MONTGOMERY: Athlete of the Week

Prentice runs away from pack

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Jillian Prentice’s race strategy is a little different this year.
   The Montgomery High School senior distance star has been getting out early in races and simply running away from the field.
   ”I feel like I’ve been racing that way for most of this season,” Prentice said. “In past seasons, I would see if someone else would take it out and try to make a move. Now I try to take it out and give it my all from the beginning.
   ”I think it’s a natural tendency that I’ve grown into. I get so pumped up for these races that I can’t hold back. My confidence has improved from last year being my first year of indoor.”
   Prentice continues to impress on the indoor track two years after she sacrificed her solid swimming potential for her running promise. She still swims in the summer, but she will continue her running career next year at the University of Richmond.
   Prentice added more accolades to her resume when she won the mile and two-mile at the Central Jersey Group IV meet last Friday. Prentice’s day began with a meet- and school-record 5:06.67 to win the mile. She followed it up with a win in the two-mile in 10:54.79 to help the Cougars finish second in the team standings for a second straight season.
   ”I’m extremely proud of what our team was able to accomplish,” Prentice said. “We have a small team, a lot smaller than last year. To be able to accomplish what we did last year, everyone stepped it and did to the best of their abilities.”
   Jillian Prentice is the Princeton Packet Athlete of the Week.
   ”Recently, she’s been doing that,” said MHS head coach Tim Bartholomew, explaining, “She’s been making her competitors run her race. It gives her a certain amount of control. She’s just going out there and running her races and what happens is what happens.
   ”She’s just impressive. I’m very, very sad that she’s a senior.”
   Prentice is making the most of her senior year. She was solid in cross country, but not as spectacular as she had hoped.
   ”I was definitely disappointed with my cross country season,” said Prentice, who fought through illness in mid-season to return to the Meet of Champions. “I don’t know if it’s cross country that’s paying off now or that I’m staying healthy. I feel like this season has been more successful.”
   Prentice has been tough to beat all season. She went into the sectionals confident that she could advance to Saturday’s Group IV state meet and hopeful that she could do it as a champion of both races.
   ”I’ve been feeling really good,” Prentice said. “I thought it was possible. I knew the competition would be hard so I knew I had my work cut out for me.”
   The mile record was a bonus, and it’s possible that she could have run faster but she had a big enough lead that she was able to maintain her pace instead of sprinting to the finish.
   ”I didn’t have any idea that I was even close or that it was even attainable,” Prentice said. “I had no idea that the record was even possible.
   ”It’s definitely a great accomplishment. We have some great runners in our section. To be able to break the record, I’m very proud of.”
   In the back of her mind, she also knew that she had the two-mile race ahead of her.
   ”It relieved some of the pressure of making it on to groups,” she said. “I made it in the mile. I was really pumped up for that. I was high on adrenaline. I couldn’t wait.”
   Again, Prentice took the lead early and ran away from the field.
   ”Usually I like to do the two-mile and then the mile,” Prentice said. “No matter what, you’re going to have lactic acid in your legs. I didn’t feel it affected me too much for sectionals because there was a long enough break in between events.
   ”I definitely took it out from the beginning. You’re never really sure how close the person is behind you. I kind of sensed that there was somebody right behind the whole time. I felt pushed.”
   Prentice is accustomed to pushing herself through the daily MHS practices, and it is paying off on the track.
   ”She’s a great athlete,” Bartholomew said. “In workouts, she hits every single split. That’s important. A lot of kids might come up short, but she works hard all the time and gets it. I’m sure cross country gave her a really solid base. She’s doing a lot of faster workouts and it’s helping now.”
   Prentice’s big decision this week will be which race to enter at the state group meet. She could advance to the Meet of Champions in either, but won’t enter both events at the Group IV meet.
   ”I’m not really sure which one I’m going to run yet,” Prentice said Monday. “I placed the same in both of them. That doesn’t help me out. I’m really excited for next week. I know the competition will be harder. I’m hoping for some fast times to come out of it.”
   Added Bartholomew: “Last year, she ran a second or two faster in the two-mile. She’s definitely capable of going faster in the two-mile. In the mile, I’d say she’s running at the top of her game so anything’s possible.”
   Whichever race she enters, Jillian Prentice thinks that she has found something in a new strategy for her. It’s one that helped her to a career day at the sectionals.
   Prentice said: “It was the same strategy — go out hard and see what happens.”