#4 - Northport Takes Home 4x800m State Record
There is more to this moment than the casual observer may realize. On the surface, it's a tale of 4x800m team who came back one week after defeat in the final steps, to smash a State Record that stood for 42 years. You'd be right, but it would only be half the story.
One year prior, at that same meet, the boys of Northport also won the 4x800m National Title. Their time of 7:37.42 was good, especially so because all four athletes were underclassmen. They'd be sure to come back and defend their title the following year. However, there was one problem. Their second leg, Tyler Dollhausen, was set to transfer, and that he did, down to Holly Spring, North Carolina. All of a sudden, they were down a leg that held a personal best of 1:55.16, and another year left to improve. Repeating their National Title wouldn't be as easy as many had thought.
The search was on, and no better place to look than down the Cross Country depth chart. Northport was a team who had made NXN before, and any well coached squad is sure to have some prospects. The glimmers began to shine in XC, as Northport was a steadily rising entity. After racing at the Brown Invite, and Sunken Meadow, the men from Cow Harbor were then ranked at the Top of Class A in the State. Key ingredients would be Sean Ryan and Thomas Fodor, an influx to the Top 5 in addition to the other three members of the relay. The hope was there, and then, things didn't seem to go their way. At their XC State Qualifier, a strong Smithtown team took home the bid. They would bounce back for a fourth place finish at Feds, and repeat that finish again at Regionals. And with that, it was time for track.
There, it was an adjustment period. The Claiborne twins, both members of the 4x800m relay, were having strong years in the individual events. However, the relay was having some growing pains. They were hovering around 7:55 through the middle of January, running as such at both the Millrose Trials, as well as at the Dr. Sander Invite. Easterns would be a breakout race, where they would clock 7:48.26 for the win, their first taste of a sub-7:50. However, much of the onus landed on the twins, and on tired legs at States, they took home a silver medal at 7:56.52 silver. Back a little more fresh at Indoor Nationals, they come home to a third place finish with a season best of 7:46.36.
By now, their relay had been solidified. Thomas Fodor had made the sub-in for the transferred Dollhausen, and along with Dan O'Connor, Elijah Claiborne, and Isaiah Claiborne, and they had one last season to prime for NBON. O'Connor and Fodor were both hovering around 2mins, with the Claiborne twins on the other side of 1:55.0. Back to training, the schedule would be set for far less 4x800m racing. In fact, they only contested the event five times throughout the season. But things were looking up. Opting for the DMR instead at Penn Relays, their first real shot was at Loucks. There, the pieces were starting to fall together. They would avenge their loss to Saint Anthony's by taking the win at 7:48.28. Individually, each of the four athletes were dropping their own PR's in the open races. After cruising an 8:04 at State Quals, they were all set for a State Meet rematch. The only problem? Their anchor got an invite to run that open 800m at Brooks PR the same day as States.
Claiborne's State Meet Double
So Isaiah Claiborne headed out west, leaving the State Title in the hands of his brother, and the rest of the Top 5 from XC. This is where many people come in on the story. Northport ran to a blistering 7:45.79, but were leaned at the line by Saint Anthony's. Their time was fast, but could they go from being second at States, to first in the Country in a week's time? Beneath the surface, however, it was an encouraging race. Fodor led off in 1:57.74, a new best, and O'Connor was back down to 1:55.47. Ryan ran to a 1:59.13, a strong time for a late-in-the-game alternate. Dropping nine seconds from the State Meet finishing time with Claiborne, and Northport was back in business.
Race day came, and Northport's entries were finely tuned. They were only entered in two races, with the 4x800m coming first. The field was loaded up, St. Benedict's Prep of NJ the biggest local talent. And yet, the favorites were set to be Green Hope of NC, the top American finishers at Penn Relays, running 7:39 way back in April. The gun went off, and the race was on. Green Hope shot to an early lead. They were first to the exchange on Leg 1, splitting a second ahead of the field, and nearly four seconds ahead of Northport. They did much the same on Leg 2, although Northport moved up, they still had a five second advantage over Cow Harbor. Elijah got the baton, and the hunt was on. He closed down the gap, and was now within striking distance. Green Hope got the slight advantage on the final handoff, but the pair were essentially even. 115m to go would be the first time Northport would see the lead, and that's all that mattered. Isaiah brought them home, all four legs running their personal best to do so.
Their time would break the State Meet Record, and cap off an incredible season for the team. While it may not have progressed in a straight line since August, the year ended off with several noteworthy records. The Claiborne's have three Individual State titles between them. Northport now has four guys in School History under 9mins in the mile. The Claiborne twins also now rival the McGowan twins for the title of fastest track twins in NY History. They managed to match their fellow Suffolk competitors Huntington, who took down the 4x400m State Record from the same year back in 2016. And on top of it all, they are the New York State Record Holders in the 4x800m, even after a transfer.