Jason Weller moves down as Chanelle Price moves up in distance.
But the results are the same. Among the best in the U.S.
Despite their strong showings at the 100th Millrose Games on February 2nd, Boyertown senior Jason Weller and Easton junior Chanelle Price don't see themselves as milers. But they're getting to that point. Quickly.
Weller won the prestigious event in a big PR of 4:15.81. Price had a huge 8-second PR earlier in January at the Armory, but still ran her 2nd best mile ever to take 3rd at Millrose in 4:53.99.
Those are times that most athletes would take any day. But these two are just warming up to the idea that they have better range than either previously thought. Weller has always seen himself as more of a cross country guy. While Price always considered herself a 400-800 runner. This season, cross country had a big impact on more than just their mile times. It really impacted their self perceptions, as well.
Weller completes his move with one to go. (Photo by Maroon News of NJ)
"I have always considered cross my main discipline," the Iona-bound Jason Weller says. And it obviously is. He ran a 14:54 at Lehigh in the District 1 meet in October, and then followed that up with a AAA state title the following week at Hershey. But the big prize he wanted his senior year was to quality for the Foot Locker championships.
Things didn't go as planned. He was spiked. He fell. He finished 23rd. And he was really upset.
So he did what all disciplined, motivated athletes do. He worked harder and he set some new goals. But first he let his body recover a little more. He had taken a week off after his states win, and he took another week off after Foot Locker regionals. And then he came out of the gate racing well, posting a still-state leading 8:39.8 3000 on December 9 at a TFCAGP meet at Lehigh. The time got people talking again. And Weller felt like he was on his way to the senior season he had envisioned, although with some new goals.
The first was to qualify for the Millrose Games elite boys' mile. He had only ever broken 4:20 once, and that was in outdoor last spring. So on January 13th, he ventured to Landover MD for the Montgomery Invitational to punch his ticket to Millrose. He did, finishing 2nd in a PR of 4:17.47.
He waited for a few other qualifier races to be run, and finished comfortably up on the list and received his invitation.
At Millrose, Weller wasn't really on anyone's national radar, not with the resumes of runners like New York's Steve Murdock or New Jersey's Kyle Soloff, or Maryland's Chris Moen (who had beaten him at Montgomery).
4:15.81. (Photo by Maroon News of NJ)
And despite warming up in the same area as Bernard Lagat and Alan Webb, prepping for their Wanamaker Mile, Weller says he was "more anxious than nervous."
"My goal was to finish top three. I did want to win it, but top three was a reasonable goal. I knew it would be a good race."
And he had a plan. "I wanted to tuck in behind the leaders and sit for most of the race. If it was slow, then I would go out." (It wasn't slow, because the first lap was 60 seconds.)
Normally a front-runner, the strategy was a change for Weller, especially since he didn't consider himself a kick runner.
Plus, he knew that the short track of Madison Square Garden dictated some of his strategy. If he was to have a shot at the win, he would have to time his kick perfectly. "That was the plan. I had to start halfway into the turn, use the bank, and then go around. If I had waited for the straight, then I would have gotten caught on the turn."
He timed his kick perfectly, taking off with less than two laps to go, and holding on for the win. "I don't know where I got that kick."
If that kick has changed his philosophy of racing, Weller isn't saying. But it has fully restored the confidence he had before his Foot Locker race. And that 8:39 was all part of the plan. After hopefully helping his team to improve their DMR ranking this weekend at the PTFCA Carnival, plus racing the 3000, he has his sights set on breaking a year-old all-time state best in the 3000 at States on February 24th. That mark is the 8:22.65 that Manheim Township grad Craig Miller ran in 2006. After that, it's the Nike Indoor 2-mile in mid-March.
While he doesn't regret not having someone to chase in practice when he was younger, he is thrilled for teammate Mark Dennin, a junior, who has been opening some eyes this year. Dennin has the 5th best 3000 of the season in an 8:56.2. And Weller says Dennin is right there with him through most of each workout.
Chanelle Price is very pleased to call herself a 400/800/mile/cross country runner for now. Always blessed with speed, she has the most experience in the shorter two distances, and is currently ranked the top 800 runner in the US with her 2:08.76 from December's Burdette Classic. The time is her 2nd best ever indoors, her best that early in the season, and 5th best overall. And she has big goals for the distance before she is finished with her junior year.
Chanelle Price takes it out hard the first few laps.
(Photo by Maroon News of NJ)
But wow... what a step up to the mile. A 4:50.65 2nd place at the New Balance Games on January 21 surprised even her. "When I saw the clock, my jaw dropped." She had just recently broken 5, going 4:58 in a split. But eight seconds for that distance is huge.
And probably because of her 800 credentials, she already had her Millrose invitation in hand in early January. But the mile? At that level? Price figured she needed some experience, especially since she had only run the distance as a 9th grader in dual meets, and then not at all her sophomore year because of an injury.
She settled on the New Balance Games for her Millrose tune-up. "I was nervous, but my mom told me that the pressure was really on them because they train for the mile, and I don't." Her goal for the meet had been a 4:55, which she crushed, thanks in large part to fellow competitor Danielle Tauro of New Jersey. "We ran negative splits, and people were telling me that is what Danielle is used to. I could tell, because the last two laps we were really moving," Price understated.
It was on to New York and the venerable Madison Square Garden for the 100th running of the Millrose Games.
Usually in the position as the favorite of her signature event, the 800, Price was still feeling a little pressure. "Warming up, I saw Danielle, and she did not look nervous at all. She was smiling. That kind of made me a little scared seeing her smiling for such a big meet."
But Price had a plan, and it was quite similar to her usual plan for the 800 - take it out hard. "Danielle usually dominates the whole race. My goal was to take her out fast and just see how it goes." After the third lap, Tauro took over. Then Price passed her back. "It was all about tactics," Price says. But then the unfamiliarity with the race and the short track took a toll. Price was spiked and she got boxed in. She doesn't blame anyone but herself, but she was disappointed she was not able to challenge at the end. "I wanted to be right by her side, but I couldn't do that. I wish I could have been with her the last lap just to make it a battle."
For now, it's back to the 800 as her primary race. At least in the short term. But Price is keeping an open mind about the mile, crediting cross country for her great times in everything from the 400 to the mile. It's familiarity that makes the 800 so attractive. "I'm not scared to take it out. Mentally, for the mile, I'm not there yet."
Her goals for indoor are to get as close to 2:05 as possible for the 800 and to break 54 in the 400. And she wants to help move her Easton team from 2nd in 2006 at the PTFCA Indoor State Championships, to 1st. "We have athletes who can place in just about every event."
3rd place, 4:53.99.
(Photo by Maroon News of NJ)
Whatever their futures hold, Weller and Price will look for the best competition they can find.
Weller starts this Saturday at the PTFCA Carnival in the 3000 and the DMR, and then goes for Miller's 3000 state best at States before the elite Nike Indoor Nationals 2-mile in March.
As for Price, she's hoping she might get a chance to meet Tauro again. "I want to meet her in an 800 sometime" Price says. "She would push me. I don't know who the favorite would be there."
Workouts that helped their mile times
12-15 400's at 59-60 pace. First half with 200m jog recovery, last half with 100m jog.
3 800's - 2:20, 2:15, 2:10, followed by 200's. (substitute miles for training for the mile)