Brittany Neeley – New Balance Indoor Nationals Experience
This past weekend, I had the experience to travel to New York City for New Balance Indoor Nationals with not only coaches and teammates, but my bestfriends as well. The trip included Charlie Skoog, Dana Neer, Anna Bearss (Warsaw), Avery Ewing, Emily Ewing, Kyle Duvall (Westfield), Bethany Neeley, and myself. It all started as we traveled by road to New York in a Culver mini-van on a rainy Thursday. We occupied ourselves by working on homework, watching Redbox rentals, and stopping practically every two hours to stretch our legs. We arrived to the city about 7 p.m. and our bad luck with New York driving started right away as we missed our exit for Hudson Parkway and were forced to travel over 100 streets on Broadway of New York City. We led ourselves to an Italian restaurant after spending over 30 minutes to find a parking spot, and carbed up for the night before. We headed to the Armory for packet pick-up and arrived ten minutes after it closed for the night. Come on now, 10 minutes isn’t too bad considering we were coming from Indiana! We made our way back to our hotel and were staying at the International House which is home to grad students of Columbia. Beth, Avery, Dana, and I headed out for a short shakeout run on the campus of Columbia before going to bed just before midnight.
Friday consisted of many memorable moments, and little did I know at the time that it would be one of the best days of my life. We spent the majority of the day at the Armory as all of us but Avery raced on Friday. You know the first thing we did as we arrived for the day was hit the gift shop. Ave, Kyle, and I all bought matching rain jackets, so watch out for us! Anna was the first to go as she ran the Emerging Elite 3200. Anna put together a solid race running an 11:48 with a couple hidden factors going into that time, so I was very proud of my bestfriend. She hung in there, and was fortunate to have her sister and dad there cheering for her. Her mentality was so positive after the race, and she never once complained about not running how she wanted to. I was the next to go. I headed out to warmup with Ave and began prerace preparations. I got dressed, and let me tell you, us four girls were dressed to impress this weekend, because if you look good, you feel good. And, if you feel good, you run good. We had the opportunity to race in earrings and hair ribbons, which is my favorite thing ever. Beth, Ave, and I represented pink breast cancer ribbons in our hair to support the loss of Kyle Duvall’s mom about two weeks ago. I can honestly say that I have never been so relaxed before a race, and I’m not 100% sure why this one was different. Exactly four weeks earlier I was playing in the sectional basketball game, and I have a tough time transitioning from sport to sport. To be honest, two weeks earlier I walked during a workout for the first time ever. It was kind of a wake up call mentally and a turning point that I had to choose what I wanted this season to be. I regrouped and got things back on track, and little did I know that two weeks later I would win a national title. I felt very prepared and controlled heading into the check-in area, and had no expectations going into the race, except to have fun. I, along with two other girls, were on the outside box and had to run outside of lane 3 for the first 150 meters. The race went out very fast, as the leader went out in a 63 second first 400. I was in about 5th for the first couple laps, and heading into the final stretch of the third lap I began to move up. The bell lap begun and my speed kicked in. I worked my way into 3rd and shot off the last curve to pass the leaders. I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to break the finish line tape, and a smile lit up on my face as I crossed the finish line and saw I had ran a 2:14.77, missing the meet record and Indiana indoor record by .35. I watched the final and fast heat of the 800 from beside the track and desperately hoped my time would be good enough to win. The winner from the fast heat went a 2:15, which made me the Emerging Elite champion! I was very excited, and found my sister immediately. She had the biggest smile on her face and was beyond excited for me. I headed back to camp, and was surrounded by the great support system that I was luckily enough to travel out here with. I received so many encouraging texts and tweets from back home and I can’t say thank you enough for that! Thanks to practically my whole school who watched my race live and thank you to the state of Indiana for all the hometown support! Beth’s race was next as she was in the Emerging Elite Mile. As she finished her warmup and prerace things, I led her in a prayer and we fist pounded. Bethany ran a very smart race, as she was last after two laps. She was starting to scare me a bit, because I didn’t know her race plan. She moved up perfectly over the course of the race, as the announcer just kept saying, “Her twin sister won the 800 earlier, can this be a Neeley sweep?” Bethany kicked the final lap and moved into 2nd place as she crossed the finish line in 4:58.86, just .3 behind the winner. The first four girls in the field dipped under the previous meet record. I was beyond excited for Beth, as she wasn’t feeling the best and gutted through the race. She reassured me numerous times after the race that she hated the mile. We quickly got back up to the track to watch Kyle race. Kyle ran well early in the race, but began having some trouble breathing. I’m honestly not sure his finish time, but I can’t explain how proud I was of him. Kyle has been through some things in the past couple weeks that people can’t even imagine. However, he still shows up every time with a smile on his face and you can’t even tell. Shoutout to Duvall family for being such a great family with great character, and to his dad, Tim, and sister, Cara, who traveled out to New York to be there to watch him. As Friday was coming to an end, we left the Armory to start our night. We quickly found out that our parking spot was on a road that was scheduled for street cleaning at the same time we were parked there, so we found ourselves a $45 ticket. We all ate at an Irish pub together that night, and witnessed the 5,000m record that Waverly had previously set last year, fall to Erin Finn of Michigan. Friday will be remembered as one of the best days of my life, and I never wanted it to end!
Our Saturday morning started off with many good laughs. We walked out of our hotel to find a bike race going on, and that our car was barricaded in on the course of the race. Props to Charlie for spending forever the previous night to parallel park there and now we were stuck in. We drove through the sidewalks of New York City to get out out and spend the next hour looking for a parking spot near Central Park. We completed our long run at Central Park, which was breathtaking. We had lunch at the Westside Market, which is heaven for any runner. Anna, Dana, and I spent the afternoon walking around the campus of Columbia. Avery prepared for her race, and her and the others headed to the Armory. Anna and I stopped at a local coffee shops to get a mocha frappes, because we refused to buy them from McDonald’s when we were in New York. We experienced the subways of New York City by ourselves as we headed to the Armory. The armory was 70 min behind schedule and somehow they managed to catch up by 30 min. Avery was rushed to warmup, and I became her little manager for the day. I led her in a prayer and we did our signal for shock the state. I told her to go get in line for her race and then met up with Beth and Anna. They informed me that Ave’s heat was already on the track! I ran over to Ave and yelled at her to get on the track. She sprinted on the track and got in her spot just before they lined up for the gun to go off. Ave ran a great race and as a result dropped 15 sec off of her old PR. I was incredibly proud of her and a 5:35 indoors for a freshman is great, especially coming from our area of the state. Us four girls couldn’t stop laughing after the race and made a stop at the photobooth before leaving. We headed to Times Square for our final night in the city. We ate at a pizza place that was delicious, and Bethany and I actually got to meet up with the girl from North Carolina who won our race here last year. After dinner, we scrambled to the nearest Starbucks to get wifi to watch Waverly run the 3,000 at NCAA Nationals. We weren’t having the best of luck getting on ESPN3, but luckily just as the 3K girls took the track, Kyle saved the day and pulled up the live stream. All 12 of us watched Wave’s race live on one little iPhone in a Sephora store in New York City. It was amazing to see, but she got tripped up with 600 metes to go. However, she got up and finished the race and we were all so proud of her. She is such an inspiration to many, including myself. Everyone headed back to the hotel to get some rest, except Ave, Emily, and I. We shopped at Times Square until after midnight. While we were shopping, Bethany was throwing up at the 96th Street subway station. She headed back to the hotel and got sick another time there too. We shopped and then headed back to the hotel on the Subway. After arriving back to the hotel after 1 a.m., we helped out Beth and headed to bed. I ended up getting two hours of sleep with the daylight savings time.
My alarm was supposed to go off at 5:45 to get up and head back to leave. I slept right through it and woke up at 6:25 to Kyle pounding on our hotel room door. I packed up our whole room within 15 min while Beth slept and we packed up the van to head home. Within 10 minutes of being on the road, Bethany was throwing up in the car and I’m stuck in the back seat beside her on the ride. We are currently over six hours into the drive home and she has yet to get sick in the car again. Six hours down, five to go and we all return to reality. I am so thankful for this opportunity and wouldn’t change it for anything. I would recommend it to anyone, and was blessed to go with some of my bestfriends and favorite people in my life. Thank you for the support back at home. I greatly appreciated it! Also, thank you to my basketball coaching staff and Dana Culp who helped make my winter training possible. As the trip and weekend comes to an end, I can look back and say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7