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. 4 - Down With The System
Much has been said about the New York State Qualifying System for the State Championships. Many think it is a flawed system, detrimental to those sections with a greater depth of talent. Others can appreciate the way it makes athletes earn their spots at the State Championships, eliminating any teams from gaming the system as seen in other states. However, sometimes there are casualties. Moment number 4 has two parts, starting in Cross Country, and replicating again Outdoors. For Cross Country, only the top team in the Section per class is able to compete for the State Title. You need to make it to the state meet before you can worry about winning.
This year, two teams were feeling the pressure. Liverpool, a school more recently known for the exploits of Zavon Watkins, suddenly had a cross country team that could challenge any in the state. However, as previously mentioned, they lived about 20 minutes west of perennial powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius. The state rankings typically listed the pair 1-2 throughout the Invitational season, demonstrating that the Class 3 Sectional meet may very well determine the later State Champs. Despite being unable to dethrone the top ranked FM squad, Liverpool competed well, managing to qualify four of the top five as individuals. Downstate, a similar story was playing out on the girls side of the action. John Jay-Cross River, coached by Steeple Chase Legend Tommy Nohilly, had been on the rise all season. Many people ranked them top 5 in the state at various times throughout the season. However, they were racing against another perennial Class B favorite, Pearl River. After the race was run at the State Qualifiers, it came down to the rare, 6th-man tie-breaker to decide who headed to Queensbury. Always a heartbreaker.
However, there was a silver-lining, which begat our moment number 3. The New York State Federation Meet, a collective of all four Federations within NYS, is based around an Invite Only system. Obviously, both teams were the best choices amongst those not able to compete at Queensbury. With their invites in hand, they began to prepare to face many of the teams that they missed out on at the State Championships. While some of the top teams take the weekend off, an extra, buffer week in-between NXN-Regionals created stellar fields. Both teams took to the line with something to prove, and prove they did. Liverpool dominated the competition, winning by almost over 100-points against the top talent from around the state. On the girls side, John Jay again made it close, winning only by a single point over Saratoga Springs, who took a definitive second at those same State Champs. Just a reminder that anything can happen on race day.
At Outdoor States, the qualifying system is similarly restrictive. At the Section 1 State Qualifier, three of the states best were entered in the same event: the girls 3000m. Pearl River's Kelly Hayes would take the race, with Ursuline's Anna Flynn edging out Arlington's Bella Burda by .27 of a second. The fastest girl over 3000m in the past five years did not make the state meet. Luckily for Burda, as well as good karma for Hayes that would pay off in a state title, Kelly Hayes decided to focus on only the Steeple Chase at the State Meet. By chance, Burda was back in. Not one to pass up an opportunity, as well as an addition to our moment, Burda would go on to challenge for the lead at the state, taking second overall in a seasons best. Again, not bad for someone who was not originally invited to compete.
No. 3 - Chasing A Long Island Legend
For the casual observer, one would think that the 400m, on both the girls and boys side, was the deepest and toughest event to compete in in 2014. Those people never bothered to leave the track. Like never before, both indoors and outdoors, for both girls and boys competition, the Shot Put was the historically toughest event to compete in over the past year. Why? Seven of the top 20 throws in the past 10 years were hit for the girls competition indoors. For the boys? Since 2007, no boy had broken 62 feet Outdoors. This season, there were four athletes more than a foot further than that mark, with two more over 60-feet. In Section 6, the girls competition lived and died. Melissa Kuehlwind and Jesse Dhaliwall would battle it out, week in and week out. It prompted a 47-7 from Dhaliwall, as a NY #4 All-Time Discus throw outdoors.
And then there was Big Ben Bonhurst. Standing well over 6-feet tall, Bonhurst burst onto the national scene on the opening weekend with more than a two foot PR, hitting 62-0.5. The momentum would never stop, as he gradually improved that mark throughout the season, winning meet after meet, forcing the competition to catch up or bow out. Not only that, he was very clear about his intentions. State Title, National Title, State Record or bust. Those were the goals on the checklist. His season continued undefeated, gradually pushing even further to Long Island Legend Walt Henning's outdoor state mark. He was a local who Bonhurst looked up to. Even with his talent, the competition was never a given-win. He took second at the State Qualifier, a wake up call at the time. At the State Championships Indoors, it was only the final throw that scraped out the win. But Bonhurst would go on almost undefeated both Indoors and Outdoors, from State to National competition.
The moment that defined Bonhurst's career was not the State Record he would throw at the Long Island Elite Meet indoors. It would come at Cicero, where he better emulated Walt Henning more than anyone else. It was only ten years prior that Henning was throwing at the newly renovated Armory. For those who didn't know, the shot area in the Armory was once significantly shorter. Its' expansion came about from Henning's repeated improvement in which he was gradually approaching the back wall of the pit, then around 65'. Flash forward to 2014, where many people began to return to the question, "Is this kid going to throw clear of the sector?" At Cicero-North Syracuse, home of the Outdoor State Meet, the sector resides at 70'. On his second throw, Bonhurst would launch the shot 67-3, his final HS PR. It bounced once, headed out the back of the sector, and onto the track of the 100m semi's. That got everyone's attention. He would have another throw over 67, and would wrap up the competition with a win.