Abbie Harrelson had reached her breaking point.
It was late in the afternoon on April 27, and to that point in
the day the Niceville middle distance runner had already legged
3500 meters (2.17 miles) over almost four races and still had
a fourth of the 1600-meter race to go.
Four runners, including Harrelson, huddled within a second of
each other. The last 100 meters was all heart, she
said. I couldnt even feel my legs. Harrelson
crossed the finish line and was told her time: 4:58.59. Her first-ever
sub five-minute mile. First place. A regional championship.
The amount of joy I think she and I both had, it was really
exciting, Niceville track and field distance coach Jamie
Said Harrelson, I was in total shock.
It was a rewarding moment for the Niceville senior, whos
individual success in the 800 and 1600-meter races and team success
in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays this season has earned her Daily
News Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
I think what makes Abbie deserving is what she contributes
to the team across the board, LaFollette said. While
Abbie was certainly in it to run and have individual success,
she was also definitely determined to bring us team success.
Harrelson, running leadoff for just the third time all season,
was followed by teammates Alexis Sherwin, Erin Eubanks and anchor
Hannah Schneidewind on the Eagles state championship-winning
4x800 relay team. The foursomes time of 9:20.97 set a school
For me to do it my senior year, it couldnt be more
special, Harrelson said that day.
Later that day she placed second in the 800-meter (2:10.71)
finishing 42 hundredths of a second behind the state champ
and third in the 1600-meter (4:57.81), 1.77 seconds behind the
winner. Both times set school records.
Harrelson with teammates NyZha Anthony, Alexis Sherwin
and Ashley Frank was also part of the Eagles seventh-place
state finisher (3:59.36) in the 4x400 relay.
Harrelson said that coming off a cross country season in which
she took home Daily News Female Cross County Athlete of the Year
honors gave her confidence and raised her, and others, expectations
for her track and field season.
Thats all I needed, she said. The pressure
was on and I think I perform well under pressure.
The standout performance of Harrelsons season was the sub
five-minute mile at regionals. She also broke the five-minute
mark at the state meet, her 4:57.81 mark falling just 1.78 seconds
of the title.
Because of the strenuous schedule, LaFollette occasionally considered
pulling Harrelson from the 4x400 relay. But she wouldnt
No, she would say. Im doing it.
At the FSU Relays on March 25, Harrelson finished 11th in the
1600-meter and then 20 minutes later raced on Nicevilles
fifth-place finisher in the 4x400. At the regional meet, Harrelson
began with the 800-meter, 45 minutes later ran the 1600-meter
(the first time she broke five minutes) and then 30 minutes later
ran in the 4x400 relay.
Said Harrelson, I just didnt want to let anyone down.
That last race at regionals, the 4x400, was neck and neck. Five
teams jockeyed for positions two through six within six seconds
of one another.
Niceville was a little bit behind when Harrelson took the baton.
And it didnt start well. Harrelson began at a standstill
because she collided with another runner.
?(But) she gutted it out and ended up surging that last 100 meters,
Harrelson gave her team and fourth-place finish by 28 hundredths
of a second, edging a Creekside team that ended up not qualifying
for the state meet.
It was one of those she wasnt going to be denied
races, LaFollette said. She brings a competitive spirit
that is just ... amazing.
Thats the best word for it. She works really, really
hard. Its really a perfect combination of the type of attitude
you need to be a successful middle-distance runner.
She even improved throughout the season. Harrelson began the
year with a time of 2:17 in the 800-meter and then throughout
had times around 2:14. Her time at the state meet: 2:10.71.
This season was everything I could have asked for,
Harrelson said in a phone conversation from Gainesville, where
shes now a member of the University of Florida cross country
and track teams.
Harrelson began classes in Gainesville on June 26.
Its been great. I really like everyone and all my
roommates are really nice, she said. I havent
met the whole team because not a lot of people are here yet, but
Im really excited.
So should Gators fans.