DURHAM >> Jessica Drop, Samantha Drop, Allie Alsup and Megan Decker arrived at the New Balance Track and Field Center at The Armory in New York City with the same hopes and All-American dreams that all the competitors harbored at this year’s National Championship Indoor meet.
“It was in the back of our minds that we could get All-American because we looked at the results from last year and our times could definitely get us there,” Jessica Drop said.
Coginchaug’s quartet was competing in the Girls Distance Medley, another event that had Blue Devils assistant coach Jack McShane evoking his famous line “There were no cupcakes in the building.”
“When we got in the bullpen area and saw the competition, we were like, ‘This is going to be tough,’ ” Drop added. “Some of the top girls were running the mile leg or the 1200 leg. We knew the times were going to be a lot faster than they had been in the previous years.”
Reality had set in. The girls from Durham were going to have to run the fastest times of their lives. Only the top six teams are awarded All-America honors.
“I think we were in eighth when I gave (Jess) the baton,” Alsup said. “It was so stressful watching. It’s kind of hard at that point in the race to tell who is in what place.”
The girls watched Jessica Drop run, counted other runners, and watched the leaderboard. Most of all, they wondered. When the race was over there was a short, excruciating wait for the results.
Then. In a flash. 11:55.36. Sixth place. Pandemonium.
Jessica Drop, Samantha Drop, Allie Alsup and Megan Decker became the first Coginchaug track and field athletes to earn All-American honors.
Two days later, Jessica Drop capped the Blue Devils glorious weekend with an All-American performance in the one-mile championship.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” McShane said. “Coach Kate Germond and I knew we had a team that could compete. Every time they step on that track it brings them to another level. We talked about becoming an All-American and they’ve had that goal for a while. I’m so proud to hear the name Coginchaug announced at that venue when the girls go up to the podium.”
The Armory, located in Washington Heights, is the home of the prestigious Millrose Games. It’s where the best indoor runners in the world have competed, a place McShane describes as being in “track heaven.”
“The energy of it alone makes you drop seconds off your personal records,” Alsup said. “The track is a mondo surface, which is really bouncy. It’s also banked so everything combined is to your benefit.”
This year’s National Indoor meet took place March 11-13. And McShane quickly noticed the fast times that were showing up on the scoreboard.
“It was the fastest of the fastest,” McShane said. “I couldn’t believe some of the times they were throwing up there. National high school records were being broken.”
Sam Drop, a senior who is headed to the University of Georgia, got the Blue Devils weekend off to a great start on Friday morning. Drop placed 22nd in the Girls 2-mile Emerging Elite race while breaking the school record with a time of 11:05.33.
In the evening, Drop began Coginchaug’s All-American quest by running in the first leg (1200) of the Distance Medley. “I don’t like running first,” Drop said. “I run the third leg in the 4×8 but I’m more of a distance person and Jess is the anchor so I had to run that one.”
Decker ran the second leg (400). The junior, who has emerged as one of the top sprinters in the Shoreline, was also out of her comfort zone.
“I don’t really like running 400s,” Decker said. “It’s the farthest I’ve ever run. It felt fine but once I hit that second corner I felt like I was going to die. I was extremely nervous going in. This was a totally different environment for me.”
Alsup, a junior who is one of the state’s top middle distance runners, did her job in the third leg (800).
“The 800 is my most comfortable event,” Alsup explained. “All I had to do was catch some people. I did my job.”
All eyes were now on Jessica Drop for the final 1600 meters.
“Nothing Jess does ceases to amaze us,” McShane said. “I believe she can do anything she sets her mind to it. She is just mentally tough and so prepared.”
The Blue Devils’ sixth-place time (11:55.36) outdistanced seventh place Legacy TC (New York), which finished in 11:57.68.
North Rockland High School (Thiells, N.Y.) won the Distance Medley with a meet record time of 11:34.85.
On Saturday, Coginchaug’s Sprint Medley team of seniors Cassandra Kovacs, Katherine D’Orvilliers, Decker, and Alsup placed 23rd in 4:17.10.
And on Sunday, Drop made more track history.
Drop, who is also going to run track for the University of Georgia next season, faced some of the fastest milers in the country in the Girls 1-Mile Run championship.
“It was like an all-star team from around the country in her heat,” McShane said. “There were some tremendously talented athletes there. The field brought her up to a higher level.”
Earlier in the season, Drop ran a personal best mile (4:50.06) at the Millrose Games.
“I knew she was going to have to run under 4:47 on Sunday,” McShane said.
Drop ran an amazing 4:46.57, a fifth-place finish that earned the Blue Devils senior more All-American honors.
“I don’t know why but my legs were so tired from Friday,” Drop said. “So I felt like it didn’t matter what place I got. I already had an amazing season. I just went and saw my competition and it was really stacked. I know all these people and I know they’re really fast.”
Drop ran a 2:23 for the first 800 meters.
“I went out fast and I was like, ‘Oh, no…it’s going to be a bad last 800,” Drop said.
Drop, however, ran almost the same split. Drop finished just behind Shona McCullough (Ontario, Canada), whose fourth-place time was 4:46.18. Madison Boreman (Round Rock, Texas) placed sixth in 4:47.39.
Katie Rainsberger, of Colorado’s U.S. Air Force Academy prep team, won the event with a meet record time of 4:36.61.
Drop’s time was just a few ticks off the all-time Connecticut indoor track record (4:45.09) set by Greenwich’s Ceci Hopp in 1981.
“Jess’s performance in that mile race and being on a national stage, I believe, was the greatest moment in our school’s history, sports-wise,” McShane said. “Jess is the epitome of what’s been done here the past few years in indoor and outdoor track.”