By Christopher Hunt
New Rochelle’s Elizabeth Mott tried to take her coach’s advice before the 400 meters. He wanted to tell her how to ignore the pain that awaited in the last 75 meters, how to keep her elbows from jutting out and keeping her shoulders from creeping toward her ears.
“Just imagine yourself laying on a beach in a hammock somewhere, looking at palm trees,” coach Andy Capellan told her.
She tried it.
“It didn’t work,” she said.
Instead Mott started an internal monologue where is reminded herself over and over to relax. She nagged herself about keeping her chin down, about holding her form and about leg-burning training sessions. Mott barked to herself about not giving up the lead that she head from the 100-meter mark.
Mott, a senior, won the 400 at the Varsity Classic, in 55.1 seconds, breaking her own Section 1 record and setting the nation-leading mark this season.
“I was really nervous before the race,” she said. “That was the first time that I let my nervousness get to me. I got out really slow. At the end of the first lap I picked it up and went strong down the back straight. Then on the straightaway, a girl came up on me and I thought ‘Why am I going so slow?’ and I just really brought it in strong.”
The time tops her previous personal best of 56.48 at the Hispanic Games Jan. 5. Mott is considering Villanova and Tulane. She said without the other runners pressing her in the closing stages she didn’t think she could have fun as fast.
“I really felt that girl coming on me,” she said. “I didn’t think I ran that fast but I thought maybe I broke 56. I finished really strong. I never finished the strong before. I know I can run 54. It’s right there. It’s not even a dream anymore. I know I can do it.”
Dominque Booker of Immaculate Conception (N.J.) ran a blistering 24.2 in the 200 meters. The sophomore topped Jen Clayton of Suffern, another sophomore, who finished in 24.4.
“I had a good start and I just pushed really hard,” Booker said, after running a personal best. “I saw her coming (in the home stretch) and that really pushed me.”
The girls 800 brought the same kind of excitement on the final straight. Ariann Neutts of Roxbury outkicked Tappan Zee senior Emma Miller-Bedell in the last 50 meters to win in 2:14.3. Miller-Bedell took over the race at the bell but Neutts never let her get too far. She charged through the last bend and was shoulder-to-shoulder with Miller-Bedell headed toward the line.
“I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out because I really haven’t run the 800 that many times this year,” Neutts said. “I just gave it all I had at the end.”
Neutts had only run one other 800 race this season. She ended up in a race with Miller-Bedell, who was second at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships last year in the 800 but still working her way back from a foot injury that had Miller-Bedell start her season in January.
“You never know who the competition is or what they’ve done,” she said. “You just have to give it your all and go for it.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.
Photos by Tim Fulton/ArmoryTrack.com