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Norwalk Runner Eric Van der Els 2nd At Junior Olympic Nationals

Norwalk's Eric van der Els, a rising sophomore at Brien McMahon, finished second in the 3,000 meters in the Junior Olympic National Championships Friday in North Carolina.
Norwalk's Eric van der Els, a rising sophomore at Brien McMahon, finished second in the 3,000 meters in the Junior Olympic National Championships Friday in North Carolina. Photo Credit: Contributed

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk runner Eric van der Els finished second Friday in the 3,000 meters in his age group at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Van der Els ran a personal best 9:02.11 in the boys 15-16 age group. Thomas Pollard won the race in 8:47.42.

“I’m definitely proud,’’ Van der Els said. “I was going up against some really good competition, and my time was 13 seconds better than my last race.”

Van der Els, a rising sophomore at Brien McMahon High School, settled in with the pack behind Pollard, who set a swift early pace. He was in third place with 400 meters remaining before unleashing a closing 64-second split for the final 400. The last 400 was the second fastest final lap among the 46 runners in the field.

“Before the race coach (Jeff) Brentson was texting me what splits I should be aiming for,’’ van der Els said. “We were trying to hit around 72 seconds per lap, trying to run around 9:10. I think the great competition helped me run a little faster.”

Van der Els played baseball for Brien McMahon during the spring and had little knowledge of the Junior Olympics before he won the state championship in June. Earlier this month he won the Region 1 championship in New York.

“This has been a great experience,’’ said van der Els, who was one of only two runners born in 1998 to crack the top 10 on Friday. “Next time I’ll know more about the competition and who they are. This was unexpected, but I’m happy that I did it.”

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