Colton Sands was waiting for his chance to pounce. And once he went, there was no doubt about it.
The Penns Valley Area junior threw down the hammer in the final lap and ran to the state title at Sunday's PTFCA Indoor State Championships at Penn State. Sands clocked a PA No. 1 and US No. 5 time of 8:31.96 for the victory.
Sands made his move to the front with about 500 meters left after hanging in a pack of seven. Then the lead pack, paced by Sands, dwindled to just three and included Mount Lebanon's Patrick Anderson and top seed Zachary Leachman of Mars.
Before the bell sounded for the final lap, Sands was already in full sprint mode. He closed in a 28.49 last 200 meters to take the victory.
"I felt pretty comfortable in the pace," Sands said after the race. "It didn't feel like anything too painful. I know my fitness is good. I know it's up with the best guys in the state, so I knew I had to just stay on there and wait for the last couple of laps to make a move.
|1||Colton Sands||11||Penns Valley Area||8:31.96||1|
|2||Patrick Anderson||12||Mount Lebanon||8:34.82||1|
|4||Zachary Leachman||12||Mars Area||8:38.57||1|
|5||Christian Fitch||12||Fox Chapel Area||8:38.90||1|
The race as a overall turned out to be very fast top to bottom. It took an 8:48 to get on the medal stand. Anderson placed second in a US No. 8 8:34.82, Unionville's Cole Walker was third in a US No. 10 8:38.08, Leachman was fourth in a US No. 12 8:38.57, and Fox Chapel's Christian Fitch was fifth in a US No. 13 8:38.90.
After winning an outdoor track 3,200 meter state title in the spring and then a cross country state crown in the fall, Sands completed the rare non-calendar year triple crown.
He knew this title wouldn't be easy to get, especially considering the strength of the field and the fact that all PA classifications run together at the indoor state meet. In particular, going head-to-head with Anderson, who placed third at Foot Locker XC Nationals in the fall, would be no walk in the park.
"I knew I just had to put the burners on," Sands said. "Pat's probably the toughest runner I've ever ran against, so I knew I had to really lay something down to get away from him. I just gave everything I had left on that last lap."
Sunday's race is further evidence that Sands is one of the nation's top distance runners. During the fall, Sands proved his national-level ability, placing tenth at Foot Locker XC Nationals.
His winning performance over a loaded field that included Anderson shows that Sands, with a spring track season and full senior year of high school ahead of him, is primed for even bigger things.
Next up for Sands won't be New Balance Nationals Indoor. Instead, he will be heading south for the Texas Distance Festival on March 14 in Southlake, Texas. He'll run the 5K down there, looking for a fast time on the track to open up his outdoor season.
Watch the boys' 3K from indoor states above and watch an interview with Sands after the race below: