#2 - Saint Anthony's Sweeps The Loucks 3200m
Much like some of our other top picks, there was a wealth of options to choose from for the team at #2. So much so, we provided a mini-list of their own at the bottom of the article. And while their State Meet upset was sure to get the crowd on their feet (video below), and their gutsy run with near Sub-4 miler Brodey Hasty and NXN-Champs Loudoun Valley en-route to the Indoor State Record DMR title was impressive as well, there was no better personification of the season than Saint Anthony's 1-2 sweep of the Loucks Games 3200m run.
There is something reverent about the Loucks Games 3200m. Other than the coveted Millrose Mile, it very well may be the biggest single track race of the year. Although the 2015 rendition was a banner year in the event's history, providing the fastest 3200m field ever run east of Arcadia, each year brings about some of the best fields, and best times of the year. So when the Friars entered the race, and forewent the DMR a day earlier, you knew they were serious about the race. The DMR had been their bread-and-butter Indoors. Although very strong in the 4x800m, the DMR is where they had smashed their State Record. They went on to a strong finish at Penn Relays, and even took their talents to the Texas Relays. Surely, the Loucks DMR title was in the cards. But there was something else on their mind.
On the line for the 3200m, Mason Gatewood and Matt Payamps were there representing the Black & Gold. The pair were the bookends of the DMR, leadoff and anchor, and were no strangers to racing together. They had recently gone 1st and 3rd at the New York Relays 3200m, sweeping 1st and 2nd in the mile the year before. They finished next to each other at the Millrose Mile indoors, and had plenty of experience running with each other at practice. It was a strong combination. In addition, they knew what the heat before them had done. Staples of CT pulled a 1-2 sweep of their own, going 9:14.23 and 9:15.59. That was faster than the NY State Leader heading into the race. It was time to run fast.
The gun went off, and the duo quickly settled into the chase pack. Senior Ian Russ (East Aurora) was comfortable setting the pace out front, and the pack was ready to let him do so. The field strung out single file, but without separation. Indoor State 1600m champs Isaiah Claiborne (Northport) took up second, trailing Russ, a dangerous athlete to have ready to kick. They came through the 1600m at 4:28.3, now joined by another threat. Shea Weilbaker (Saratoga) was the Indoor and future Outdoor State Champ at this distance, and knew how to kick as well. Colton Bogucki (Loudoun Valley, VA) was also in the mix, and had the strongest PR in the field. It truly was anyone's race here, and with it turning into a kicker's paradise, an injection of speed would be needed soon.
However, it wouldn't come immediately. The pace hastened slightly, the tension rising. Everybody was waiting for the move from someone else. Payamps moved up the field to second, Gatewood buried in sixth. With two laps to go, and the posturing continued. They were now four wide, waiting for that move. One lap to go, crossing the line at 7:55, with the race still wide-open. Weilbaker lead, if you could call it that, but there were five guys within a step of his every move. It was finally time to go.
Payamps moved to Weilbaker's shoulder, and Gatewood went with. They sat in second-third until 300m to go. With the backstretch now in sight, Gatewood swung wide. Seeing the move, Claiborne went with, and Payamps latched on. It was now a full sprint with 200m to go, and the out-of-towner Alex Korczynski (Windham, CT) was also in the mix. Gatewood was pulling away, and Payamps had to run with. The move had been decisive for Gatewood, which would lead to the win. But behind him, the battle for second was strong, and Payamps was holding on. Pushing through the line, he would come across second, leading to the first ever 1-2 sweep of the Loucks Games 3200m. 7-guys would go 9-Flat or better, with Gatewood closing in sub-60secs. Saint Anthony's would finish with shiny new State Leaders of 8:55.00 and 8:56.06.
It would be a defining moment for the Saint Anthony's squad. They now were tied for the most athletes from a single school under the 9-minute barrier for 2-Miles. It bumps up to 5 total if you look at the 3200m run. Not only was the race the most hotly contested Invite in New York State, this race had pulled the top athletes from the entire East Coast. Yes, their relays were strong all year. But for many athletes, the sense of teamwork can disappear when entered in Individual races. Not for Saint Anthony's, as the pair worked together in the race to achieve their goal. In fact, just a few weeks later, they would head down to Missouri, to compete in the Invite Section at the Festival of Miles. There, they would repeat their Loucks Games performance on the big stage, again sweeping 1st and 2nd overall.
On the surface, it may have seemed incredibly hard to differentiate Saint Anthony's from our #2 pick in Northport. Both teams hail from Long Island, and found strong success in both the Individual and Relay events. Many times they would match up, trading wins back and forth. Like Northport, Saint Anthony's also had to deal with the loss of a star transfer. Heading into the XC Season, Saint Anthony's was a top pick. But key returner Amani Morrell would transfer to South Bend St. Joseph in Indiana, where he would end up placing 10th place overall in the NXN-Midwest Regional, going on to run 9:15.68 at the Indiana Outdoor State Meet. As a junior, he was only three seconds off Payamps best in the 3200m. Paired with Payamps injury in XC, Saint Anthony's and Northport saw a similar revitalization after the XC Team season.
However, the difference here came in the wins. Gatewood took home both the Manhattan Easterns, and Federation Title. When paired for a State Meet relay, Saint Anthony's always found a way to win. They would strike on all cylinders when it mattered, coming through in the clutch. In that State Meet 4x800m, they never gave up hope. They exchanged the baton last through 800m, and third to last at the second exchange. They would come back for the win, in a then-State Leading time. It would be that grit that differentiated them from the pack, and how they contributed to the Top Male Moment of the year for 2018.
A brief look at Moment #2 (we're limited to 2mins of video footage per State Meet)
St. A's Own Mini Great Eight Moments w/ Relevant Articles
1. Loucks 3200m Sweep (see above)
4. Gatewood Winning Manhattan (Gatewood Feature Story)