NEW PALESTINE — They’re not quite ready to breakup the record-setting track team just yet.
The New Palestine 4×800-meter relay team comprised of Caleb Eagleson, Chase Crowder, Spencer Corey and Samuel Voelz has been invited to participate in the 2017 New Balance Outdoor Nationals meet — an elite track event for the top high school runners across the nation.
The event takes place this weekend in Greensboro, N.C. where the New Palestine runners will compete against 32 other high school teams taking part in various track events.
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“Through all my years of running, I never thought I’d get the chance to run at the Nationals, but seeing what our team can do, I could sort of see it coming,” Crowder said.
The foursome are the first Dragons track members ever to be invited to the prestigious event, school officials said. The top-six finishers in each category will earn All-American status.
In addition to the 4×800 relay team taking part, Voelz has been invited to run in the 800-meter race Sunday, an event he won during the IHSAA state meet, finishing in 1 minute, 52.60 seconds.
Voelz is coming off of another first-place finish in the Midwest Meet of Champions last weekend at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio where he ran against nine runners from Indiana, Michigan and the Buckeye state.
He won first-place setting a personal-best time of 1 minute, and 52.28 seconds.
“It was cool because state was kind of stressful and high intensity, and this one was just go out and run relaxed, and I think that is what benefited me,” Voelz said.
He and the other athletes are looking forward to one more official run together, this time against the best high school runners in the United States.
“I’m beyond excited,” Eagleson said. “I get to start off the race so that’s pretty nerve-wracking, but we’re just going to think of it as just another race.”
The relay team finished second at the state with a top-10 all-time run of 7:44.20, shattering the school record by over 8 seconds.
They are hopeful they have one more great run left in them.
“I’m looking forward to it after running in state,” Corey said. “State took a lot of weight off of our shoulders and showed us what we could do.”
The foursome caught a glimpse of what was possible this season when they ran in the Miracle Mile at Franklin Central in April and set a school-record time of 7:52.55.
It was that run that qualified the relay team for the national competition in Greensboro, said Chuck Meyers, assistant track coach.
The teams participating at nationals are invited based on their times. Any high school team running a sub 7.53.00 in the 4×800 qualified for the meet.
Through the coarse of the season the New Palestine runners trimmed their time to the record-setting 7.44.20 mark captured at state.
“We’re hoping they can cut a few more seconds off of it at this meet,” Meyers said. “It’s a really special thing, and I think our guys can do some special things out there.”
The recently graduated senior quartet had a historic season winning the Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference titles, along with sectional, regional, semi-state and state honors.
It’s no wonder they want the ride to continue Eric Branch, assistant coach said.
He’s asked his runners a couple of different times, if they have reached their limit and always gets the same response — they want more.
“The fact they have this opportunity is something they want to take advantage of and so do all the coaches,” Branch said.
While some runners with the chance to take part in a national, high-pressure competition might be overwhelmed or happy to be there, that’s not the case with the these runners.
“It doesn’t matter where these guys are or who they are up against, they accept any challenge ahead of them,” Branch said. “Every time they have had to step it up, they have.”
The track meet can be seen live on the internet Saturday evening at cdn.runnerspace.com/nbnolive.html. The Dragons are expected to run their heat at approximately 7 p.m.