SEATTLE, WASH. >> It took till the last race of her outdoor track and field season, but Staples’ sophomore distance runner Hannah DeBalsi accomplished both of her season-long goals.
Saturday afternoon, running in the Brooks PR Invitational 2 mile at Renton Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington, DeBalsi went under 10 minutes, shattering the Connecticut state outdoor record and set the national sophomore record with a second-place time of nine minutes and 55.05 seconds.
Bethan Knights of Irvine, California, won in a time of 9:53.54.
DeBalsi became the first girl ever in Connecticut to go under 10 minutes.
“It was wonderful and emotional at the same time to see her get her goals, the sophomore national record and then break 10 minutes,” assistant coach Malcolm Watson said.
DeBalsi broke the national sophomore 2 mile record (10:04.85) that was held by Chelsey Sveinsson of Addison, Texas set in 2009.
DeBalsi ran a smart and tactical race against a talented field. As expected, Knights went out hard and DeBalsi stayed with the pack, that ran the ideal time she was hoping for, for the beginning portion of the race.
“The plan was to let Bethan go out that hard, and hopefully the chase pack would maintain around a 74 second pace and Hannah could stay in there for a while,” Watson said.
As the pace slowed down around the 1,200 meter mark, and went higher than 74 seconds, DeBalsi was able to get out of the pack and make her move toward Knights.
“At 1,400 meters she broke away and really started driving,” Watson said.
DeBalsi did a great job of getting her time back down to the 73-74 second range and challenged Knights on the final two laps. She eventually overtook the lead, but Knights came back with an impressive final kick down the last 50 meter stretch to win.
“I was happy with my race,” DeBalsi said. “Even if I came in last and ran the same time I would be fine with that.”
DeBalsi’s state record she broke was her own that she had set last weekend at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
As impressive as DeBalsi’s performance was Saturday, Watson knows she has a lot more to offer.
“She’s got more left in the tank and we got bigger plans on the horizon,” he said.
For celebrating, DeBalsi was planning on going to the Space Needle.