Well folks, that's it for the 2013-2014 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships next week, the majority of our athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our second year under new management, and have made strides in bringing you the best coverage around. We've had new innovations such as Live Streaming and the incorporation of the NYS Archives, as well as nearly 14 million page views since September. In terms of athletes, we've had unparalleled performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To keep it succinct, it has been another great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2015. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
No. 8 - The Struggle For Sprint Supremacy
Two sprinters, from two different backgrounds, finding themselves in the same Section. One, who participates with the Gotham Sparks club as well, was the relative newcomer to the scene, despite already being a junior. Hailing from Arlington, Zola Golden had a breakout year, taking down some of the very best sprinters indoors. On the other end of the spectrum, there was the super sophomore, who was already on everyone's radar after she made her mark during her freshman campaign. Symone Darius was also part of the New Rochelle 4x200m, who made waves the year prior. The state got a taste of the talent on opening weekend indoors, where Golden edged out Darius over 300m, winning in 40.14.
In Section 1 Indoors, it is hard to hide from the competition. With a limited selection of meets and venues, there was destined to be a matchup every weekend. And the pair of athletes would battle it out, exchanging wins on alternating weekends. Golden would sweep the Millrose Trials, while Darius would pick up wins at the Section 1 Class Champs. Even more impressively, the pair would alternate the national leader in the sprinting events, lowering eachothers marks in a race to a record. The pressure built between them, destined to play out at Cornell.
But it wasn't to be. Due to a packed indoor schedule, and despite having the fastest time in the state by a hefty margin, Golden could not recover from the 55m to qualify for the 300m. The incident fueled the matchup set for New Balance Nationals Indoors once again. The pair would meet up over 200m. Our moment came from that final, with Darius already breaking the 24sec barrier in the trials. As the gun went off, Darius shot off from the gun, and chased down the field. She would eventually cross the line in third, taking the top New York spot. Both athletes continued well Outdoors. Zola made national headlines with a more than impressive 400m mark at the Loucks Games, while Darius took down her teammates sophomore state record. After meeting eleven times indoors, the pair would only meet once outdoors, over 400m. Lucky for the fans, both athletes will return again next year.
**Note: There was another athlete who was competing for sprint supremacy in NYS, albeit at a shorter distance. She was removed from the Section 1 matchup, but arguably was the states top sprinter. Brenessa Thompson of Medgar Evers won the 55m indoors, and went on to run an unthinkable, yet wind-aided 11.35 over 100m at the outdoor nationals. Her story is not over either, as she will have another shot during World Juniors.
No.7 - Quarter Mile Clash
If there was one story that caught the attention of the country, it was the unusual occurrence of nationally-ranked sprinters coming from a cold-weather state. It is something unusual, made more so by the rough winter in 2014, compared to when it was 65 in the January of 2013. But more than anything else, the competition over 400m saw more depth than in any year prior for the Empire State. For reference, there were 5 athletes who had already run into the Top 50 All-Time for the event, with even more on the cusp. For another look, there were 23 teams under 3:23 for the 4x800m, with 8 under 3:20.
As the competition started to hear up outdoors, four names came to the forefront. Trenten Beram, who reigned the short sprints indoors, started the season out right, splitting 46.2 on an anchor leg. He was running against Rai Benjamin, who split his time over the hurdles, of which he had talents as well. Much like the girls side of the sprints, there was a PSAL athlete pushing the pace; Richard Rose. And finally, the wild card, freshman state record holder Izaiah Brown. By mid-may, each had already broken 47 seconds over the single lap sprint. It all led to Loucks, where three of the four were set to face off. Beram, Benjamin and Rose were all on the Start Lists at the Loucks Games, a tipping point for those with post-season aspirations. Heading into the weekend, Beram split another 47.2 in the DMR, aiding his team to a win. However, come Saturday, reports of car troubles would eliminate Beram from the event. And then there were two. Both came to the line, Benjamin at well over 6-feet tall, with Rose around 5'8". The two had completely different running styles and strategies, but shared a knack for speed. The gun went off, and as usual, Benjamin pulled up on the stagger. However, it was Rose's last 100m which pushed him to the line, putting him at US #1 for the event, and only milliseconds off the venerable state record held by Elzie Coleman. Rose's 46.38 put the rest of the state on watch.
The season rarely saw as big a matchup as Loucks. SAT's removed Rose from States Competition, while a nagging injury did the same for Beram. Benjamin began to concentrate more on the hurdles, and took home the State Meet Record in the process. However, it was the athlete without the competition that went on to become the star. Plagued by the same fate as Canton, Izaiah Brown never had anyone to run against. Nobody in his section was within 2 seconds of him. Even at the State Meet, he had a healthy lead on the field. Where he did have that extra push he needed, was on the anchor leg of his relay. Chasing down athletes was handled by no one better. Even without the race sharpness of those athletes from the lower half of the state, who need perfect execution to stay relevant, the rumors from Amsterdam began to trickle around the state. First, it was a 45.9 relay split at their League Meet. Next, it was a 3:19 relay time without their full lineup. At States, it was Brown's anchor leg that aided for the win. And then a New Balance Nationals, Brown blew the fields mind, running a 45.16 FAT anchor leg, in which he had to cut in from lane 6. He proved that 44 seconds was not unthinkable, given the right race. If only he was at Loucks.
**Note: Much like the girls, three of four athletes return next year. Brown, Benjamin and Rose were all Juniors.