No. 3 - Benjamin vs. The World
years ago, as MileSplit NY sat in the lobby of the Section 1 hotel on
the eve of the Indoor State Meet, a young sprinter came up and asked,
"Are you MileSplit?" With an affirmative response, his next question
was, "Why aren't you ever talking about
Little did we know, that two years later, the slender, 6' 5" sprinter,
who had recently given up his football aspirations, would demand the
coverage by his performances alone.
There were inklings of greatness his junior year. He had been a top sprinter for Section 1 Indoors, but merely shared the spotlight with Arlington's Trentan Beram. He would challenge for the lead in the bigger invitationals, but Richard Rose would dominate the conversation. Outdoors, with the 400m Hurdles his specialty event, heads began to turn as he dropped his times more and more significantly. But the season was far from perfect. He had been beaten at the Loucks Games. Rose had taken the Indoor National Title as well. At Outdoor Nationals, Benjamin would anchor the winning SMR, but would later be disqualified over his individual event, for "hooking hurdles." But yet, he was only a junior, and had another year to perfect his craft.
When Benjamin returned that next winter, he was an entirely different caliber of athlete. He was blasting times unheard of in the early season. The first weekend of competition in December, and he had already broken under the 34second barrier. Week after week, he would dominate the conversation in the 300m, undefeated his entire senior season in the event, highlighted by his US #2 All-Time of 33.17. Benjamin would try his luck in both the 55m and the 4x400m as well, dominating the competition here as well. At Indoor Nationals, the titles and times kept coming. He would win the 400m National Title. He would take third in a historically significant 200m final at 21.09.
Outdoors, the times kept on rolling. Benjamin would set the venue record at Icahn Stadium in the 200m, in the opening weekends of Outdoor Track, with a 21.05. And then, he would refocus to his first love, if you could call the race that, the 400m Hurdles. Penn Relays saw a huge personal best in the event, only an inkling of what was to come. The times continued to drop, with a State Record at the Westchester County Champs. He would eventually break the magic 50sec barrier at Outdoor Nationals, where he would win Male Performer of the Meet.
Moment No 3 came in between those impressive marks. In early April, just before Penn Relays, Benjamin received the call. His home country, Antigua and Barbuda, were looking for a relay leg. This wasn't some class competition, such as World Youth or World Juniors. This was a call to represent his country at the World Relays. He would be lining up against the best of the best, like he never had before. Benjamin was quick to accept the call. Upon his arrival, it sunk in for Benjamin that this was no high school meet. At the athlete hotel, he was rubbing elbows with the likes of Tyson Gay and Justin Gaitlin. He found himself some of the fastest athletes in the world, including the World Record holder over 100m and 200m. This race was for real. And if that wasn't good enough, then the heat sheets came out. Benjamin would be in the same heat as top seed Jamaica, who would be anchored by Usain Bolt himself. That moment alone, is good enough for No 3 on our list. No other athlete ran at a higher level of competition than Benjamin in that moment. A favorite to make the finals, Benjamin led off the relay, but was handed a DNF stemming from other legs of his relay. In the end, Bolt would be saved for the final, a race in which Team Jamaica would eventually win. Talk about an experience, that's hopefully not just once in a lifetime.