By Christopher Hunt
People may have witnessed the greatest girls 4x800 relay race in our nation's history at the New York State meet. The boys 4x800 that day could just as easily have been the best in state history. Now those teams will battle again in a rematch for the national title.
As these relays travel to Greensboro, N.C. for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals the questions are: Can they do it again? Can they do it better?
For the Garden City girls squad, the national record is on the radar.
"On paper," assistant coach Erica Fregosi said, "on paper, it's possible."
Garden City broke the New York State record at the state championships last weekend in 8:49.88, the second-fastest time in U.S. history. Fayetteville-Manlius finished second in 8:50.56 and Saratoga Springs third in 8:50.70, times that rank fourth and fifth, respectively, all-time. Saratoga opted to run the distance medley relay Saturday instead of Friday's 4x800 but the stage will be set for a showdown rematch between Garden City and Fayetteville-Manlius.
At the state championships, Garden City ran Taylor Hennig on the leadoff leg, who clocked a 2:17.78 split. She'll be replaced by junior Michelle Rotondo, who split 2:13 at Penn Relays. Rotondo ran the 400 hurdles and helped Garden City's 4x400 win the state title last week.
Insert Rotondo into that relay – think fantasy track and field – and Garden City has an 8:45 team. The national record is 8:43.12 set by Roosevelt (Md.) in 2008. Fregosi says that Rotondo is in 2:11 shape and Emily Menges, who anchored in 2:07.86. Coaches always talk about relays all putting it together on the same day. Everyone agreed the stars had aligned that day. But that rarely happens twice in a row.
"Why not? Fregosi said. "Most of the time with these kids, most meets that we go to, we normally walk away satisfied."
The state meet produced the top three times in the country in the girls 4x800. The top two performances in the boys 4x800 also come from New York squad. Warwick Valley posted the nation's fastest time (7:36.43) at Warwick Fast Times June 2. Liverpool dropped the second-fastest time, beating Warwick at the state meet in 7:38.78. They'll have a rematch in the 4x800 Friday and the distance medley Saturday.
"We didn't have our A-game against Liverpool (at states)," Warwick Valley coach Mike Potter said. "You need your A-plus game to beat Liverpool."
The caveat is that Warwick shuffled its order at the state meet putting Dan Paez in front and Dan Ramirez on the anchor while sticking its fastest legs, Charlie Armand and Tim Luthin, in the middle. But the Wave couldn't get far enough ahead and Liverpool's back-to-back 1:51 legs by Colin Savage and super-sophomore Zavon Watkins. Liverpool coach Justin Block said he his hoping for more from his first two legs, seniors Chris Clemons and Alex Wilke.
They'll need that too. Block has no intention of changing his order and Potter is likely to put Armand, Warwick's best half-miler, back into the leadoff position.
"If we end up out front we have to run harder," Potter said. "When it got ot the anchor (at states) and Watkins got the stick, I thought I didn't want to be Dan Ramirez."
At the state meet, Armand, Luthin, Watkins and Savage had all run previous races. Both teams will be racing fresh when they lock up in the 4x800 Friday. Warwick and Liverpool held the second and third fastest times in the country in the distance medley relay indoors. They'll meet for the rematch Saturday.
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.