Jaws drop at St. Michael runner’s state performance
After winning the two races she was favored to win, lightning struck a third time for running sensation Ali Upshaw.
The St. Michael junior battled her way back from the middle of the pack and secured the 800-meter title at the Arizona Division IV state track meet on Saturday.
With that, Upshaw captured the Triple Crown, winning gold in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races.
“It really didn’t hit me until I won the 800,” said Upshaw, who dropped a few jaws during the two-day state meet.
In the 800 race, she didn’t make her move until the second lap as other runners set a fast pace.
“They were going faster than my normal pace,” Upshaw said. “They started slowing down and I just worked my way back to the top.”
Initially, she didn’t think she could overcome the gap but in the final 200 meters she outkicked Chandler Prep’s Olivia Mountain for the title, winning in 2 minutes, 20.64 seconds with Mountain turning in a 2:22.90.
In her first race of the state meet, Upshaw defended her state title with ease, winning the 3,200-meter run in 10:41.57 with Pinon senior Precious Robinson trailing 19 seconds back.
In the mile race, she posted a time of 5:06.96 as she held off a late charge by Robinson, who turned in a 5:08.66.
St. Michael coach Kelly Bia said her daughter put a stamp on every race she took part in but her defining moment came in the 800.
“The 800 is a different race because it’s so quick and fast,” Bia said. “She’s not a speedster and that’s the race she’s most uncomfortable with.”
In her previous state meets, Bia said Upshaw placed sixth and seventh in the 800, and in retrospect she presumed that same scenario was going to play out after the first lap.
“In the back of my mind I was thinking here we go again,” Bia said. “But she stuck with it and with 300 meters to go she switched gears and she never looked back.
“I think this race tested her mentally and for her to come through I hope it shows her that she is getting stronger,” she added.