ORR track star headed to nationals

Jan 19, 2022

He ran like the wind. 

Old Rochester’s Colby Gross qualified for nationals in the 400 meter at an indoor track event on Sunday, Jan. 16. 

Gross set the meet record for the race with a time of 49.83 seconds at the Northeast Invitationals at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, coming in first place on the day and qualifying for the National Championship meet in New York this March.

“It feels great,” said Gross about getting the chance to compete at nationals. “It was one of my big goals for my senior season.”

And Gross was able to set the time despite running on an indoor track.

“Even for outdoor it was a very fast time,” said ORR Athletic Director Bill Tilden, explaining that indoor meets — like the one Gross competed at — typically produce slower times because the corners are tighter and there is more “traffic” from other runners.

Gross said that on many indoor tracks, they don’t have the room to stagger all the runners through the corners, so there is a breakpoint at which everyone can move into the first lane through the turn, which changes the race strategy.

“I had to beat everyone to the break so I wouldn’t have to pass anyone through the turn,” he said. “So I had to have a quick start; It changed the whole way I ran my race.”

Tilden said that the 400m is not a distance that is usually run during the indoor season at high school meets in this region, and university meets — usually open to high schoolers looking to set times in specific events — were not allowing outside athletes because of covid concerns. So, the track team decided to attend the meet specifically to give Gross a chance in his preferred race. 

“So it was my only chance to run the 400,” said Gross, explaining that while his 300 meter and 600 meter times are competitive, the 400 meter was where he had the best chance to qualify. 

“I knew I had the time I needed [in the 400],” he said. “I just needed to find a meet to show it at.”

Even though Gross’ race was a big reason the team attended the meet — and so far, he is the only ORR track athlete to qualify for nationals — that didn’t stop other athletes from excelling as well. 

ORR’s Jen Williams also recorded a podium finish — coming third in the high jump with a height of 5 feet 4 inches — as well as a fourth-place finish in the 55 meter hurdles with a time of 8.77 seconds.