Heading into the final of the girls’ 800, Mount Baker runner Natalie Smith was unsure of how she wanted to run the race. Looking at two different strategies for it to play out.
“I wasn’t sure if I was planning to lead and be first, or stay back and wait,” Smith said in a phone interview. “I was ready for anything.”
Once the race started, the decision was made for her.
South Whidbey’s Elizabeth Donnelly quickly jumped out to the lead. So for Smith, the choice was to stay behind and wait for her chance to take the lead. At the start of the second lap, she saw a chance to make her move, but Donnelly fought to maintain her lead.
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“I was unsure. I went to pass and she sped up. So I stayed back,” Smith said.
Approaching 200 meters left to go in the race, Smith said she got a sign from Mount Baker coach Tyler Mitchell to wait a little more to make a move. When the last corner approached, that’s when Smith found her opportunity and seized it.
On the last straightaway, Smith burst to the outside of Donnelly and passed her South Whidbey opponent with about 50 meters to go. Clinching the state championship on a winning time of 2 minutes, 16.81 seconds. Beating Donnelly by a half-second.
Smith’s state-championship time is also a new personal record, beating her old record by two seconds.
“It feels great,” she said. “I was happy I was able to improve my time. It’s fun to be a state champ.”