Samantha Nadel may have won the Millrose high school girls mile in surprise fashion last year, but there was no fooling anyone this time: This year, she was far and away the girl to beat.
As the Georgetown-bound senior toed the line in front of more than 5,000 fans at the Armory Saturday night, a familiar feeling of nervousness came over her -- the same thing she felt in last year's race.
"The atmosphere was nothing like I've seen this year," Nadel said. "You could tell that today was going to be a big day."
Nadel was able to put her nerves behind her, and wound up in a familiar position: first place.
Nadel set a meet record as she defended her New Balance High School Girls Mile title in the 105th Millrose Games at the Armory. The North Shore senior ran a 4:46.19, which was 3.76 seconds ahead of second-place Megan Moye of Cosby (Va.).
"This was my goal coming in," Nadel said. "It's the premier track event of the season."
Nadel is the fifth person to successfully defend her mile crown. Jillian Smith of Southern Regal High School (N.J.) was the last to do it when she won in 2008 and 2009.
The field featured some of Long Island's top distance runners. Nadel's North Shore teammate Brianna Nerud finished third in 4:50.12. Rachel Paul of Sachem East took sixth (4:54.64), while Kelsey Margey of Friends Academy finished 11th (5:06.57).
Nadel, who owns the fastest high school girls mile time in the country at 4:46.11, found herself mired in the middle of the pack during the opening two laps. It was all part of her plan, though, as she wanted to gauge how fast the field would be running.
"I like to stay in the pack and feel it out," she said. "It also keeps me from starting out too fast, which I've been prone to do."
The senior made her move at the 500-meter mark, passing the field in the outside lane of the backstretch to take the lead. From there, she opened up about a 10-meter lead on the pack and never looked back, running her own pace to take the victory.
"You just put yourself into a state where you don't let anything from the outside come in," Nadel said. "You just stay focused and keep pushing."
The win capped a huge week for Nadel, as she helped lift North Shore to the Nassau Class 'B' crown Tuesday night at St. Anthony's with a win in the 1,500 and second-place finishes in the 1,000 and the 600.
"I was feeling it a little bit in my legs," she said. "My calves were a little tight."
Nadel won last year's Millrose Games in 4:50.48, when the meet was held at Madison Square Garden. The Games were held at the Armory for the first time this year after 98 years at the Garden.
But in Nadel's eyes, both wins are equally as sweet.
"Last year was just so unexpected," she said. "To come back and win it again this year is just great."