Cayla Hatton will never win a Massachusetts State Championship. Not because she lacks talent, to the contrary, an argument can be made that she is the most gifted distance runner in the state. The reason she will never get the opportunity to compete for a state title is because her school, Phillips Academy in Andover, competes as an independent and is not a member of the MIAA. The technicality has helped her remain a mystery to casual track fans in New England, but it has not deterred her from making a national impact.
For most of us, our first introduction to Cayla Hatton was at the New Balance Grand Prix back on February 4, 2012. Considered a surprise entry by most, Hatton fearlessly led a field of nationally ranked milers and eventually finished second in 4:51.37 (a time that still stands at US#8).
But Aaron Ladd and the meet management at Global Athletics were not taking a shot in the dark when they extended an invitation to Hatton. She had quietly made a major impact on the local running scene over the past four years and her accomplishments this season helped create a resume that can rival the best in the country.
MileSplitMass had the opportunity to ask Cayla a few questions following her tremendous performance at the New Balance Grand Prix. Her answers - and the biography included below - epitomize the concept of a student-athlete and solidifies her spot as one of the best in the state.
In 2008, Cayla Hatton was the USATF Youth Outdoor National Champion in the 3000m and runner-up in the 1500m in her age group. In 2009, she was the youngest competitor in the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships 1500m. After facing injuries throughout the majority of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Cayla returned in the summer of 2011, winning the New Haven Stratton-Faxon Women’s 5k and setting a new course record at the ING Hartford Women’s 5k.
In the fall, Cayla competed in her first year of cross-country, culminating in a win at the USATF-NE 6k Open Cross Country Championship. This winter, Cayla placed second in the New Balance Grand Prix Junior Mile and thirteenth in the 8k Open Division USA National Cross Country Championship, running a 6k split fast enough to have won the Junior 6k Division. Cayla attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where she has recently been elected to the Cum Laude Society. She was awarded the Biology Department Prize in ninth grade, and in eleventh grade she earned the Rensselaer Medal for excellence in science and mathematics.
Tell us a little about how you got started in running.
The first race I ever ran was the Farmington Fun Run Mile in fourth grade. I realized I had potential when I ran past the biker who was leading the course.
This is the first year I’ve been running year round – for my previous high school years I played soccer in the fall, and during middle school I swam in the winter.
Your performance at the New Balance Grand Prix instantly lifted you to national recognition. What was the plan going into the race?
I was training for the 8k this past weekend in St. Louis, so my training has been strength based. The Grand Prix Mile was planned as a speed workout for me. I wanted to run a consistent mile with splits around 34-35. I was hoping that the field would go out hard, and I was frustrated that it ended up being a more strategic race. In my opinion this isn’t the time of year for strategic races – I just wanted to run hard and fast.
Walk us through the first half of the race. What were your thoughts on the slow start and on the reaction of the field to your initial move?
I wanted to get in a strong, hard mile so I wasn’t happy with the slow start. I wish that I had just started the race at my pace so I wouldn’t have overcompensated on the second and third laps. I was surprised that no one came with me when I picked up the pace, but I wasn’t too concerned about what everyone else was doing.
At the half way point you had a large lead on the rest of the field. What was the strategy at that point?
I tried to just hold my pace, but I got a little complacent. Looking back, I was way too comfortable at this point of the race and should have been pushing myself harder.
Describe the final 400 meters of the race and your thoughts after you crossed the line.
I know that I had no kick, but I didn’t expect to considering the training I’ve been doing. I didn’t have that ‘next gear’ but I felt like I could’ve kept running at that same gear for much longer. This made me feel confident in my strength training, but it isn’t a good feeling to finish a race and feel like you haven’t pushed yourself to your limit. I was also disappointed with the time because I think that I could have gone faster and Haley could have gone faster if the race had panned out differently.
You won the USATF New England Club Cross Country Championships and finished second in the most prestigious mile field in the region. Where do you go from here?
I just competed at the USA National Open Championships 8k, and placed thirteenth overall. I chose to run in the open division rather than the junior division so I would have more competition and so I could try the longer distance. I was much happier with my performance here than at New Balance. I felt like I ran my hardest and finished on empty. It was also amazing to line up next to Molly Huddle and Sara Hall!
In the spring, I plan on trying out a bunch of different events ranging from the 800m to the 10k since I don’t really know what I’m best at yet. I was out with injury the past two years and this past fall was my first cross-country season ever, so it’s hard for me to know how I have developed since freshman year. Right now I have my sights set on the Olympic Trials B Cuts in the 5k and the steeplechase.
What are your plans for next year?
Next year, I’ll be running for Stanford University – I can’t wait!
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