By Christopher Hunt
Mary Kate Anselmini felt trapped, toiling in pedestrian pace. The Ward Melville senior tried to be patient but the time for that had expired. So Anselmini swung wide, pressed down on the gas and turned a group run into a honest race.
“I was getting pretty antsy,” she said. “I knew Anne Carey (of St. John the Baptist) has a pretty good kick and if I wanted to win I was going to have to run it out of her.”
Anselmini went and Carey followed. But Anselmini kept dialing it up, never letting Carey get close enough to challenge as Anselmini became the first automatic qualifier for the Millrose Games high school mile. She won the qualifying race at the Bishop Loughlin Games Saturday in 4:58.06, a personal best.
“It’s a huge relief,” Anselmini said. “I just missed it last year. Now the next stressful thing is college.”
The steeplechase national champ is considering Stanford, Columbia, Colorado and William and Mary.
Haley Pierce of Tatnall (Del.) plans to take a shot at qualifying for the Millrose mile this season but decided to focus on the 2-mile Saturday. She dominated the field and snapped a 29-year meet record on the way to a win in 10:28.36. She erased a mark of 10:36.50 set by Lynn Straus of State College High in 1981.
“I had the meet record in the back of my mind,” Pierce said. “But I just wanted to come out and run a fast race on this track.”
It was Pierce’s first race at the New Balance Track and Field Center. She said she wanted to use the opportunity to clock a sub-10:30 race, coming off of her fifth place finish at Nike Cross National two weeks ago in Portland, Ore. Pierce, a junior, didn’t have an trouble translating her cross country success to the track. She began lapping most of the field about halfway through.
“It’s a huge confidence booster knowing that I came out and felt strong and relaxed,” she said. “I still felt like I was in the race the whole time. I never felt like I was alone. I always like to feel like I’m chasing people so that helped a lot.”
Pierce said she has qualifying for the Millrose Games mile on her to-do list, as well as the invitational mile at the Reebok Indoor Games. Usually, Pierce said she would back off during the indoor season but this season she’s looking to ride the wave.
“I have a lot of big goals I want to accomplish this year,” she said.
The same is the case for indoor state hurdles champ Lateisha Philson of Cardozo. The junior blitzed the field in the 55 hurdles to set a state-leading mark of 8.04. It wasn’t only impressive that Philson dropped such a fast time a week before Christmas, it’s also the fact that she’s been struggling to find time to train.
“I didn’t know junior year was so hard,” Philson said.
Between her school work load and her SAT prep courses at the Armory, Philson said she only able to get on the track twice a week, after her SAT courses, at around 6:30 p.m., and has been getting home around 11 p.m. those days. Most other days she’s running stair workouts. None of it seems to affect her racing.
“I felt OK today,” said. “I was a nervous, as usual, because I knew I had to get out. I thought my start was alright. I just had to stay focused and get to the line.”
Philson agreed that she is starting the season quickly but expects more.
“I want to be consistently under 8 seconds,” said Philson, who has a best of 7.95. “Once I do that, and I’m running 7.9 each week, then I can work on getting faster.”
Like Philson, running years of club track made Columbia’s Olivia Baker look like a seasoned veteran on the track. Baker kept an even tempo in the 600 meters even after Shakele Seaton and Nyanka Moise-Joseph of Medgar Evers bolted off the starting line.
In Baker’s first high school race, she kept her composure through 400 meters and took off like a cannon down the backstretch before she whizzed by the two leaders on the home straightaway. The freshman won in 1:34.31.
“I’ve never run the 600 before,” Baker said. “I didn’t really know how to run it. In youth track they don’t have 600’s.”
But Baker knew her game plan, laid out by last year’s New Jersey coach of the year Lisa Morgan.
“I’m a pace runner,” she said. “I like to run about even. My coach told me to stay around 30’s. In the last 150, I started picking it up with everything I had left.”
Moise-Joseph finished second in 1:34.64 while Seaton, coming off a stress fracture in her left foot this fall, fell back to fourth (1:35.36) while Lakeland/Panas senior Brie Roller finished third in 1:35.21.
Cardozo’s Chamique Francis won the 300 in an outstanding state-leading time of 38.78. The highly-touted senior, being sought after by South Carolina, Texas, LSU and Texas A&M, capitalized on her lane 6 draw when Sandrae Farquharson allowed her to sprint away in the first 100 meters. Farquharson, who has a 53.76 400-meter personal best while at Manchester High in Jamaica, is in the first indoor track season of her career.
“I’m learning,” she said. “I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
Francis, the outdoor nationals runner-up in the 400, knew she couldn’t wait for the race to find her.
“My coach said this is my senior year and I don’t have time to play around,” Francis said. “I wasn’t racing anybody. I’m racing the clock.”
And she dedicated her race to her best friend, Ahytana Johnson, an integral part of the team last year, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease, in September.
“Every race I run is for her,” Francis said.
Adrienne Alexander won the shot put at her school’s invitational. The Bishop Loughlin junior unleashed a 44-foot, 5.25 inch effort on her first attempt in the finals after tosses around 40-foot in the semi-final.
“My release wasn’t right,” she said. “It was coming off the palm of my hand.”
But the junior never panicked. Instead she coated her hands in chalk. Something that isn’t uncommon for throwers although Alexander rarely does it.
“I feel like chalk is for big-time throwers and I’m not there yet,” she said.
But when Cherraine Davis of Porter took the lead headed into the final, Alexander knew she needed to respond. She did it by coming less than an inch off her personal best.
“This is really early,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be anywhere near this. A lot of throwers think if you’re not throwing consistently well the whole time that you didn’t have a good track meet. But it only takes one throw to win. It only takes one throw to have a personal best. I know if I get that one throw that I’m headed in the right direction.”
Kim MacKay of Kellenberg won the 1,000 in 2:57.50, the country’s best time so far this season. Medgar Evers renewed its relay rivalry with Cardozo in the 4x200 1:41.29. Cardozo finished second in 1:42.66. McDonogh (Md.) won the 4x400 in 3:59.36 and Bronxville, led by freshman Mary Cain’s 2:16 anchor leg, won the 4x800 in 9:34.76.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.