GREENSBORO, N.C. (FNS) — Unfortunately for Mesabi East track and field coach Steve Ekman, he couldn’t travel to watch standout Giants runner Ava Hill compete in the USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships last week.
A trip to Greensboro, N.C., was not in the cards so he did the next best thing — watched it on his laptop.
After Saturday’s Fisherman’s Point 5K, he began viewing it with Hill’s dad and soon the Mesabi East girls’ basketball team and 10 other parents were soon watching the junior to be finish second in the 800 meters.
Ekman said Hill had a lot of fun taking second in a new personal record time of 2:11.91.
“I was very excited and surprised to place second,’’ she said. “But it made the tough summer training worth it.’’
Hill, a two time defending state champion in the 800 meters, was up against the top girls in the nation in the age 15-16 group.
“The girls I raced against were super strong runners and they helped push me to get my best time ever,’’ Hill said.
The Mesabi East runner qualified for the finals (top eight in prelims) with a time of 2:15.90.
Hill also competed in the 400 meters and finished with a time of 58.36 seconds, which put her in 24th place. She did not advance to the finals in the 400 meters.
Ekman said Hill began her trek toward qualifying for nationals by competing at the Minnesota Championship, which was held the week after the State Meet, also at Hamline. Hill won both the 400 meters and the 800 meters (in a meet record time of 2:16.50). The record for the 15-16 age group had been 2:18.58.
Hill moved on to the Region 8 Meet in Ames, Iowa, July 7-8, where she won the 800 meters and finished second in the 400 meters. The top five finishes in both events qualified her for nationals. The 400 time was one of her best ever, according the coach.
Ekman said Hill had a great finish in the 800 meters, but “she kind of got boxed in in the first 100 meters.’’ The winner was out in front right away, but Hill cut a 4 second gap and improved on a fourth place position dramatically as the girls came around the last turn. Her time of 2:11.91 was 1.7 seconds behind the winner.
In addition to the actual competition, Ekman said it’s a really good experience to see and meet the girls from other parts of the country.
“You get to see all the good talent there is in the United States that way,’’ he said. “I think it builds your confidence a lot.’’