watching national records set in both the girls and boys 1600-meter runs earlier in the meet, they were about to witness another barnburner that rivaled the Hasay-Babcock duel at Arcadia.
Although Hasay once again set the quick pace, she almost had to, as Chetelat arrived here very fit and brimming with confidence after qualifying for Team USA at the World Cross-Country Championships earlier in the year. Almost lost in the Hasay-Babcock duel of April was the fact that Chetelat ran 10:15 and change for third place in that race, the third-fastest time in the nation this year. She stayed close to Hasay throughout the eight-lap race, taking the lead once mid-race, then zipping in front again early into the final revolution.
Perhaps it was a bit too early.
Hasay, recalling the speed she used to kick down a faster Babcock, performed like a steely veteran in catching Chetelat with close to a half lap remaining, then motoring home for the win (right, photo by Mark Smith). This time in peak shape and again challenged from wire to wire, it was about time. Hasay, 9:52.13; Chetelat, 9:52.51 –the fastest 1-2 finish in national history. Another Hasay win by a finishing kick, another state title, another mental notch in her belt. Soon afterward, Hasay claimed another championship, this time winning the USATF Junior Nationals 1500 in Ohio in mid-June, again using the final straight to motor past Kosinski, now a University of Oregon freshman.
“Not bad for someone that used to have no confidence in her leg speed,” Siqueiros shared.
When she was a sophomore, he’d occasionally enter her in the 800 at various meets, to no avail.
“‘Coach, I’m not an 800-meter runner. I’m a two-miler,’” chuckled Armando Siqueiros, recalling how his precocious yet confidence-challenged 10th-grade protégé would explain away those vanishing acts at the time.
An angel saves the day as Hasay Nation is born
From the get-go, the biggest meet on the 2007-2008 calendar was the U.S. Olympic Trials. Siqueiros firmly believes that the 16-year-old phenom is an excellent bet to make the U.S. Olympic Team for London in 2012, but badly needed the invaluable experience of the Trials process – the pressure, the crowds, the qualifying rounds – this year, to greatly improve her chances four years from now.
If there was any roll of the dice in this otherwise perfectly planned seasonal blueprint, it was the decision not to run any 1500s in the final weeks before the Trials, hoping that her 4:16.98 from the summer of 2007 would hold up as among the top 30 times in the nation, securing a bid into the Trials. She finished up 33rd on the list, then moved to 31st after declarations were made a couple of days before the first round. Team Hasay flew into Eugene without a credential but banking that someone would scratch, thus opening the door for Hasay. That’s exactly what happened as collegian Nicole Blood dropped from the field.
But that was only half the battle. Hasay’s victory at Junior Nationals meant she qualified for the World Juniors meet in Poland, slated to take place the week after the Trials. The problem was that Team USA would leave for Poland on July 4th, a day after the first round of the Trials, but before the semifinals or finals. Siqueiros previously had secured what he termed as a “weak yes” from USATF officials to have Hasay granted an extension stay in Eugene, planning to join the US Junior squad after the Trials were fully completed three days later.
“Even if she didn’t advance past the first round, I felt it was absolutely vital she witness and experience the whole aura of the event for the first time now, not four years from now,” her coach said.
In the days before her first-round race, however, USATF did an about-face and notified Hasay she would have to depart with the rest of the Junior team after all. Hasay, her coach and family were devastated, left to appeal to USATF but apparently to no avail.
In the hours before her race, Siqueiros was chatting about training with a very well known collegiate coach (who we’ve been asked to leave nameless), who then asked if he thought Hasay would advance to the semis.
“How fast do you think she’ll need to run to make it?” the Mission College Prep coach asked.
“Probably 4:20,” was the collegiate coach’s response.
“Then she’ll advance,” he shot back.
“How fast do you think she’ll be able to run in the semis the next day?” the veteran Division I coach followed up.
“Unfortunately,” replied Siqueiros, “we’ll never know.”
Siqueiros then explained USATF’s scheduling fracas, which left the college coach incredulous. After a further exchange of the details, the college coach asked if Hasay would indeed run the semis if she qualified for them, and if USATF agreed to authorize a flight change to Poland. Siqueiros said yes. An agreement was made between the two to meet again after the race if she qualified for the next round.
Hasay was provided specific instructions by Siqueiros for how to handle the start of her first-round race. It was clear and simple: “Give everybody two steps off the line. Let them take two steps after the gun sounds before you start to go. DO NOT try to take the lead.”
You guessed it. The gun fired and a split-second later… the excited teenager abandoned those directives and shot into the lead. It was a rare and understandably excusable instance, the same snafu performed by Babcock – also a Trials qualifier – in the previous heat,
“Rookie mistake,” said Siqueiros, a doctor of internal medicine who only smiled from the stands when the tactical mistake was made. But Hasay (and Babcock in the earlier heat) held on just enough to advance to the semis.
Siqueiros met the college coach after the race.
“Does she still want to race tomorrow?” the well-connected coach asked.
“Okay, give me 10 minutes to talk to some people.”
Minutes later, the coach returned with a phone number and instructions to contact that person and re-state the desire to fly to Poland after the conclusion of the Trials. This time, another about-face. USATF agreed to rebook the flight, paving the way for Hasay to continue on at the Trials.
The rest is well-chronicled history, with Hasay running a masterful race – her best ever – in setting the national high school record with a 4:14.50, also good enough to advance to the Final. The key move was a majestic effort over the last 180 meters that saw her catch two rivals and pull away from a few others, winning over the hearts of the Hayward Field crowd as well as a national television audience. So inspiring was her effort that as she posed in front of the trackside results board which flashed her national record time, the crowd chanted in unison: Come-To-Ore-gon! Come-To-Ore-gon! Come-To-Ore-gon!
“The plan was simple in the semis,” said Siqueiros. “I told her to get out easy, settle in, get good position, then close as hard as you can. Simple: relax early, close hard late.”
With her parents, Joe and Teresa, and younger brother, Jedd (right, in Foot Locker photo by Donna Dye), among the capacity crowd looking on during the 1500-meter final on the meet’s closing day, Hasay battled hard and finished seventh but was unable to approach her record time from two days before. Admittedly exhausted after her third high-caliber race in four days, the experience she picked up was priceless.
“Seeing her at the Olympic Trials, I described it to people as seeing a kid in the candy shop, the toy store,” Siqueiros recalled. “‘You can have (the aura of the Trials), Jordan.’ It was her realization of her dreams coming true.”
As if any icing on the cake was necessary, Hasay provided exactly that with a final slam dunk statement that she was indeed now a kicker. Competing in the 1500m final of the World Junior Championships – her fifth race in eight days – Hasay, who set a personal best of 2:09.92 for 800 meters a month earlier, closed the last 800 in 2:09.2 during a hard-finishing race to place fourth in the world at 4:19.02.
“That’s when I really realized I can kick,” she giggled. “But I still have a ways to go. The British girls kicked better than I did.”
Plans for senior year
With personal bests at 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 3200m achieved, major meet, state, and Junior national titles won, and the pageantry of the Olympic Trials now experienced, how can this be topped during the 2008-2009 school year?
“That’s a good, good question,” said Siqueiros. “And that’s where I am at right now. Where do we go next year? First, come back down to Earth… Next, get back to taking baby steps. Not necessarily getting sixth at the open level, but getting used to that consistency.
“On the performance level, getting to work more on her strength. We talk about changing gears, changing pace. The only reason she didn’t run faster? The engine isn’t big enough yet. Keep working on a little more strength and she’s going to be fine. Not bite off too big of a chunk. Let’s do Foot Locker. Let’s do Arcadia. Let’s do the state meet. Then let’s see.”
Siqueiros said Hasay likely might take next summer off from racing, instead getting physically ready for her first collegiate season. He points out that only one Foot Locker female champion has ever gone on to win an NCAA title (Melody Fairchild, an eventual indoor 5000m champion) and no Foot Locker female champion has ever qualified for the Olympic Games.
“I tell her it’s important to get to the next level and win an NCAA championship and not assume it’s going to happen,” he adds. “It’s going to take a lot of work. Why are you going to be the exception [to past Foot Locker champions]? Why? Because you are going to listen. You are not going to get caught up in the hype.”
While she has begun to realize her speed, coach says her very recent epiphany on the value of rest could lead to even bigger breakthroughs for her senior season.
“She knows only one speed on her recovery runs and that’s 6:30 pace, no matter what the terrain,” he says. “And she has some major hills near where she lives, and she still does 6:30.
“Look at her sophomore year. She ran 10:02 in a time trial, then 10:04 in March, 10:04 in April, and 10:07 June. She did that in her freshman year too. No progression. Didn’t know how to rest, didn’t have the confidence to rest, to back off in training.”
When she ran 4:16 last summer despite missing a day of training due to travel, she wondered how that happened. She worried the missed day would cost her. All the reporters were asking what were the special workouts in between Golden West and Indianapolis. She, too, was unsure and asked her coach.
“There weren’t any secret workouts. It was quality workouts and preparation, and then rest.”
Same thing in Poland this summer, when a travel day resulted in just a 15-minute run in the airport. And led to a fresh body and her strongest kick yet.
“Once she starts going 7:00 or 7:15 and really recovers, she’ll start to race even better with a rested body,” Siqueiros continued. “We need to rest. We need to slow down, have confidence, back off. Learn to rest a little more. Once she gets the concept, watch out…she’s got it all.”
Hasay’s mileage approach might get bumped up slightly next year. She says her highest week ever was about 55 miles logged, although most weeks are 40-45 and state meet weeks are closer to 30 miles.
“I’m definitely one of those types that likes to know what the workouts are the week before. I like to know what’s going on. Why we are doing certain workouts,” she said. “I’m used to the system now. It’s my third year with him. I trust what he does. I kind of got lucky… he goes way over his high school duties.”
She also says she’s considering about 10 schools for college at this time, including 3 to 4 she terms as “serious ones.”
Although not prepared to divulge the entire list, she confirms that Stanford is considered prominently and Oregon is “a possibility” as well.
For now, her favorite memory of the season was at the Olympic Trials, when she set the national record (above, photo by Kirby Lee).
“I finally got the chance to get my picture taken in front of the record board,” she gushed. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Don’t worry, Jordan. We have a hunch you’ll get the chance to do it again down the road.
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