For the first time in nearly a year, Rachel Schneider tested her racing legs in a competitive environment and is excited how it felt.

Coming back from a significant foot injury that robbed her of last summer’s racing schedule, the 26-year-old Sanford native and professional middle distance runner finished second in the women’s indoor mile at The Dr. Sander Invitational Armory Challenge on Saturday in New York City.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and it was great to get the rust off,” Schneider said Monday.

Schneider, who runs for Under Armour, finished second with a time of 4 minutes, 27.30 seconds. It was off the personal-best of 4:25.6 she set last February but quick enough to secure the qualifying standards for both the U.S. and World indoor championships.

In a field of over 30 runners, including other professionals and collegians, Schneider had the lead with two laps (400 meters) remaining. That’s when she was surprised by Kate Van Buskirk of Canada and Nike runner Shannon Osika. “They passed me super quickly. I wished I had held my position better,” Schneider said. “On the last lap I was able to get past Shannon and felt strong coming in. It was a good rust buster.”

Van Buskirk set the Canadian national indoor record with her winning time of 4:26.92. Osika finished fourth behind Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer.

Schneider competed in high school for St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, New Hampshire, before becoming an eight-time NCAA All-American at Georgetown University.

She turned pro shortly after graduating college in 2014, got her contract with Under Armour within a year, and was one-hundredth of a second out of a outdoor world championship qualifying spot in the 1,500 in 2015.

The next summer, Schneider reached the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic trials.

The 2017 season started with great promise. Schneider set her indoor mile PR and won the Camel City Mile in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Then came a rolled ankle while on a training run.

“I totally tweaked it. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but what you don’t realize is that the change of mobility affects,” the stress puts on a runner’s foot. Before long the twisted ankle turned into metatarsal stress fractures in her foot.

That wiped out the summer racing schedule but Schneider, who now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, was able to get in a full workout schedule through the fall months.

“I think after this past fall I’m probably in even a better spot,” than before the injury, Schneider said. “I’m excited to be healthy.”

Schneider has her eyes on finishing in the top two in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Track and Field indoor championships, Sunday, Feb. 18, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That would qualify for the world indoor championships, to be held in Birmingham, United Kingdom, March 1-4.

First up for Schneider is defending her title this Saturday at the Camel City Mile, while in New York City, another field of strong Americans will be at the Millrose Games. Those two races should give Schneider a good idea who will be in contention at the U.S. indoor championships.

“I’m not fully sure who is out there ready to compete and run fast,” Schneider said. “A lot will unfold this week and next week. I’m excited to see that.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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