Junior sprinter Anna Connors has been a key piece of Bangor High School’s last three state championship girls’ track and field teams.
She’s also an All-American in waiting, at least according to her efforts in the 400-meter run last Saturday at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at The Armory in New York City.
Connors did not qualify for the top division of that event, as her best time for the distance leading up to the national meet was 57.87 seconds at the Penobscot Valley Conference/Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meet in February in Orono, just off the 57.37 qualifying standard.
So she entered the Rising Stars division of the event, lowered her personal best for 400 meters by 1.41 seconds to 56.46 during Friday’s preliminary round, then lopped another 0.84 seconds off that time by winning the Rising Stars final in 55.62 seconds.
Not only did she leave her nearest competitor nearly a full second behind, Connors’ time would have been fifth-best in the higher division. The top six finishers in that race were given All-America status, so Connors clearly is trending in that direction.
“Once I reached the PVCs and states there was a lot more competition that pushed me,” said Connors of her recent stretch. “The adrenaline I got from that and the practices throughout the season really helped me improve my times.”
Connors has been a constant for the Rams in three events since her arrival on the Bangor campus, the 55-, 200- and 400-meter runs.
As a freshman she finished third in both the 200 and 400 and sixth in the 55 to help the Rams edge Gorham by a single point, 65-64, to win the Class A indoor state championship just weeks before COVID-19 shut down high school track in Maine for the next year.
The sport finally returned for the 2021 outdoor season and Connors picked up where she left off, winning the 200 at the Class A state meet and placing in both the 55 and 400 to former Cheverus of Portland star Victoria Bossong, now running at Harvard.
Connors’ 26 points helped the Rams secure another championship, this time besting Gorham by a much wider 115-72.
This winter Conners gained a measure of revenge over Bossong, breaking her records in the 55 and 200 with times of 7.16 seconds and 25.20 seconds, respectively. She also scored a third individual state title in the 400 in 58.20 to lead Bangor to its second straight indoor state title.
Connors’ 30-point day served to help build her momentum heading into the New England championships, where no 400 was contested but she finished third at 300 meters in 39.16 seconds to go with a fifth-place effort in the 55.
“Her time in the 300 would have equated to 55 or 56 [seconds] in the 400, so she had been there for the last couple of weeks,” Bangor head track coach Alan Mosca said. “Then to get down there and run like she did and excel on the big stage was just a great story.”
The New Balance Indoor Nationals marked the first meet Connors ran this winter without being required to wear a mask.
“I think that definitely helped, and the track was also a big factor,” she said. “They had big banks at The Armory, and I’d also say the competition really helped.”
Connors led from start to finish in the Rising Stars 400 final, with her 200-meter split of 25.5 seconds giving her a 2.141-second cushion that allowed her to cruise to victory.
“I’m just incredibly proud of her and everything she’s done, not just this weekend but all year,” Mosca said. “She’s been such a strong competitor and has such tremendous drive. She does an unbelievable job in all of the sprints, but the 400 is right in her wheelhouse.”
Connors already is looking forward to the spring outdoor season, where she and Michigan State-bound senior distance runner Megan Randall hope to lead Bangor to another state crown.
Randall joined Connors in New York last weekend, recording an 11:09.97 2-mile finish at the New Balance Indoor Nationals on Friday and finishing 14th in the Emerging Elite mile on Sunday at the Nike Indoor Nationals on Staten Island in 5:12.84.
“Megan’s been used to running by herself, but there she was running in a pack so it was a different environment and to run two solid, physically demanding races at a high level just speaks to the competitor she is,” Mosca said.
“Those two are like the ‘61 Yankees with [Roger] Maris and [Mickey] Mantle for us; we’re just lucky to have them both.”