Former Olympian Joan Nesbit Mabe is taking the Chapel Hill High School’s female runners farther than they’ve ever been before.
Chapel Hill will send four members of a newly minted 4 x 1-Mile relay team – juniors Marija Crook and Anna Passannante, sophomore Clare McNamara and ninth-grader Katherine Dokholyan – to the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet March 13-15 in New York City.
Dokholyan, North Carolina’s No. 1-rated miler in the class of 2018, also has qualified to run in the NBN’s open mile event for freshmen.
While Chapel Hill has sent male runners to the outdoor and indoor nationals before, Dokhoylan and her teammates are the first females to qualify for what Nesbit Mabe has called “The Show” since she was coaching cross-country runners at the University of North Carolina.
For Chapel Hill coach Nesbit Mabe, who herself ran in more than two dozen NCAA and USA Track national meets, this month’s New Balance National is a major step in teaching her young runners that there is something more beyond competition in a conference, county or even a state meet.
“I am trying to get them to see that they are no longer just a big fish in a little pond,” said Nesbit Mabe. “Our mindset has always been to win states … but they need to see that they are part of a much bigger world. Running has a national scene.”
Crook should get credit for envisioning Chapel Hill on that national level, Nesbit Mabe said. Crook was the one who approached her coach with the idea of taking a relay to nationals.
“I looked at the qualifying times and said, ‘We can do that,’” Nesbit Mabe recalled.
Chapel Hill had no 4 x Mile relay team, but had plenty of distance runners. All they had to do was have recorded individual bests for a combined time of 21 minutes, 15 seconds. McNamara, Passannante, Dokholyan and Crook fit the requirement.
“All four of them are great runners. I feel like I’ve got Worthy, Perkins and Jordan on on my team at the same time,” Nesbit Mabe said invoking UNC’s 1982 NCAA basketball champions.
“They’re doing all the work. It’s my job to find them the right place to show off their talents.”
If there’s one thing Nesbit Mabe wants from next weekend’s meet, it’s for her runners to realize that they deserve to be there.
“We are on the verge of being a national caliber team,” she said. “We’re close, very close to being able to qualify for the Cross Country Nationals. This meet is a first step in seeing ourselves for what we can be, that we can make a name for ourselves as a national program.”