For much of her sports career at Haddonfield High School in suburban Philadelphia, track was a sidelight for Greta Feldman, simply a means for her to stay in shape for soccer.
In 2008, though, Feldman had a breakthrough that made her realize that she might have a future in running.
“I was a 400 runner at first; it was not until late in my junior year, that I did the 800,” said Feldman. “I made the New Jersey Meet of Champions in the 800 and I started thinking that I could run in college.”
A year later, Feldman came across the state to Princeton University for college and took some lumps as she joined the Tiger women’s track squad.
“I had to adjust to training and school, Peter [Princeton head coach Peter Farrell] didn’t want to throw too much at me,” said Feldman, whose top highlight as freshman came when she helped the 4×800 relay win the Indoor Heptagonal Ivy League crown.
“He didn’t want me to move up to distance that year. I got injured and was out most of the spring.”
As a sophomore, Feldman tried the 1,500 for the first time and quickly realized that she had found her optimum distance.
“I did the 4×1500 on our spring trip,” said Feldman. “In our first home meet, I ran the 1,500 and I was able to be competitive. That was great.”
That race set Feldman on a path that has resulted in her making great progress this spring as she has mastered her new event Feldman took second in the 1,500 at the Outdoor Heps in early May before taking first at the NCAA East Regionals over Memorial Day weekend. Last week, the junior continued her meteoric rise, placing fifth in the 1,500 at the NCAA Championships in a time of 4:14.76, earning All-American status.
In reflecting on her stunning run this spring, Feldman said she has reaped the benefits of making a commitment to cross country.
“I threw myself into cross country this year and I made an impact there,” said Feldman, who started running with the team in her sophomore year.
“I thought the base would help with 1,500. In the past, I didn’t have the endurance in the last 200 meters of the 1500. My mileage is up. I was doing 40 a week as a sophomore on cross country and I did 65-70 last fall. I am at 40-50 this spring.”
A key moment this spring for Feldman came when she took second in the 1,500 in the Larry Ellis Invitational in late April with a PR of 4:18.86, shaving 1:43 off her previous best time of 4:21.09.
“The Ellis meet was definitely a breakthrough; I saw I can run in a field like that,” said Feldman.
“The 1500 is a lot more tactical than the 800 where you just have to be fast. In some races, you go out slow and in others, you go out fast. Doing our home meets this spring, I saw different things.”
Feldman’s victory at the East Regionals was another eye-opener. “It was my first race in a loaded field like that, a lot of girls had better personal records than I did but I have learned to race and stick with the plan,” said Feldman, who clocked a time of 4:15.00 in the victory. “Winning caught me by surprise; I wasn’t expecting that.”
In her heat at the NCAAs last Thursday, Feldman exceeded expectations again, running a 4:12.73, a
Princeton record, a personal best, and the second-best time in Ivy League history.
“That was great; I went out faster than in regional,” recalled Feldman “That was a big PR for me and it gave me the automatic qualifier for the Olympic Trials.”
While Feldman didn’t match that time in the NCAA final, she liked the way she competed.
“The race plan in final was to get off the line well,” said Feldman. “It was a race that was not about time but about tactics. At 400, I moved to the back which wasn’t good. At 600, the leaders got some separation. With 400 to go, I had some ground to make up. I think I closed well; I had them in my sights.”
Now Feldman has her sights set on staying with the leaders in the Olympic trials which are taking place in Eugene, Ore. from June 21-July 1.
“Coming out of the NCAA race, I would have liked to have done better,” said Feldman.
“I have gained so much confidence in the last couple of weeks. If I had that earlier, I could’ve started from a higher point. For me, the NCAA meet was the big stage. The trials are icing on the cake. I am thrilled to get to compete in Oregon and be around that big time environment. I will be a small fish in a big pond; to be there is unbelievable.”