NBNO Preview: Girls' Distance Events

Natick's Grace Connolly will be looking to improve on her 10:41 best in the two mile.

Girls' Distance Events (including relays)

If we had to come up with the best chance for a Massachusetts' athlete or athletes to claim gold it's right here. The event were thinking is the 2,000-meter steeplechase where Newton South's Clare Martin is the No. 1 seed. Martin ranks No. 2 in the event nationally with her winning time of 6:46.63 from the Weston Twilight Invitational last month. The top runner in the nation, New York's Alexandria Harris, is not among the current entry list. It won't be easy for Martin. The next five runners behind her on the national list have all dipped under seven minutes and will all be toeing the line, including third-seeded Payton Capes-Davis of New York, who finished second at her state meet last week with a quality time of 6:48.42.

Martin is also scheduled to compete in a very-competitive 800m field where six runners has run a best in the 2:07 range, including Martin, who ran her PB of 2:07.91 to place second at the New England's. The odds on favorite for the individual title is New York's Samantha Watson, who will be chasing Mary Cain's national mark of 1:59.51. The real race is for second where Martin is among the contenders for that runner-up slot. She'll be matched against Florida's Kayla Johnson of Miami Southbridge (2:07.19), New York's Hannah Reale of Shenendehowa (2:07.27), Maryland's Nyjari McNeil of Franklin (2:07.34) and Ohio's Gia Napolean of Thomas Worthington (2:07.47). There's plenty more that are within the 2:08 and 2:09 range, too.

Natick's Grace Connolly did not compete at last week's New England Championship. A good guess would be to focus all her attention on the two mile this weekend. This is another race that is loaded and has the chance at producing a few sub 10-minute clockings. Connolly comes in with a best of 10:41.79, which she did to easily win the Eastern Division 2 Championships on May 27. The Natick sophomore also won the individual title at the All State Meet. In both races, she did most of the pace-setting. With the level of the field this weekend, and the fact that she is a competitor, we're thinking Connolly will improve on her best substantially at the nationals with a time in the 10:20 range, or possibly faster.

In the longer relay events, Milton is entered in the 4xMile and 4x800m. With a team that includes Bridget Mitchell (4:56 mile best), Ella Affanato (5:18),  Eliza O'Donnell (5:16) and Genevieve Connelly (5:13), we're thinking Milton has the ability to clock a time similar to the 20:41 time it ran to place second at the indoor nationals.There also a chance for the Wildcats to finish in the low nine-minute range or possibly faster in the 4x800m with the foursome of Mitchell, Josephine Cousineau and Elise and Colette O'Leary.