North Xtra: Shaler runner samples national competition


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For a high school junior to earn the opportunity to compete at a Diamond League meet -- one of track and field's biggest stages in which some of the most iconic figures in the sport perform -- is typically unheard of. But after three years of record-shattering performances and complete dominance of the WPIAL track and field scene, Shaler Area High School middle-distance star Brianna Schwartz has proven that she isn't your average high school runner.

Schwartz got her first taste of elite level track and field last Saturday, finishing seventh in the mile at the Adidas Grand Prix -- the fifth stop on the International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League professional circuit -- in New York City.

Her race, called the "Dream Mile", brought together some of the top high school girls from across the nation and was featured among other events that were contested by top professionals from around the world.

"I was really excited just to be there and get the chance to go and compete," Schwartz said. "The race didn't go how I wanted it to, but it was still a great experience."

Schwartz found herself in unfamiliar territory through the first half of the race, getting boxed in near the back of the pack. When she tried to make her move over the final lap, it was a little too late and she was unable to make up the ground on the top runners.

She crossed the finish line in 4:50.16.

Despite finishing about eight seconds off her personal best and about five seconds off her outdoor season best, Schwartz's mark at the meet still ranks as the 19th fastest for any high school runner in the country this season.

"She seems to have developed the ability that if she runs a subpar race, she runs that subpar race at a very high level," Shaler distance coach Sam Bair said.

Subpar races have been few and far between for Schwartz during her career at Shaler. Over the past two outdoor track seasons, she has set the WPIAL all-time records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters and has not lost a major race.

Although Schwartz faced some challenges in her first race against top national competition, her coaches have praised her for the professional demeanor that she brings to both practice and races.

"She is a good listener, an excellent student of the sport," Bair said. "She has learned so much in the last two, three years that we've been coaching her that it's getting to the point now that she is like a little professional."

Leading up to the Adidas Grand Prix, Schwartz had put together her most successful season as a high school runner. She qualified for the Foot Locker Nationals at the end of the cross country season, finishing sixth in the event, and then ran a personal best 1,600 time of 4:42.10 during the indoor season.

"[The season] went really well, from cross country and then indoor track, where I got my [personal record]," Schwartz said. "So I was excited to compete outdoors and I actually got a really good time in the [3,200]."

Schwartz will try to eclipse her personal best 3,200 time of 10:10.03, which ranks seventh in the country so far this season, on Saturday at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle, Wash.

Alex Nieves: anieves@post-gazette.com and Twitter @alexdnieves5


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