North Shore High School's Samantha Nadel entered Saturday night's USATF U.S. Open event at Madison Square Garden as the nation's best runner in the girls high school mile.
Nadel finished the race just the same, as she took first in 4 minutes, 47.66 seconds out of a field of 10 runners. It wasn't quite the best time of the season for Nadel (4:46.11), but she wasn't complaining about it after the race.
"I went out right on pace and then I just took it from there," Nadel said. "I definitely wanted to run a better time than I did last year. And I did that."
There was one twist for Nadel, who began the race from the stagger position. Runners who start from the stagger position in distance races are typically the lowest-seeded participants.
It was an odd and unfamiliar position for the Georgetown-bound senior, who didn't find out she was to start from the stagger until about 20 minutes before the race.
"I'm not really sure how they did the numbers. It might have been random," Nadel said. "My coach [Neal Levy] just said to cut in as soon as I could. At first, I was a little surprised, but it's fine."
Nadel was followed by her tag-team partner Brianna Nerud, who finished second in 4:54.65. Nerud, who recently committed to Syracuse, also said it was strange to start from the stagger position, but was pleased with her finish on the big stage.
"It's really exciting and the crowd really makes it something special," Nerud said. "The track is really cool and it's great to be running at Madison Square Garden."
The Kellenberg boys 4 x 800-meter team also enjoyed its experience under the bright Garden lights. The Firebirds' quartet of Tyler Capozzoli, Raul McGee, Randall Turner and Dylan Murphy took first in the CHSAA race in 8:07.4, beating league rivals St. John the Baptist (8:09.2) and St. Anthony's (8:09.66).
Things were in doubt most of the way as all three teams traded leads throughout. But Dylan, who ran the anchor leg, took control in the last 100 meters for Kellenberg.
"Last year, I was in the same spot," Murphy said. "I got the baton late. I was a sophomore and I got all nervous and panicky and we lost on the kick, so I just had to hang on."
In other races, the St. Anthony's girls 4 x 800 team took second to St. John Villa (Staten Island) in 4:03.05, and Chaminade's Thomas Awad took fifth in the boys mile in 4:25.06.
Lagat denied. Bernard Lagat's bid for a ninth win in the mile at Madison Square Garden was denied as Kenya's Silas Kiplagat took first in 4:00.65. Lagat (4:00.92) finished second and Kenya's Daniel K. Komen (4:03.82) was third. Brenda Martinez (4:34.62) won the women's mile, followed by Sara Vaughn (4:37.12), Ana Pierce (4:39.97) and Stephanie Garcia (4:45.9).