Competing on a national stage can be nerve-wracking, but Jesse Garn is used to it.
The Binghamton University senior took part in a nationally broadcast mile-long race among elite company for the second consecutive year. This year, at the New York City Armory Invitational broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, Garn faced professional runners such as Cam Levins of the Nike Oregon Project and Chris O’Hare of adidas. He was one of just three collegiate runners in an 11-man race.
“Warming up I recognized a lot of familiar faces, belonging to the pros in my race,” Garn wrote in an e-mail. “Saying hello and shaking hands [helped dissipate the nerves]. I’m not the type of athlete that likes to be pent up; rather, chatting with my competition eases the stress. I definitely felt pressured, but not nearly as much as last year in my first elite race like that.”
To that end, the event serves a dual purpose: Not only is Garn able to better integrate himself into the professional network of middle-distance runners, he’s able to prove he belongs there.
“I feel that everyone at some point has got to think ‘Being on T.V. would be a pretty sweet experience,’ and it is,” Garn wrote. “I have been privileged to be a part of a national broadcast twice now, and I believe that kind of attraction allows my name to get out there, and enable my family, friends, teammates, etc. to support me from home.”
The experience was different the second time around, and it posed new challenges. Last year at the Millrose Games, the race got out more quickly than he expected, but Garn says that this year, the race got out too fast.
“This year I bolted off the starting line into third place for the first 600 meters, which took its toll more than I expected, and I faded the second half of the race,” Garn wrote.
Participating in a mile race for the first time in about a year, Garn clocked a time of 4:05.84 on Saturday afternoon. For an elite runner who has broken a four-minute mile and hoped to set a new personal record this weekend, that wasn’t quite what the two-time NCAA qualifier was hoping for.
“At first I was disappointed in my performance, and thought that I had let down those who had hyped up my race so much,” Garn wrote. “I had anticipated running under four minutes again. But then I thought, ‘Well, a 4:05 mile on my bad day isn’t THAT bad,’ especially with it being my first mile race since last March.”
Garn finished in ninth, with Levins taking first with a winning time of 3:54.74. He was followed by O’Hare, who took second three seconds later (3:57.26). Thomas Award of UPenn finished in third and at the top of the collegiate runners with a time of 4:00.20.
But one race won’t determine a career, and being invited to participate in these elite events is a telling enough sign that great things await one of Binghamton’s best. Either way, Garn’s plan hasn’t changed; he’s still planning on punching his third ticket to the NCAAs.
“I believe that every competition is a learning experience, and that there are still many positives to take away from this meet,” Garn wrote. “I am fully confident that I will improve on my time, and qualifying for NCAAs is still the goal for this season.”