Jockeying for position in the front pack, Chris Hughes waited until the final two laps to make his move.
Pulling into the front and then holding on, Hughes captured the boys 2-mile run Saturday at the New Balance Games at the Armory in New York City.
The Glens Falls junior finished with a personal-best indoor time of 9 minutes, 34.83 seconds, winning by a quarter of a second over Avery Lederer of Penncrest (Pa.).
“It was actually very exciting,” said Hughes, who finished third in the state cross country championships in November. “I thought there would be a lot more guys 30-40 seconds faster than me. When I realized that we were all really close, it became a very intense race.”
Hughes was one of several Glens Falls teammates who joined a number of Hudson Falls athletes in competing at the New Balance Games, which attracted hundreds of athletes from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
It was Hughes’ first time running the 2 miles indoors — a different race than running the same distance outdoors. Indoor track is contested on a 200-meter track, which means tighter turns, although the Armory’s turns are banked, like an auto racing track.
The tight nature of the indoor track makes pack running an exercise in jostling and bumping for position. It was also an unfamiliar field, including runners from downstate, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
“There were three or four of us in the front pack, and we all knew we were in the running,” said Hughes, whose best outdoor 2-mile time is 9:16. “So if you see a small opening, you go for it, and sometimes you bump into each other.”
“It was a nice tactical race. He’s a gritty, tough kid,” Glens Falls coach Larry Woods said of Hughes. “He was battling the whole way. The pace was a little slow. He’s not used to the elbows — there was some pushing around early and in the middle.”
Hughes said he made his move with about 400 meters — two laps — to go.
“I thought going in that I might have a chance,” Hughes said. “With 400 meters left, I felt like I had something left. I can win this.”
He pulled into the front and held off his closest competitors to the finish line for the victory.
“I’m usually not much of a kicker — usually from a mile out I’ll go out front, but this was my first 2-mile indoors, so I kind of waited,” Hughes said. “It was (a) really close (finish). I could hear people yelling for the kid behind me, so I knew he was really close.”
Hughes said the race would help him going forward over the final month of indoor track season.
“It gives me a bigger picture of the competition, a good look at what I should run at the (indoor) state qualifier,” he said.