White Plains, NY - Three years ago when they weren't in their normal ornery mood, the track deities blessed the Loucks Game with wonderful conditions. With a powerful lineup of athletes in many events, everything was set for an explosion of records and memorable performances. But none of us setting up to record the action in 2015 could have imagined what would go down in a 3200 guys' race that would be followed by maybe one of the most uniquely joyful acts of celebration seen on a high school track.
Three years may seem like an eon ago, but a number of runners at this year's games were in action at Loucks 2015 on the girls side, and though most of the guys of that time have graduated long since, there are a few throwbacks like Poly Prep's Derrick Simmons returning to run in the 800 meter race that he finished a strong 17th in as a freshman that year. Highlighters for the girls include Katelyn Tuohy who finished 5th in the mile as a North Rockland 7th grader and Katherine Lee who finished 8th in the 3200 as a Shoreham-Wading River freshman. Rush-Henrietta's Lanae-Tava Thomas picked up a 3rd in the 100 and 5th in the 200 as a freshman back then but will not be at Loucks this year.
Before we get to that earth-shattering 3200 classic, we need to pay respects to some of the other big performances of Loucks 2015. On the field side of the boys' action, Beacon's Rayvon Grey may have been a year away from breaking Bob Beamon's 1966 state record in the long jump, but he still launched a 24-9.75 effort and placed 2nd in the triple jump. North Rockland's Eric Favors unleashed a 62-11.75 toss to win the shot put by almost 6 feet, and he also took the discus by more than 13 feet at 173-8.
Elsewhere for the guys, Mount St. Michael's Anton Porter took the 100-200 double after a photo-finish 10.69 same-time finish as Mt. Vernon's Rai Benjamin in the 100, but Benjamin swept up wins in the 400 meters and the 400 hurdles on his way to a state record in the hurdles a week later at Westchester County. Tappan Zee's Luke Gavigan captured the mile and also helped his team take the East Coast DMR, and the last we heard from him he was calling some Loucks 2018 races for MileSplit from the top of the press booth. The 3K steeplechase featured Monroe-Woodbury's English import Jack Jibb as the winner on his way to NY and national championships, and in 2nd was John Jay-Cross River's Eion Nohilly who finished 2nd at nationals in 2015 and then would repeat Jibb's state and national championships achievement in 2016. The 4x800 relay featured two Connecticut powerhouses battling to the wire with Danbury beating Ridgefield by 100th of a second at 7:51.10.
For the girls, in the field events Academy of Holy Names' Leah Moran sailed to a 19-11 mark in the long jump on the way to a repeat state championship, and then like Rayvon Grey finished 2nd in the triple jump. Holy Trinity's Kristina Insingo won the discus by more than 15 feet with a throw of 143-8.
Among the girls' runners, Rush-Henrietta sophomore Sammy Watson was well on her way to legendary status as she swept the 400 and 800 titles, and then with big sister Ceara Watson, Lanae-Tava Thomas, and Tori Thompson picked up another win in the 4x400 relay. Medgar Evers' Brenessa Thompson broke a 21-year-old record in the 100 with an 11.83 time. Annie Heffernan from St. Ursuline of Cincinnati flew in to fly off with the mile victory at 4:49.47, Arlington's Bella Burda again crushed in the 3200 on her way to a 3000 state championship, and North Rockland's Alex Harris won comfortably in the 2K steeplechase on her way to a national championship a month later.
But all of those great feats were circling around the cyclone of the boys' 3200 race for attention at the Loucks 2015 games. The 29-man lineup for the two sections of the event was bursting with talent from winner Mikey Brannigan of Northport who would go on to win world championships at the World Para Athletic Championships down to last place finisher of the other section Ryan Gallagher of Briarcliff who two years later as a senior would win a state championship in cross country.
The names of the guys in Section 2 (fastest one) of the 3200 in 2015 are as follows in order of finish: Northport's Mikey Brannigan, Darien's Alex Ostberg, Souhegan's Eli Moskowitz, Greenwich's Jeremy Spiezio, Saratoga's Aidan Tooker, Xavier's John Rice, Fordham Prep's Conor Lundy, La Salle (RI)'s John Salisbury, Lake Braddock's Alex Corbett, La Salle's Matt Bouthillette and David Principe, Darien's Armstrong Noonan, Liverpool's Ben Petrella, and East Greenwich's Tommy Sommer. The list includes guys who won multiple state championships and frequented NXN and Foot Locker nationals in XC along with taking many high places at track nationals.
Ten guys ran under 9 minutes, with Brannigan winning in a stunning Loucks record 8:42.92, and he along with Ostberg, Moskowitz, and Spiezio still hold the top four times for the meet. Brannigan's winning time is also still an NY 3200 (and 2 mile) record. To put into perspective what this race meant to some of the runners, Moskowitz was a frequent New Hampshire champion, but he would never run within 25 seconds of his 3rd-place finish at Loucks anywhere else.
We may never see the likes of a 2015 Loucks 3200 in future days, but then again, tonight is supposed to have great conditions for a two mile jaunt.