Leighton Levy, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Having to sit out collegiate competition for the coming track season, 2013 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 800-metre champion Natoya Goule is looking forward to the Millrose Games early next season, where she is down to compete against some of the world's best emerging middle-distance runners. The games are set for February 15, 2014.
Goule, who won both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles last season for Louisiana State University (LSU), is down to battle with the likes of World Championship finalist Ajee Wilson, Mary Cain, the International Association of Athletic Federations Rising Star of the Year; and Iceland's World Youth champion Anita Hinriksdottir, in the two-lap event.
"Because I am sitting out, running at Millrose is important because I will be able to compete so I can see where I am in terms of practice," said Goule, who transferred to Clemson during the summer.
"I am really excited because running with good athletes that are young and talented like myself only makes me better."
two-minute barrier broken
Goule, who broke the two-minute barrier (I:59.93) for the first time at the National Championships last June, will have her hands full at Millrose. Wilson ran a personal best and new American record of 1:58.21, finishing sixth in the 800-metre finals in Moscow in August. The 2011 World Youth and 2012 World Junior champion also set a World Junior record in winning the 600 metres at Millrose last February.
Cain finished 10th in the World Championships 1500-metre final in August. She was the youngest finalist ever in the event. In June, she became the first United States junior to break the two-minute barrier, clocking 1:59.21.
Hinriksdottir became Iceland's first-ever World Youth champion in July when she took the 800-metre title in Donetsk.
"I am looking forward to competing with all the young athletes in the race because all of them are great competitors," said Goule, who at 22 is the eldest of the talented foursome.
Looking beyond Millrose, Goule has eyes on a few international meets this year as she aims to compete outside the collegiate circuit until she completes her year of residency at Clemson. She said she could consider the Commonwealth Games and other meets.
"I am definitely looking forward at international meets this season because I want to stay fit in order to compete better next season," she said. "I could consider it a little rest period because it won't be a major year like this past year of track and field, so running at those meets will allow me to keep in good shape."
Her coach, Mark Elliott, agrees. He told The Sunday Gleaner that with Goule competing heavily since her days at Manchester High, South Plains and LSU, having this year off could be the best thing.
Elliott also revealed that she has been training well and may even be a little further ahead than she was at this time last season.
"It's because of how I am training and the times I am running in practice," Goule said.
She is hopeful those better times in training will translate on to the track at Millrose come February.
"It's early season, so I just want to run a better time than I did for my first 800 Indoors last year (2:03.49), so if I run even faster than my PR then that would be fantastic."