STAMFORD, Conn. – As the high school indoor track season hits the homestretch, Westhill High junior Claire Howlett is proving she is ready for the big meets after an impressive race Saturday at the Yale Invitational.
Howlett won her heat and set a school record in the 3,000 meters. Her time of 10:06.46 shattered the previous record of 10:15 set by Madde Elkins in 2009. She outdistanced the field by more than 15 seconds and was the top Connecticut runner in nine heats. Howlett’s time was the sixth fastest time among the 230 girls who ran the race. It is the 11th fastest time in the nation this winter, according to MIleSplit.com.
“Coach (Ed Lane) wanted me to run 10:15 and try for the school record,’’ Howlett said. “Once I started If felt really good and just went as fast as I could.”
Her time is impressive for coming so early in the season. The league divisional championships come up later this week, the league championship is Jan. 31 and the State Open is Feb. 16. Howlett also was competing against elite regional competition, many of whom she could face again at the New England championships.
“I really wasn’t expecting to do that well,’’ Howlett said. “I think it speaks to how hard I’ve been working over the past few months. On one hand, it’s good to be running so well so early. On the other hand, it makes me a little nervous. I want to make sure I can sustain it.”
Howlett will concentrate on the 3,200 meters for the rest of the indoor season. She is seeking to break 11 minutes and make a run at the school mark of 10 minutes, 50 seconds. Her time equates to a 10:56 time in the 3,200, which is 14 seconds better than her previous best.
“The goal this year to make New Englands and have a good race,’’ Howlett said. “Hopefully I can break 11 minutes for the 3,200 in the next couple of weeks.”
Two Westhill pole vaulters also had noteworthy finishes. Chris Rough, a sophomore, and Bill Thibault, a senior, cleared 13 feet, 6 inches, and were among eight tied for second place.