Amy-Eloise Neale has already had a storied running career, and Saturday she added yet another highlight to her lengthy list.
The Glacier Peak High School graduate, who’s a senior on the University of Washington women’s cross country team, placed second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
“Obviously I’m extremely happy with today,” Neale said in a video posted on Washington’s website. “As much as I believed I could be up there, when it actually happens it’s still a bit of a surprise. I’m really happy with the day and happy that I’m here with my team.”
Neale completed the 6-kilometer course in a time of 19 minutes, 27.0 seconds. She spent most of the race in the middle of the pack, but she covered the final kilometer in 3:06 to pass 17 runners. The only competitor she didn’t catch was the winner, New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat, who won the race in a championship-record time of 19:19.5. Neale’s time also bested the previous championship record of 19:27.5 set by Iowa State’s Betsy Saina in 2012.
“When we were running through the course I kind of decided that I really liked the last 2K,” Neale said. “The goal was with a mile to go I’d be in the top 10, and I was a little off of that, so I really just tried to get moving over the last 2K of the course and just pick off as many people as I could. I knew I was pretty prepared in terms of my kick, so I just really tried to kick a little sooner than I thought I could. Definitely it’s interesting here because you can’t see the finish, it’s totally different from Terre Haute (Indiana, where the 2016 championships took place) with that long stretch, so I think a lot of people maybe leave it a little too late. So I really tried to focus on making a move while I could.
“It’s definitely the best cross country race I’ve ever run.”
Neale’s second-place finish was better than her finishes at the Pac-12 and West Regional championships, where she finished third at both. Neale placed eighth at last year’s NCAAs.
Neale became just the third Washington runner ever to place second at the NCAA Championships, joining Regina Joyce (1980) and Kendra Schaaf (2009). She also joined Joyce, who finished sixth in 1980, as the only Huskies with two top-10 finishes at the national championships.
Neale led the Husky women to a 21st-place finish in the team standings.