Well folks, that's it for the 2011-2012 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships, all athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our first year as well, as we became independent early last August. Since that time, you've viewed our page over 10 million times, and added to our growing Facebook and Twitter followings. We've had great performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To put it lightly, it has been a great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2013. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
2. What Happens When The XC Standout, Meets the Indoor Miler: Spring States Sixteen-Hundred Meet Showdown
Nick Ryan (Fayetteville-Manlius) was one of New York's standout runners in the 2011 XC season. His progression was steady, but exacting. Early season, he was fast but not yet dominant, losing to Dan Lennon (Peru) and Mike Libruk (Shaker) in the trial run of the states course at VVS. Racing sparingly, much of Ryan's improvement could only be witnessed on the hills of Manlius. Appearing again at the Manhattan Invitational, Ryan would place fifth overall in the competitive Eastern's Champ race, behind big names like George Kelly (CBA) and Edward Cheserek (St. Benedict's). But one thing was true, he was getting faster. Each time Ryan appeared, he would be improving upon his times, leading to his commanding victory in the Section 3 Championships. And as per usual to the Stotan way, Ryan peaked when necessary, defeating the entire state at the New York Championship by over 30 seconds in the merged results. And this feat would be repeated two weeks later, as Ryan would win the NXN-NY Regional in a more relaxed 15:59. But it would be his race at NXN, which would put the country on notice. When the gun went off at Nike Cross Nationals, so did Nick Ryan. So fast that he created a 20m gap between him and the nations finest within minutes of starting the race. Race favorite Futsum Zeinsellassie (North Central) told MileSplit, "I had no idea who that kid was, but I saw he was fast, and he put us all on notice." The pack would eventually catch Ryan, but he would hold on for an impressive 5th place. And then, as usual with Fayetteville-Manlius, it was back to training. FM most readily treats the Indoor Season as time to train for spring, but in Nick's wake, arose another NY Miler to prominence.
As detailed in moment # 6, Zavon Watkins (Liverpool) attacked the middle distance races all throughout winner. One of his highlights would be to win the Indoor 1000m while almost running it as a time trial. For Watkins was in the slow heat based on qualifying time, and would have to outrun the fast heat without the aid of other runners. Watkins would then go on to place 2nd in the 800m at New Balance Indoor Nationals. Outdoors, Watkins would be less consistent however. He would not stray away from fast times in the mile, running a very quick 4:11.86 at the Loucks Games, but he faced a new problem. His style of sit-and-kick in the mile would no longer be a surprise. Runners knew they could no longer run a paced race against Watkins and expect to hold on. 400m split times began to drop, and races like the Penn Relays Invitational Mile began to show the competition adapting. But Zavon still had his speed, as 4:11 would be the winning time at the Spring State meet in 2011. Everyone knew Watkins would be dangerous as always on the States' stage.
But this was spring, and Nick Ryan was back on the scene, progressing in the same linear yet exceptional fashion as he did in XC. He was in shape from running sparingly in winter, and hopped back onto the States' radar when he ran 4:14.46 in the mile the same weekend Watkins went 4:15.73 at Penn. The two would later meet at their sectional meet, but an event worn Watkins would pull up for points only while Ryan would finish the mile in a then-state leading 4:09.61. Everyone knew Watkins had more in the tank. The following week, the pair would meet again at the Section 3 State Qualifier, where both would run relaxed enough to qualify for the mile at the state championship, which is exactly what happened. And the stage was set.
At States, both would be sending out a message. Watkins would win the 800m by over a second in a deep field of half milers, and Ryan would take the 3200m after a close battle between himself and Dan Lennon (Peru). Each had won a race that was exactly one half of what a great miler needs (Zavon had the speed (800m) and Ryan had the endurance (3200m)), but the 1600m would test to see who had the better combination. Hours before the race, both knew the who the race would be between. Watkins noted "These guys are splitting close to 60 each lap, I try to hang with them the best I can, and kick with all I have at the end of the race." Ryan would have similar thoughts, stating, "Whatever happens, I think Section 3 will represent well, and it will be a good race."
As the race went off, Watkins and Ryan would make their ways to the top of the pack, quickly separating from the rest of the runners. The race tactic was atypical for Watkins, who had evolved past his sit and kick technique. Watkins would know it would be hard to catch Ryan if he let him get too far ahead. As the laps began to progress, the stadium's anticipation would rise steadily, as Watkins was within 3 meters of Ryan at 400m, 800m, and the 1200m mark. The question quickly shifted from will Zavon be able to hold onto Ryan's fast pace, to whether or not Ryan would be able to respond to Zavon's inevitable kick at this close range. As the bell went off signaling the final lap, the titans began to clash. With 300m to go, Watkins made his first surge to the 2nd lane, but Ryan quickly responded with a surge of his own. Falling back behind, Zavon would make an even harder kick at the 250m mark. And yet again, Ryan would respond in a way that no other runner had yet been able to against Watkins. Falling back in place, Zavon would wait until 110 meters to go to try on final kick, but the impending foot steps pushed Ryan even faster, pulling him away to win in a Junior State Record time of 4:05.24. Watkins would finish second in a PR of his own, 4:07.24. Did you miss out on the best race of the year? No worries, a parent has submitted race footage to bring back the memory.
#1 To Be Revealed Tomorrow
The Top 10 Moments of 2012 Honorable Mention List
Indicative of the depth of talent in New York State, these 5 moments didn't quite crack the list. While we maintained an equal balance of boys and girls on our list, these stories were just on the precipice of being included. If anything, they are a testament to the pool of exceptional athletes we have in the Empire State.
1. Alexis Panisse Cements Herself as One of PSAL's Greatest
It is hard to talk about the city this year without mentioning Alexis Panisse (Benjamin Cardozo). She ran the third fastest PSAL time ever at Van Cortlandt Park, and showed incredible range indoors, as she ran everything from the 400m, up to the 5000m. The ultimate team player, and out of the gutsiest girls around, Panisse is a name that will be sure to inspire future distance runners from the five burroughs.
2. Dan Lennon Reigns Supreme At NBIN
Dan Lennon was already a powerhouse in cross country, as the only male qualifier from New York for the Foot Locker National Championships, and he again proved his dominance as a long distance legend by holding off Dallin Farnsworth stride for stride to win the overall 5000m Indoor National title. His success didn't end there, as he would take the silver in a close race at 3200m for the Spring States Championship.
3. Samantha Nadel Makes Millrose Her Own
Zavon Watkins was not the only one tearing up the Mile Invitationals in Winter. Samantha Nadel (North Shore) was doing it at almost a more impressive rate, setting meet records at both the US Open and the Millrose Games. Also participating in some smoking relays, one of which that took down a State Record, Nadel would end her season early to nurse a slight muscle stiffness. It would be until the Penn Relays that Nadel would return, where she led her squad to a strong 2nd place finish in the DMR>
4. ThroWers Through DoWn.
Rudy Winkler (Averill Park) and AJ Wolf (Hackley) seem to define elite throwers in New York State. Winkler would forgo all other thrower events in pursuit of hammer throw excellence, and the victories came with that decision. Winning the Indoor National title, and being far and wide the Outdoor National Leader, Winkler would go undefeated in his outdoor season, until a tight muscle hurt him in the finals of the IAAF World Junior Championship. AJ Wolf would find similar success, as he would be the only thrower to break 60' in the shot put this year, and throwing the furthest mark at the Outdoor State Meet, despite leaving after the prelims to attend his prom.
5. Mt. Vernon Establishes Itself as the Best Combined Program of the Spring.
While Tanaya Yarde and Steven Gayle may have been the standouts, it would be shortchanging the talent of this team to not name them as one of the best combined programs in the nation. The boys had smoking 4x400 and 4x800m relays, winning the Outdoor State title in the longer relay, while the girls battled rivals Medgar Evers consistently every weekend in the shorter relays, the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400. The girls would go on to win a national title in the 4x100 at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. Both relay pools, along with their members in individual marks, found themselves always within the top 5 of every event they ran.