While most of his teammates on the Eleanor Roosevelt track team were planning on competing last month at the Nike Indoor Nationals just a few miles from home in Landover, Raiders junior Mikias Gelagle had other ideas.
Gelagle begged Roosevelt's distance coach, Desmond Dunham, to let him run at a national meet going on at the same time, the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in New York City. Gelagle wanted to give his best shot at the 5,000-meter run, an event that was not run at the Nike meet.
Eleanor Roosevelt runner Tameka Jameson, left, with teammates Andrea Wright and Jennifer Redman, is a key part of the team's 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
(Jonathan Ernst For The Washington Post)
"I really wanted to see what I could do," Gelagle said. "I like the longer distances a lot better."
So Gelagle went to the New York Armory on March 11 and captured All-America honors by taking fifth place in the 5,000, running a time of 15 minutes 22.36 seconds.
Gelagle returned home with a new personal best and a wealth of irreplaceable experience in his favorite race against top competition. Armed with that and newfound confidence, Gelagle is poised to be not just one of Prince George's County's best distance runners, but one of the best in the state.
"My hope is to get down to 4:20 [in the 1,600] and 9:20 [in the 3,200]," Gelagle said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work. But I'm excited about this season."
Prince George's has been a county more known for its sprinters in recent years. Gelagle is happy being something of an anomaly.
Gelagle won six cross-country meets in the fall, including the Prince George's County and 4A South Region titles and the Foot Locker Southeast Region Junior Division championship. He was third in the Maryland 4A, and he was selected as a first-team All-Met.
The move to the track is a little bit of an adjustment for Gelagle, who says that he prefers the longer races. While the 1,600 and 3,200 meters are still long-distance races, they do not have as much of a tactical nature as the 5,000 meters, which is the length of a high school cross-country meet.
But at last weekend's Northern Virginia Invitational at Oakton High, Gelagle showed that he has a knack for the tactics of the shorter race in capturing second in the 1,600 and 3,200.
In the 3,200, Gelagle lurked behind leader Steve Frames of Langley, who had led most of the race. Then, with about 100 meters to go, Gelagle began his sprint, along with Preston (W.Va.) senior Eric Ryan. Although he lost the footrace against Ryan, he showed that he could handle the shorter race.
"It's a lot more about how much speed you have in the mile," Gelagle said. "I like the longer races, there is a lot more strategy."