Cinching The Win By 0.03 Seconds
Track fans that mourned the start of 2018 as a year without Summer Olympic Games or IAAF World Championship races have been vindicated by the fantastic indoor track season 2018 has so far delivered. It feels like there’s a new performance to celebrate every weekend: last Saturday, it was Jenny Simpson conquering the 3000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix; on February 1, some of track and field’s best descended on New York City for the 111th annual New York Road Runners Millrose Games; this weekend, the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships takes place in Albuquerque, N.M. As the season progresses, we continue seeing powerful runs by athletes that are setting new records for themselves, for the world or both–and creating memories they’ll treasure for years to come in the process.
Twenty-five-year-old Bowerman Track Club athlete Colleen Quigley had one such moment at this year’s Millrose Games, when she competed at the annual event for her first time and took the win in the NYRR Wanamaker Mile by crossing the finish line 0.03 seconds ahead of one of her teammates. After soaking in her victory for a few days, Quigley spoke with Women’s Running to explain how the race unfolded and what made this particular event so special. “I’ve always looked up to that meet as something really prestigious that I wanted to run,” Quigley said. “It was a great opportunity for me.”
While Quigley and her Bowerman Track Club teammate Kate Grace processed their race-day jitters in the Millrose Games’ loud, echoing atmosphere, they received reports from several of their teammates who were racing at other events offsite. Coming off a month of altitude training in Colorado Springs, it was a relief for Quigley and Grace to hear about Emily Infeld’s win at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, Fla. and Shelby Houlihan’s victory in the 3K at the Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite in Boston, Mass.–proof that their focused training in Colorado had served the team well. Out of her 3000m steeplechase element on the indoor track, Quigley embraced another favorite distance at which she knew she’d be competitive. “I love the mile,” Quigley said. “Given the choice of the mile or the 3K flat, I’d much rather take on a mile. It’s funny because my race distance is the 3K, so you’d think I’d shoot for that. But I think that distance is so stinking hard without hurdles; it’s so fast.”
After finding a quiet place inside The Armory to prepare for the race, Quigley stepped onto the track with Grace, grateful to have someone who’d previously competed in the Games by her side. Though Quigley described the atmosphere as initially overwhelming, the volume of the crowd had an electric effect on the runners once they toed the starting line. “It’s that energy from the crowd and the hype and everything–you just feed off that energy. It gets you really hyped.” Ironically, that same energy came close to changing the outcome of the race for Quigley. After she pushed into the straightaway before the bell–roughly 250m from the finish–and took the lead, she ran strong around the curve into the final straightaway and spotted the tape stretched across the finish line. “I felt so excited because I’ve never broken tape before in a race–no race I’ve won as a pro has had tape across the finish line. So I was like, Oh my gosh–I’m going to break the tape! What am I going to do? I should put my arms up and celebrate. This will be fun!” With sounds from the crowd echoing around her and the excitement of the race’s end swirling through her mind, Quigley didn’t hear Grace closing the gap behind her. “I was letting up into the [finish] line. Kate almost nipped me–I barely beat her. That could have been an embarrassing end to an otherwise well-run race. Luckily, I got to learn my lesson without the embarrassment.”
Even with the distractions, Quigley broke the finish line tape for her first time after running a 4:30.05-minute mile, finishing just 0.03 seconds in front of Grace and winning her first Millrose Games event. This Sunday, Quigley returns to the track in the 1500m for the USATF Indoor Championships, in which her competitors will include Grace and Houlihan. Visit USATF TV to watch the race (and the rest of the weekend’s track events) live, and check back with Women’s Running next week for recaps and photos from the weekend’s competitions.