Ithaca’s Rayle reflects on nationals experience

By Will LeBlond

Tompkins Weekly

Photo by Jeff Sides
Ithaca High School’s Lizzy Rayle splashes through the water during the 2,000-meter steeplechase event at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championships.

Months and even years of training came down to a few precious moments for Ithaca High’s Lizzy Rayle at the 2017 New York State Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Union-Endicott High School on June 10.

She was clean ahead of the competition in her heat in the 2,000-meter steeplechase championship, but her mind wasn’t on just winning the heat.

“I had that 7:15 time on my mind all season,” said Rayle. “I was running down the straightaway and I could see the clock and I was just going as fast as I could. I didn’t want to leave it down to the last second.”

The 7:15 benchmark was the qualifying time to make the national championships and, with one final push towards the end line, Rayle narrowly came in under the mark with a time of 7:14.11. While she did win the first heat of the day, she still came in 12th in the state after the second and final heat turned in an astonishing 11 national qualifying times.

Her personal best time at the state meet came after she claimed her third straight Section IV Championship in the steeplechase. When it comes to her favorite moment of the season, however, she noted competing at the 2017 New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“It might actually be that race at nationals,” said Rayle when reminiscing on the year. “It was just really exciting to be all the way out there in North Carolina. I had a good race and it was fun to compete against people I didn’t really know and people who are really fast.”

She was able to claim another 12th place finish against the nation’s top competition, while she set another personal record in the process with a 7:10.69 time. With so much talent in one stadium, the IHS rising senior was able to narrow her focus on what she had to do.

“It was crazy how many fast people were there for all kinds of events,” said Rayle. “But I tried to not really hype it up too much and just keep it like every other race.”

The race down south marked the final one of the season for Rayle, as well as fellow Little Red competitor Alexander Simpson, who finished 10th in the Freshman Mile Run with a 4:32.57 time. After a long year that included cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, Rayle finally has some time unwind now.

“It’s a little bit relieving now that I have some time for my body to recover. I’m also a little sad about it because I never want to stop,” said Rayle. “I’m taking two weeks off then I’ll get right back into it for cross country. I’ll run four to five and sometimes six times a week just to get heavy mileage and build up a base for cross country.”

Cross country season won’t start up until the fall season begins in August, but with one more year left for Rayle at Ithaca, she is pumped up for competition to start up once again.

“I’m really excited for the cross country season this year. We have a really good group of girls returning from last year, so I’m just excited for every meet,” said Rayle. “My friend and I realized the other day that every single meet we run from now on is going to be the last one of our career. It’s a little sad, but it’s exciting.”

In terms of personal improvements, with more experience under her belt in terms of high profile events, Rayle wants to get back to the big stage during her senior year.

I’m just trying to do my best against a bigger group of athletes,” said Rayle. “I’m always trying to PR and occasionally I’ll crack under the pressure, so I’m just trying to get better under pressure at those big meets like states.”