Williamsville East

Muhammad, Mott run US#1 & 2

By Christopher Hunt

BUFFALO – She came off the turn with such a lead that people standing by the finished gasped, most not even knowing who she was.

Well, for those who didn’t know, here’s introducing Williamsville East eighth-grader, Kala Allen.

Allen won the Division I 400 meters at the New York State championships in 55.61, claiming the race from the slower-seeded heat with a nearly two-second personal best.

Not only did Allen come the second heat, but she was buried in lane 2 when she delivered a breakthrough race. She blasted off the turn with a 20-meter advantage.

“On the first curve, I thought I was going really slow,” said Allen, who attends Transit Middle School in Amherst but competes for Williamsville East. “I just really tried to go faster on the back straightaway and then I tried to give it all I had at the end.”

Allen hadn’t officially won when she crossed the finish line with one heat remaining. Baldwin senior Christie Verdier won that heat in 55.88, earning second overall in Division I. Allen didn’t even watch the final heat. Someone had to tell her that she won.

“I was too tired to check,” Allen said.

With Boys & Girls senior Nadonnia Rodriques opting out of the 400 and competing in the 200 meters instead, Allen’s performance makes her favorite for the federation championship Saturday. Allen didn’t even think she could run so fast.

“Honestly, 55 was my goal for senior year,” she said.

Alexis Easterling of Woodlands won the Division II 400 in 57.19. The top eight times, regardless of division, advance to Saturday’s federation final.

“I felt slow,” Easterling said. “I felt like I was running really, really slow. During the race I felt dizzy, like it was never going to end.”

The heat sent bunches of runners staggering to a nearby tent looking for water. But it didn’t seem to bother the leaders in the 400 hurdles. The event promised to be one of the most dynamic of the day and didn’t disappoint.

Dalilah Muhammad of Cardozo (PSAL), last year’s federation champ, finished first in 57.81, the fastest-time in the country this season. Elizabeth Mott of New Rochelle (Section 1) finished second in 58.01, the second-fastest time in the country while bettering her own Section 1 record, Mott won the Division I public school state championship. PSAL and private schools aren’t included the public school scoring.

Muhammad had been far and away the top intermediate hurdler in the state, until Mott ran 58.4 last week.

“I ran with her at Loucks and it seems like she got a lot faster over night,” Muhammad said. Muhammad and Mott will have a rematch Saturday in the federation final. Muhammad said Friday she simply wanted to run hard through six hurdles and hold on, running a season-best was a plus.

“I’m happy to do that,” she said. ‘For nationals, it’s good just to see what 57 feels like again.”

Muhammad hadn’t faced competition like Friday’s race with Mott this season. The same can be said for Roslyn sophomore Emily Lipari. But like Muhammad, Lipari emphatically responded.

The sophomore tucked in behind in fourth while Hannah Davidson of Saratoga Springs, Sam Roecker of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Seton Catholic’s Mary Kate Champagne battled in front. Roecker took the lead with three laps to go and Lipari trailing and her face a picture of comfort.

Then Lipari, unaffected by a nearly two-hour rain delay, waited and her eyes said she wanted to pounce. With 700 left, she did. Lipari won her second federation 3,000 title in 9:37.53, the third-fastest time in the country this season.

Hempstead’s Charlene Lipsey decided to control the pace throughout in the 800. Lipsey led for the first time from the gun when she won at the Golden South Classic in Orlando, Fla. last week and tried the tactic again, though since time a bit more conservative. She won the Division I title in 2:12.25 and advanced to the federation final Saturday. Phyllis Francis of Catherine McAuley advanced from Division II finishing first in 2:11.91. Heather Wilson of Homer won the Division II championship (2:15.39).

“I was trying for 2:10 today but hopefully I’ll run faster than that tomorrow,” said Lipsey, who won at Golden South in 2:08.23.

This time Bay Shore’s Sarah McCurdy shadowed her around the track and surged with 150 left. McCurdy close on Lipsey’s shoulder with 100 left but Lipsey kicked into gear to win.

‘I kept hearing her breathing on my back the whole time,” Lipsey said. “Then she came up and I said, ‘Come on, Charlene, don’t even wait. You have to go now.’”

Notables: Suffern won the Division I 4x100 championship, edging Boys & Girls by one-hundredth of a second. The Mounties finished in 47.78. … Suffern’s Jen Clayton won the Division I long jump in 19-1 1/2. … Boys & Girls senior Nadonnia Rodriques ran the fastest time in the Division I 200 trials, 24.76. … Carmel senior Kristin Reese, the would-be favorite in the 1,500, pulled out before the meet. She suffered a stress fracture in her right foot and wore a protective boot to the meet. It’s the same foot she injured at the end of the season last year. Her coach Harold Cargain said she’d been in the boot for three weeks.

Reach Christopher Hunt at chunt@armorytrack.com.