“OK, 5,000-meter final, NAIA indoor championships. I ran the race of my life in the prelim, it felt so easy, I PR’d by like 10 seconds. It just kind of came out of left field. So going into the final I’m like, Man, anything can happen. I wanted to give myself a chance to finish hopefully in the top three, maybe even win it if I could. Me and coach had talked about our strategy for the race, and our strategy was to really start kicking home with 600 meters left—it was a 300-meter track, so with two laps to go. I noticed with what was three laps to go, they had two up on the card. I started realizing then that they could ring it [the bell] next time, but I thought they’d get it fixed. There was some lap traffic starting to happen. We came around the next lap, and I’d been consistently closing the gap on the top three guys. By that point, with two laps to go—one on the board—it was about a two- or three-second gap, and I was feeling pretty good. They rang the bell, and all three of those guys took off, and I had to make a call at that moment. I could try to chase them, probably not catch anybody and be totally spent, or I could make things interesting—force a decision. I kind of protected my spot; I went a little bit faster than maybe I would have wanted to. Held on to fourth, and then just kept rolling. I remember looking directly at the guy counting the laps, and I’m exaggerating saying I’ll never forget his face, but his face was definitely telling a story about his internal dialogue as I ran past him. I didn’t know if anyone took off after me. I ran that last lap in a little bit of confusion. I finished the race, and I turned around and saw my teammates going nuts. It sure felt like I won. It was really cool. They ultimately decided to go with the 4,700-meter results. I kind of looked at it as the best of both worlds, because if they would have given it to me, it had an asterisk. And frankly, I think the best I could’ve done in that race was second. I don’t think I could have won. But now I don’t have to handle that, I don’t have to worry about people saying, ‘That’s not a legitimate national title because the officials screwed it up.’ But I still had those moments after the race, and for like an hour it was just kind of floating on cloud nine. When I finished and turned around and saw 20 guys and girls in IWU stuff just going bananas, it was something I will not forget—a really neat moment. … I didn’t know what I was going to do with the plaque—I didn’t know if I wanted to scratch out fourth and put first, or scratch out 5,000 and put 4,700. The coolest thing for me was that I was the subject of a topic that trended on the LetsRun message boards; that will never happen again.”
Neno (speaker) leads the pack in the photo above.