By David Rogers. BOSTON, Mass. — In a field of almost 200 top-ranked collegiate and professional women’s middle distance runners, Parker Valby of the University of Florida ran a sub-15 minute 5,000 meters (14:56.11) in the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener indoor track meet at Boston University — and it came just one week after she capture the NCAA Division I Cross Country title in Charlottesville, Va.
For most of the race, Valby ran a step behind Andrea Rodenfels, representing the Boston Athletic Association, the duo gaining significant separation from the rest of the elite field in Heat 1. With five laps to go, Valby surged ahead and never lost form in not only setting a meet record but an American record as well.
Blowing Rock-based ZAP Endurance also had an elite runner in the race, Amanda Vestri who recently joined the team after finishing her collegiate career at Syracuse University. Near the middle of the race, Vestri jumped into the No. 3 position to lead a long, single file of elite runners. She remained at No. 3 before fading slightly in the closing laps to finish No. 8, clocking 15:21.11. Even so, Vestri was just five seconds behind the No. 3 finisher, Ella Donaghu of the Nike Union Athletics Club.
According to ZAP Endurance head coach Pete Rea, Vestri’s performance in Boston represents a milestone of sorts in her career.
“Amanda is a 10,000 meter specialist, so this 5,000 meter distance is more akin to speed work for her. After her training with us for a few months, we wanted to see what she could do. Her best time at this distance while competing for Syracuse was 15:42.48. So for her to improve on her time by roughly 27 seconds is pretty significant and we think she can go a lot lower.
“To put this performance in perspective,” added Rea, “the slowest qualifier for the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials was about 15:24 and Amanda ran faster than that in this race. While her beating that time in this indoor race looks promising, for the 2024 Olympic Trials I don’t think a 15:21 will make the field. The U.S. has a deep field of 5,000 meter female runners this year.”
In the Seeded Men’s 5,000 meters, Harvard University’s Graham Blanks followed up his recent win in the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championships by breaking the NCAA indoor record for the 5,000 meters in 13:03.72, smashing the 11-year old mark of 13:08.28 set in 2012 by Arizona’s Lawi Latang. The mark also was under the Olympic qualifying standard of 13:05, should he earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Of local interest, Blowing Rock-based ZAP Endurance athlete Dan Schaffer, who is more of a mile and 1500 meters specialist, stepped up his distance and qualified to run in Heat 1 with the elite runners. Ultimately, he finished at No. 39 out of the 235 top collegiate and professional runners competing in the field.