By Christopher Hunt
She didn’t look crisp or race sharp or fresh. It could have easily been her first race of the season. And when she left, Claudia Francis could still call herself the best half-miler in the country.
Team Evolution’s Francis defended her national crown, winning the 800 meters at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals Saturday in 2:07.30. She led a New York sweep of the girls 800. State champ Kim McKay of Kellenberg finished second in 2:08.56 and Bayside’s Alaine Tate placed third, running a career-best 2:08.61 from the slower section.
Put aside for a moment the fact that New York athletes swept the girls 800 and consider this: Francis did not run for her high school team, Cardozo, this season. It was only her third competition of the year as she prepares to run the 1,000 meters at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in August.
“I was hoping to get a PR but the girls out here were really aggressive,” Francis said.
That meant that the field went out hard which pushed Francis to the back early. But she muscled her way into position by the bell lap and with 200 meters left she had sufficiently overpowered the field. So in the race that earned Francis her second straight national championship, was essentially an oil check. Francis won the 800 at the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Puerto Rico, June 5 in 2:10.85. Before that she raced in Jamaica at Gibson Relays back in February.
“I haven’t really done any speedwork yet,” Francis said.
Jermaine Brown was another New Yorker, without a high school team that walked away as a national champ. Brown, 19, exceeded the age limit to compete for his high school team at Medgar Evers but the Jamaican-born sprinter won the 200 in 21.10. He clocked 21.07 in the trials. Both times came into a -1.0 headwind.
“The plan was to go out the first time (in the trials) and run 20-point,” Brown said, “but I was playing around.”
Brown set New York State records in the 60 and 200 indoors at the 2009 National Scholastic Indoor Championships. He struggled with a hamstring injury in his left leg that entire year and said he was dealing with pain in his right hip after the trials of the 200 Saturday. None of that stopped him from exploding off the curve and holding off Fuqauwn Greene (N.C.), another runner who chose not to run for his high school team, New Bern, this season, to concentrate on qualifying for the World Junior team.
“This meant a lot of me dealing with all the injuries,” Brown said. “This should have been my fourth national championship by now.”
For the Record: New Yorkers left the Big Apple and took a bite out of Greensboro. Here’s the stats:
-Saratoga Springs (Kinetic RC) won the girls 4x1 mile in 20:04.34 with Brianne Bellon, Keelin Hollowood, Maragret Mac Donald and Cassie Goutos.
-Newburgh Elite won the 800 sprint medley relay in 1:30.76 then later won the boys 4x400 in 3:13.40, which included a 47.2 split by Fred Locklary and a 46.69 anchor leg by Mississsippi State-bound Randy Patterson. Newburgh also scored a third-place finish in the boys 4x200 in 1:27.83.
-Chamique Francis of Cardozo came within 5 meters of winning the girls 400 championship by Brianna Nelson edged her just before the finish. Francis set a personal best in second in 53.20. Then Francis dropped a 53.47 anchor leg split on Cardozo’s winning 4x400, which finished in 3:40.65.
- Warwick Valley finished second in the boys and girls distance medley relay. The girls finished second in 11:41.21 behind Blacksburg (Va.) won set the national record in 11:31.26. Blacksburg’s mark better the old national record set by Warwick in 2008. Shenendehowa finished third in that race in 11:43.73 and Fayettteville-Manilus was fourth in 11:44.19.
- New York teams swept the girls 4x800 and the girls 800. Fayetteville-Manilus won the relay in 8:46.98, US#2 all-time. Garden City was second in 8:47.90, US#3 all-time and Bronxville third in 8:53.59, effectively making it the greatest girls 4x800 race in US history.
-Emily Lipari of Roslyn won the girls mile in 4:48.20 and Fayetteville-Manilus senior Alex Hatz won the boys mile in 4:08.09. Both scored comeback victories. Hatz will compete at Wisconsin next year, Lipari at Villanova. Kelsey Margey, a Harborfields sophomore who ran unattached this season, finished third in the girls mile in 4:49.98.
- Cornwall’s Aisling Cuffe finished second in the girls 2-mile in 10:02.49 and anchored Cornwall to a win in the Emerging Elite section of the girls DMR.
- Jennifer Halloran of Bay Shore of the girls 1-mile racewalk in 7:35.01. Her teammate Destiny Lalane won the indoor 1-mile racewalk at Nike Indoor Nationals.
- Medgar Evers freshman Kadecia Baird won the girls Emerging Elite 200 in 24.48. Clara Barton senior Reginald Mortel clocked 48.21 to win the boys Emerging Elite 400.
- Marlene Ricketts, a Penn-State bound senior from Westbury, finished second in the girls triple jump with a mark of 41 feet, 6. North Babylon’s Vanessa Stewart also finished third in the shot put, tossing 46-10.75.
- Honeye Falls-Lima senior Alex Deir rebounded from a disappointing state meet to win the 2,000 steeplechase championships in 5:53.02. Eddie Owes of Packer Collegiate placed third in the race in 6:00.28. Mary Kate Anselmini, who's father built a 30-inch steeple barrier in her frontyard when Anselmini was 8 years old, claimed the girls 2,000 steeplechase national crown in 6:42.78.
- Sheepshead Bay finished second in the boys 4x100 in 41.43. Mount Vernon was fourth in 41.93 and Medgar Evers seventh in 42.58. Sheepshead Bay also placed fifth in the shuttle hurdles relay and the girls squad finished second in the Emerging Elite 4x200, clocking 1:42.00.