Redemption was in the air, as a cool breeze blew into the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field on Friday evening. Dustin Wilson walked into the paddock area barefoot, while Penn Relays officials organized the athletes competing in the High School boys 3000m Championship of America at the 2012 Penn Relays.
The Chestnut Hill Academy senior kept limber, jogging in place, as the south stand cast a large shadow over the starting line. Wilson knew the drill: he had qualified for and run the same race his sophomore and junior year. But this year would be different. Wilson went on to take second place in an extremely competitive field that included athletes from up and down the east coast — and even one from Jamaica.
“It’s the Penn Relays,” Wilson said. “It’s a special place with a great field. And to know that I got the best of the field today, with the exception of Tom Madden — congrats to him. He was back in the trenches with me last year. So, like it’s good to see that almost a full reversal this year for the two of us.”
His sophomore year at the Penn Relays, Wilson ran what he calls “the race of my life,” finishing 11th in a time of 8:30.90. Anticipating an improvement for his junior year, Wilson said, “I just flopped. I had the lead and just fell back to second and third and fourth and then I got swallowed by the pack.”
Coming off that tough race, in which he finished 16th, Wilson decided to adopt a new racing strategy. He planned to stay to the outside and hang back, letting his competitors lead the race. He did just that, spending most of the race toward the middle of the pack, but on the outside — giving himself the flexibility to make a move.
That move came in the bell lap, as Wilson pulled into third place just behind Thomas Madden of Skyline High School in Virginia and Sam Parsons of Tatnall in Wilmington, Delaware. On the back stretch, Madden opened up a good lead, as the three pulled away from the pack. Wilson followed, passing Parsons, and held on to take second place in a 8:30.18.
In the fall Wilson will attend Columbia University with a few of his competitors from Friday’s race. He described it as “a team on the rise,” and is looking forward to furthering his career in college.