There was one emotion that dominated Taylor Roe’s thoughts as she crossed the finish line.
The Lake Stevens High School graduate couldn’t comprehend the fact that she was now a national champion.
Roe, now a junior at Oklahoma State University, claimed the national title in the women’s 3,000 meters at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.
“The first thought was, ‘I can’t believe this actually worked out, I can’t believe I did it,’” Roe said via cell phone from Stillwater, Oklahoma. “I’m not sure if I said it out loud, but I couldn’t believe it worked.”
Roe, the reigning Herald Woman of the Year in Sports after placing second in the NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championship during the 2020-21 school year, bested a field of 16 runners in the indoor 3,000, finishing in a time of 8 minutes, 58.95 seconds to hold off North Carolina State’s Katelyn Tuohy for the title.
“I don’t know, it just feels weird,” Roe said about being a national champ. “It’s a strange feeling. Every day I’ve woken up it’s gotten more and more real, but it feels so strange.”
Roe spent the first half of the race hanging out at the back of the pack. At the midway point she surged toward the front, then with three-and-a-half laps remaining she broke away, starting her kick very early. Roe eventually built about a 10-meter lead, and although the competition closed on the final turn, Roe had one last gear and managed to hold off the pursuers for victory.
“The initial plan was to go to the back, hang out and stay relaxed, then at the halfway point start to look toward the front and see where people were at,” Roe said. “My coach (Dave Smith) told me to get to the front with about 1,000 meters to go, and at whatever point in the race I felt like I could, go hard and make it to the finish line at that effort. I’m not sure how far out I decided to go, but I just decided to go and never look back.”
Well, not exactly. Because the race was being televised, Roe was able to glance up at the video board and see where the competition was behind her.
“I thought when I made my move there would still be people going with me,” Roe said. “After about a lap I looked at the video screen and realized there was a gap, and honestly I was kind of shocked.
“Coming down the back stretch of that last lap I saw the video screen and they were closing hard, and it was terrifying,” Roe added. “I knew at that point they were going to catch me, so I had to be able to fight them off, and somehow in the last 50 I saved enough that I had an extra burst to hold off the charge.”
Roe’s title is her second All-American effort this school year, as she also placed fifth at cross country nationals in November.
Next up for Roe is the outdoor track and field season. She’s still deciding whether she’ll focus on the 1,500 or the 5,000.