As Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang, waiting was the hardest part for Washington senior Abi Brown.
Brown finished second in the first MSHSAA Class 4 800-meter run section, posting a time of 2:16.30, and then had to wait through the fast heat to see whether she would get summoned to the podium.
“It was scary going out first,” Brown said. “I knew there were the 2:12s and 2:14s in the other heat and Hannah Long ran a 2:10.78. I knew I had to rely on God and the girls around me to push me. Waiting was just hard. You want everyone to do so well and to get your time, but I really wanted to place.”
When the second heat was finished, Brown was one of the fortunate ones, finishing fifth overall.”
MSHSAA changed its 800-meter run format into two heats of eight runners apiece.
“It was a lot different having a two-heat final instead of a one-heat final like last time,” Brown said.
Abi’s head coach, Mike Olszowka, wasn’t happy with the format this year.
“The set-up for the state championships 800-meter run was a joke,” said Olszowka.
“It was unfair to kids to say the least. The 800 was the only event at the state championships where the best didn’t get an opportunity to face the best of the best. Two girls ran out of the slow heat and still got on the podium. It leaves us to wonder how much faster would they have run if they had the same chance that every other athlete at the state championships had, to race against the best? Abi was one of the two. She ran the fastest time of her career en route to a fifth-place finish.”
Brown led much of her heat before ending second.
“I normally have to push myself because it’s been crazy,” Brown said. “In the conference, we run against a lot of different people. Today, it felt really good to stay out in front. After the girl passed me, I knew I had to stay strong and stay with her all the way to the end. She pushed me really well.”
It wasn’t the easiest senior season for Brown.
“It’s been a roller-coaster of a year,” Brown said. “I didn’t start very consistent. I was all over the place. I’ve been praying really hard about it.”
Olszowka said Brown has had to overcome a lot during her career.
“Going in to this race she had something to prove,” Olszowka said. “Abi is a strong runner who had a shortened career due to injuries. After being all-state as a sophomore, she missed her entire junior year. To come back successfully as a senior girl is very difficult.”
In 2012, Brown placed fourth in the Class 4 800-meter run in a time of 2:19.06.
She was sixth through the preliminary races (2:17.81) and improved two positions in the final race.
Brown said things came together for her race.
“It just worked today,” Brown said. “I felt really good. I was a little sick beforehand, but that was just nerves. I went out and felt great through the race and I PR’d, so that was good.”
Long, a junior from Eureka, won the race in 2:10.78 with Sabrina Monsees of Winnetonka taking second in 2:13.89. Annika Sisson of Lee’s Summit West won Brown’s heat with a time of 2:15.2 and placed third overall. Kate White of Ladue was fourth from the fast heat at 2:15.74.
Brown said there is a bond between distance runners.
“You find a connection even with the girls you don’t know,” Brown said. “You’re all running the same heat. People who aren’t distance runners don’t just understand. It’s hard, but there’s a joy in it.”
Brown said everyone hopes for the best among their competitors.
“The girls who you do see a lot, there’s a feeling of ‘let’s go, let’s do this.’ I know in my heat, there was a girl who yelled out with about 200 meters left, ‘let’s go!’ and she just ran with whomever she was with,” Brown said. “I could tell they were going to push each other to the end. There’s a lot of camaraderie and friendship even with the girls you don’t know.”
Olszowka said that if there’s a way, Brown will get the job done.
“Abi is one of the most headstrong racers you will see,” Olszowka said. “She trains hard so that she can race hard, and once in a race she doesn’t believe that there is anything that she cannot do.”
Additionally, Brown has been a mentor for the younger runners.
“Abi and Sarah Brock both are the mother hens of the team,” Olszowka said. “Abi gets those distance girls focused and on task. She knows when a little extra force is needed and more importantly she knows when some extra encouragement and love is needed. She is going to be missed by the girls every bit as much as she will be missed by the coaches.”
Brown will attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the fall, majoring in nursing.
“I’m not going to be competing in track, but I will be in a running club and I’ll be doing color guard that year,” Brown said. “Don’t let the track people know that!”