PHILADELPHIA -- Already the state's fastest girls miler and two-miler ever, Haley Pierce sought to put even more spring in her step this outdoor track season.
She has good speed to start with, said Pat Castagno, her coach at Tatnall. Now it's having the confidence to use it when she's tired, which is a whole different game.
Thursday night at the 117th Penn Relays, Pierce put her mind, legs and lungs to the ultimate test and succeeded in historic fashion on the hallowed Franklin Field oval.
The Tatnall junior won the girls high school 3,000-meter run in 9 minutes, 16.35 seconds. It was the second fastest girls high school time in meet history, one second off the 26-year-old Penn Relays record.
It's the eighth fastest time ever run by a U.S. high school girl. Runner-up Aisling Cuffing of Cornwall High in North Windsor, N.Y., ran a 9:19.24, No. 3 all-time at Penn. Cuffing was national cross country champion last fall. Waverly Neer of Culver (Ind.) ran the fourth-best Penn time ever for third place in 9:22.32.
Pierce had settled in just behind those two for much of the race. With 800 meters left, she moved to the front and pushed the pace. When Cuffing caught her with 350 meters to go, Pierce picked up the tempo again. Nobody else could find that gear.
I felt really good and I just gave it my all, said Pierce, who covered the final 400 meters in 67 seconds. I've been working hard on my kick toward this meet and I was fortunate I was able to win.
Pierce had finished second in the Penn Relays mile last year.
I'm really proud because I've run in so many big races and finished close to the top but never showed what I can do, Pierce said. I was trying to come into this race confident, knowing I could run with the best. I'm thankful I could do so well at such a prestigious meet.
Castagno termed Pierce's race perfectly executed.
She followed the race plan to a tee and didn't waver going against the finest runner in the country, he said. She was holding back at a mile, just trying to be patient and see what she could do