No. 1 - Sammy Watson Didn't Even Know She Got The Record
It was no secret that Sammy Watson (Rush-Henrietta) was ready to have a senior season unlike any New Yorker had before her. By the end of her Junior Year, she had accomplished almost everything there was to do. She had swept the State Meet. She had won National Titles, and set National Records in the relay for both seasons. She had captured International Gold at the premiere U-20 Championships in the World. And finally, she competed at the Olympic Trials, one of the few HS'ers to ever do so.
All that was left for senior year was one thing: to run fast. Faster than anyone ever had before. It was time to break some Individual National Records, and not simply the class ones.
As usual, Watson took little time off between her Summer Track meets, and the start of XC. Her senior Cross season was her best ever. She took 7th at McQuaid. Moved up to 6th at States in Class A, then took 3rd overall at Feds. Not bad for the 7th fastest 400m NY has ever seen. After a rough race at regionals, Watson was on to Indoors.
The times came quick and powerful. She opened up with a 2:49 in the 1000m, then came back with a 2:06.92 in the 800m. It was clear Watson would need non-scholastic competition to push her. After heading to VA to set the 500m State Record with ease, Watson headed back home to Rochester. At a local Invitational, she threw on the jets, and broke the National Record for 600m in a solo effort. It was clear the local HS ranks would no longer provide the competition Watson was seeking. She had to set her sights higher. Her debut against a Pro field came from the Boston New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. After a tactical affair, Watson would set a new Indoor best, placing fourth amongst the Pro's in 2:03.92. She knew she had more. Why not drop down the distance, and get in some speed work. She entered the 600m at the Armory Track Invite, once again racing the Pro's. The race went out hard, as did Watson. She would kick past the field, and come across in third, shattering her own 600m National Record. While the race was exciting, it was only the prelude to the Top Moment of 2017.
The stage was set. It was the Millrose Games, and Watson was entered in the 800m. The only goal coming in was simple: to run fast. And she got that. In the opening lap, Ajee Wilson pulled the field out strong, in 28.45. Watson went with the pack, sitting in 5th. It would continue through 400m, where Watson would split 58.19, her fastest split ever. The third lap would dawdle, as the field anticipated the kick coming, and Watson again crossed in 5th, now at 1:29.25 (which is one of the fastest 600m's ever run in the open).
The race was on. Ajee Wilson was out front, pulling training partner Charlene Lipsey. Watson was sitting on the heels of Lynsey Sharp down the backstretch, her turnover fatigued but effective. She came around to final stretch, and the field spread wide. Watson felt two runners go by, but she hung on. They came across in a near blanket finish, but Watson was right there. Now finishing in 6th place, her eyes glanced up at the results screen: it read 2:01.78.
For Watson, it simply meant a PR. She didn't know the historical value of what just happened. She left the track elated, and headed to the press room. That's when the top moment of the year hit. Mid-interview, she was informed that the Indoor National Record was gone. By only 2 thousandths of a second, Sammy Watson surpassed the great Mary Decker as the fastest over 800m ever, Indoors. Her face lit up when she learned the mark, and showed much about her character. The race wasn't about the record. She didn't have it memorized in her head the whole race. She was just about running fast and getting better. The thing is, she wasn't the only one that evening.
Just hours before, Jazmine Fray (Kellenberg '14) shattered the Collegiate Indoor National Record. And in Sammy's race? Charlene Lipsey (Hempstead 09') broke the American Indoor Record. (Ajee Wilson originally won the race, but her record was revoked due to tainted beef). Not only that, Niskayuna ran the nation's leading HS 4x800m race later that night. Collectively, New York had the most dominating hour of the sport in a single event (the girls Indoor 800m) that the country has ever seen. And Sammy Watson, the humble High Schooler, was a major part of that.
Watson would go on to set another National Record, breaking the 1000m HS record twice during the USATF Indoor National Championships. Outdoors, the chase was on for the elusive sub-2. She got all the way down to 2:00,78, as well as placing 6th at the USA Championships, a qualifier for Worlds. But no moment better personified the way Sammy Watson competed in High School. Quiet, humble, and a singular desire to simply get faster. In a sport that is all about the time, no athlete's journey to improve hers was quite like Sammy Watson's senior year.
Fast Stats - Sammy Watson - All-Time Marks
US #3 - 800m Outdoor
US #3 - 500m Indoor
US #1 - 600m Indoor
US #1 - 800m Indoor
US #2 - 1000m Indoor
US #1 - SMR Indoor
US #1 - SMR Outdoor
NY #13 - 400m Indoor
NY #10 - 1500m Indoor
NY #7 - Mile Indoor
NY #7 - 400m Outdoor
NY #4 - 1500m Outdoor
NY #11 - Mile Outdoor