Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, April 12, 1999

H A W A I I _P R E P _ S P O R T S

Punahou’s Chang
Sets the Pace for
the Nation

The Punahou junior's 9:57.6
is the fastest 3,000-meter
time in the country

By Pat Bigold


DISTANCE running is one of the loneliest sports in the world.

Victory is a solitary pursuit, and the only thing a runner can latch onto is close competition.

The awareness that someone is just a stride ahead, or the feeling that someone is gaining, can motivate a runner to accelerate.

Records and personal bests usually are set by runners who find themselves in a tough race.

It doesn't usually happen the way Punahou junior Victoria Chang did it on April 3 in the Punahou Girls Invitational 3,000 meter race.

Chang broke away from the field, lapped it and went on to post the fastest outdoor girls' prep time in the nation this year: 9 minutes, 57.6 seconds.

"She did it in isolation and the conditions were not perfect," said Chang's distance coach, Duncan Macdonald. "It was windy."

Chang had just run a well-planned and executed 4:41.14 (also one of the faster times in the nation this year) in the 1,500 meters and entered the 3,000 in a more relaxed state of mind.

"I went into it without expectations," she said. "It's hard to explain, but my body just felt like it was running in practice."

Chang is used to breaking away from the field. She oftend did it in the old 1,600- and 3,200-meter events throughout her first two seasons at Punahou, also dominatingat the state meets.

So she had no way of knowing she was on an exceptional pace at the new distance.

"They kept calling out splits to me but since the times were different from the 3,200, I really didn't know what my splits should be," Chang said.

Macdonald said Chang took the first lap in a hyper 76 seconds but then settled down to do about 80 seconds per 400-meter lap for the rest of the first half of the race.

"She went through 1,600 meters in about 5:16 or 5:18," he said.

She slowed to about 82 seconds per lap for most of the second half, but turned it on to cover the last 200 meters in 37 seconds.

How did Chang register the country's best 3,000 while feeling like she was on a practice run? How did she do it without having anyone to push her?

The answer may come down to Chang's ability to focus when she is on her own.

All you have to do is look at her 3.99 grade point average and it's obvious she's pretty good at solitary pursuits.

Chang maintains that GPA by mastering advanced placement biology, Japanese language, U.S. history, orchestra, pre-calculus and speech.

And she is a bit old-fashioned in the sense that she professes to rely on books, not the Internet, for all of her research.

As if being one of the nation's best prep distance runners and a superb scholar were not enough, Chang also plays in the first violin section of Punahou's concert orchestra II.

Mike Kennedy, editor of girls' prep records for Track and Field News, said chances are Chang's 9:57.6 has stirred interest among Division I mainland coaches, who will want to see what she does next.

Chang has always paid attention to national standards and knows there's lots of room for improvement. The national girls' prep record for 3,000 is sobering enough. It was set in 1975 by Lynn Bjorklund of Los Alamos, N.M., who clocked 9:08.6.

But one of Chang's most obvious characteristics is humility. She plays down both her academic and athletic achievements. She is mature enough to know she's far from accomplishing her goals.

Next year, Chang should be Hawaii's most recruited track prospect. But she refuses to coast into that distinction.

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