Fresh off two B.C. high school record-setting provincial championships a week earlier, Lake Country’s Taryn O’Neill took on some of the best teenage two-mile runners in the United States on Friday and was up to the challenge, running to first place with a personal-best time of 9:54.40.
O’Neill, 17, in the lead pack of six runners for most of the Brooks PR Invitational event in Seattle, was in second place going into the final lap and took over the lead about 200 metres to go. Looking over her shoulder for challengers on the final stretch, she cruised to the win over Camila Noe of Bozeman, Mont. (9:54.95).
Katelynne Hart of Glenbard West, IL, the pre-race favourite who went into the race with a personal best of 9:52.02, led the charge for more than half the race, but she couldn’t shake five other runners in the field of 11.
They ran in a tight formation and bumped into one another during the final stages of the race. O’Neill, a Grade 12 student at George Elliot Secondary who set records in the 1500 and 3000 metres at the B.C. School Sports high school championships in Langley last week, almost was knocked off the track when leader Jacqueline Gaughan of New Hampshire stumbled, but kept her composure and stayed the course.
O’Neill, a member of the Okanagan Athletics Club and coached by Malindi Elmore, is headed this fall to Villanova University in Pennsylvania, one of the top NCAA running programs in the last 20-30 years. She's expected to resume racing later this month at the prestigious Harry Jurome Meet in Vancouver.
She's also hoping to qualify for Team Canada at the world junior track and field championships in Finland in July.