How the legendary Michelle Rowen set a N.J. indoor mile record that nobody has approached in 37 years!!!!! And the all-time S.J. top-50!!!

It was March 6, 1983, and I was working the evening shift at the Gloucester County Times sports department in Woodbury.

I was an avid runner and starting to learn about South Jersey high school track and field, but I wasn’t obsessed quite yet, and I didn’t even realize there was a meet called Easterns taking place that evening in Massachusetts.

The phone rang.

ROOB: “Hey, sports department, can I help you?”
PERSON ON PHONE: “Hi, I’ve got results for Michelle Rowen in the mile at Easterns.”
ROOB: “OK, cool, how did she do?”
PERSON ON PHONE: “She ran 4:43.16.”
ROOB: “OK, 4:43.16, got it.”
PERSON ON PHONE: “DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS?????”

I said I did, and I talked to Michelle for a minute about her race and wrote a story for the next day’s paper. But the truth is I didn’t realize at that moment just exactly how monumental her performance was.

Competing at the 4th annual girls Easterns at Harvard’s Gordon Indoor Track in Cambridge, Mass., Rowen had just run the 5th-fastest indoor mile in U.S. scholastic track history. She had broken the state record. She had run 35 seconds than any other South Jersey girl ever had. She had also set a state 1,500 record of 4:24.0.

Here we are 37 years later and Rowen still holds the state record and despite super-charged tracks, state-of-the-art shoe design and more high-powered indoor meets for high school girls, Rowen’s time is still No. 19 in U.S. scholastic history, and her 1,500 time is No. 11 and also a state record.

Let’s take a look at Rowen’s remarkable 1983 indoor season.

She actually broke the South Jersey indoor mile record six times.

In 1982, she ran 5:06.1 at the South Jersey Championships at Widener, breaking the mark of 5:16.0, set by Williamstown junior Eva Marie Berardi on Jan. 14, 1979, at the East Coast Invitational in Richmond, Va. [Three days earlier, Berardi ran 5:17.9 at a meet at the Philadelphia Civic Center, breaking the S.J. mark of 5:23.6 set by Gateway’s Pam Adams at Widener in 1976].

Rowen then  ran 4:58.9 to win the state Group 4 title at Jadwin Gym and 4:55.7 to win the Meet of Champions and 4:50.09 for second at Easterns.

Meg Waldron of Bernards temporarily snatched the state record from Rowen with a 4:47.2 at a meet at Harvard on Feb. 7, 1983, but Rowen reclaimed it three weeks later when she ran her 4:43.16 full mile at Easterns on that same track at Harvard.

Rowen went out in 68.8 and 2:20.1 before coming back in 2:23.0.

Rowan’s 4:43.16 converts to 4:41.52 for 1,600 meters. The closest any New Jersey runner has gotten to Rowan is Danielle Tauro’s 4:46.13 full mile for Southern Regional at the New Balance Games at the Armory in 2007.

The closest any South Jersey runner has gotten is Olympian Erin Donohue’s 4:51.15 full mile (or 4:49.46 for 1,600) at the 2001 Nike Indoor Championships at the Prince Georges County Sportsplex in Landover, Md.

Imagine how Lindsey Kane felt in 2014 when she ran 4:53 and took second in the Meet of Champions and had a No. 9 U.S. ranking and still fell 12 seconds short of her own school record?

Rowen’s 4:43.16 broke the Easterns record of 4:45.09 set by Ceci Hopp of Greenwich, Conn., in 1981. Even though the meet moved briefly to Jadwin and then the Armory speedway, Rowen still holds the Easterns record. The closest anybody has gotten is Maddy Berkson of Classical High School in Providence, R.I., who ran 4:50.11 in 2014.

So hats off to Michelle Rowen for one of the greatest performances in U.S. track history, a performance that nearly four decades later remains untouched by the greatest runners New Jersey has produced.

Even though I didn’t quite realize it at the time!

All-Time S.J. Girls Indoor 1,600-Meter Run Top-50

4:41.52y … Michelle Rowen [Wash. Twp.], 1983
4:49.46y … Erin Donohue [Haddonfield], 2001
4:51.60 … Briana Gess [Haddonfield], 2016
4:53.36 … Lindsey Kane [Washington Twp.], 2014
4:54.58 … Celine Mazzi [Delsea], 2014
4:55.04y … Marielle Hall [Haddonfield], 2010
4:56.1h,y … Ruth Lockbaum [Glassboro], 1985
4:57.12 … Megan Quimby [Lenape], 2015
4:57.72 … Caitlin Orr [Lenape], 2010
4:58.48 … Natalia Ocasio [Lenape], 2010
4:59.29 … Julia Despirito [Shawnee], 2014
4:59.39 … Megan Lacy [Cherokee], 2012
5:00.39 … Lisa Burkholder, 2004
5:00.78y … Monica Olkowski [Cherokee], 1990
5:00.81 … Vickie Ajimoko [Williamstown], 2014
5:01.96 … Rachel Vick [Kingsway], 2017
5:01.21 … Julianna Catania [Egg Harbor], 2016
5:01.86 … Kristen Niedrach [Shawnee], 2012
5:02.21 … Shelby Cain [Haddonfield], 2014
5:02.83 … Felicia O’Donnell [Delsea], 2011
5:02.92 … Allie Pierontoni [Kingsway], 2020
5:03.50 … Bridget Flynn [Ocean City], 2014
5:03.81 … Maria Ruiz [Williamstown], 2009
5:03.82 … Allison Colflesh [Haddonfield], 2020
5:03.97 … Camille Franklin [Lenape], 2014
5:04.13 … Alyssa Aldridge [Mainland Reg.], 2017
5:04.24 … Sarah Naticchia [Haddonfield], 2020
5:04.48 … Kara Bonner [Shawnee], 2016
5:04.54 … Mia Spinella [Haddonfield], 2010
5:04.69 … Alyssa Condell [Timber Creek], 2017
5:05.27 … Megan Venables [Highland], 2011
5:05.36 … Dina Iacone [Washington Twp.], 2012
5:05.90 … Holly Bischof [Bishop Eustace], 2011
5:05.90 … Madison Coppolino [Sterling], 2017
5:06.12 … Payton Wiener [Haddonfield], 2020
5:06.26 … Devon Grisbaum [Ocean City], 2015
5:06.38 … Lindsay Thomas [Overbrook], 2001
5:06.43 … Andrea Shute [Clearview], 2005
5:06.53 … Brittnee Bynoe [Willingboro], 2003
5:06.85 … Kesley Cummings [Triton], 2016
5:06.90 … Olivia Shafer [Egg Harbor Twp.], 2020
5:06.91 … Gabby Kirsch [Williamstown], 2017
5:07.27 … Chelsea Ley [Kingsway], 2008
5:07:47 … Theresa Cattuna [Cherry Hill East], 2006
5:07.60 … Miya Johnson [Lenape], 2008
5:08.12 … Shelby Bobbie [Rancocas Valley], 2014
5:08.46 … Casey Doyle [Shawnee], 2008
5:08.52 … Elizabeth Locke [Kingsway], 2010
5:08.65y … Kathy Linck, Eustace, 1995
5:08.7y … Deanna Germano, Shawnee, 1986
5:08.90 … Meghan McGlinchey [West Deptford], 2008

3 thoughts on “How the legendary Michelle Rowen set a N.J. indoor mile record that nobody has approached in 37 years!!!!! And the all-time S.J. top-50!!!

  1. Nick Baker July 28, 2020 / 12:35 pm

    Hi Roob, These lists are awesome and bring back so many great memories. Your contribution to the SJ Track and Field world is immeasurable!
    Thank you!
    Nick

    I would add Marielle Hall 4:56.29 full mile run Jan 15, 2010 at NYC Gotham Cup. To the indoor list

    Like

    • sjtcaweb July 29, 2020 / 6:51 pm

      dang, i hate when I miss really fast people! thanks for the heads up … not sure how I left her out!

      thanks for the kind words. It’s therapeutic for me doing this … helps me pass the time until the next XC or track meet!

      hope you’re well!

      Like

  2. Nick Baker July 28, 2020 / 12:42 pm

    Sorry 4:56:76

    Like

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