FORT WEAYNE – Ashley Erba says she wont be thinking much about Anna Rohrer at the state cross country meet Saturday in Terre Haute, even if Rohrer figures to make her day a lot less lonely than it usually is.
When I go into races, obviously Im aware of other runners and what kind of races theyve run and all that, says Erba, the defending girls state champion from Warsaw. But the way I like to approach things is not to focus on what other girls are going to do but what Im going to do. Having confidence in my training, I go in with my own goals and I try to achieve those. And thats pretty independent of what everybody elses goals are.
So, out of mind, then, where Rohrer is concerned.
Out of sight, however, is a whole other thing.
Thats because Rohrer, the fast-rising sophomore from Mishawaka, and Erba, the dominant female high school distance runner in Indiana for the last two seasons, have been stalking each other all season, though not always directly. Its been a long autumn of can-you-top-this, and rarely has it been played any better.
When Rohrer set a course record of 17:38 in the Northern Indiana Conference meet, 30 minutes later in the Northern Lakes Conference meet, Erba trimmed 21 seconds off that, breezing to victory in 17:17.
And when Erba, who recently committed to Providence, won the New Prairie semistate in 17:06.9 – the fastest 5,000-meter cross county run ever by a girl in the state – Rohrer answered with 17:03.96 at the New Haven semistate.
Both, as is their custom, won easily, Erba by 31 seconds and Rohrer by a whopping 1 minute, 16 seconds. That most assuredly is not likely to be the case in Terre Haute this weekend.
Which is fine with Erba, whos also the defending state champion in the 3,200 meters in track and field.
Obviously its harder to push yourself to get a great time, so you like to have other people around you, says Erba, who beat Sarah Bennett of Carmel by 14 seconds in Terre Haute last year. For me, thats always something that I look for. Because I know you cant become your best unless youre being pushed and challenged running with other competitive athletes.
Its very helpful, because if I run in some national races, obviously theres going to be some other girls at the national level who are great runners and will be right there.
Erba and Rohrer have attended running camps together. And theyve run together quite a few times this year, Erba says.
I love her, shes really a great, great girl, says Erba, who ran in her first national race last summer, the 5,000-meter track event at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
Saturday figures to be another new experience with Rohrer around.
The weekend (of the NIC and NLC meets) we were both running but not against each other, Erba says. I wish we could have been running in the same race. I think having other people around, other great runners like Anna, is very helpful.