Taryn O’Neill headed to the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle last week with moderate expectations—relax, enjoy and perhaps take a run at a medal.
The 17-year-old from Lake Country accomplished all that and more, turning in a gold medal performance in an elite field of high school middle-distance runners from the U.S.
O’Neill captured the women’s two-mile race (3,218.7 metres) in nine minutes 54.40 seconds, more than 1/2 second ahead Camila Noe of Bozeman, Montana.
The favourite, Katelynne Hart, from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, finished third in 9:56.40.
With six runners in contention and jostling for position for much of the race, O’Neill pulled ahead with just under 200 metres to go to win her first ever try at the two-mile distance.
“I wasn’t expecting to see such a big group of us so far into the race,” said O’Neill, a member of the Okanagan Athletics club. “It was rough, a lot of bumping and elbows, it was really a lot of fun.”
O’Neill went through three kilometres in 9:18, which would have easily eclipsed her previous personal best of 9:22.
“It was a really fast race, with a lot of really fast girls and I think that probably brought out the best in me,” added O’Neill, who is coached by former Canadian Olympian, Malindi Elmore.
The win came on the heels of a memorable effort a week earlier at the B.C. high school track and field finals where the George Elliott Secondary runner won both the 1,500 and 3,000 metre events in provincial record time.
O’Neill, who will attend Villanova University this fall, is expected to compete for Canada this summer at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
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