By Christopher Hunt
all photos www.wingedfootfotos.com
or Tim Fulton / Armorytrack.com
Amadou Gueye had never run the 55-meter hurdles before. He didn’t know what a good time was. He never raced at the Bishop Loughlin Games before. In fact, the Albany Academy senior never even ran indoor track.
So he could shrug is shoulders at running the top time in the United States this season. Gueye won the 55 hurdles in 7.44 seconds. A second faster or slower would’ve made no difference in his mind. He had enough stress for the day. Gueye drove down from Albany but about 40 miles from home his father's car started overheating bad enough that they decided to turn back and switch cars.
They never thought about staying home.
“My dad wouldn’t have let me do that,” he said. “I was definitely going to race.”
Gueye made it to the meet 20 minutes before the start of the preliminary heats. He ran 7.68 and advanced as the third-fastest qualifier. In the final, Sheepshead Bay’s Darryl Bradshaw flew off the start line first and turned Gueye into the chaser. But every time Gueye snapped down his lead leg he bit into Bradshaw’s lead until he took over the front. Bradshaw finished second in 7.66.
“I got out pretty well,” said Gueye, who transferred to Albany Academy from Shaker Heights in Ohio. “I just kept pushing.”
This is Gueye’s first indoor season. He said he has run 14.4 in the 110 hurdles outdoors but tore his meniscus in his left knee last year playing soccer. Gueye’s heard of the Armory but never raced here.
“I know this is a big track, a big place to run so I was excited,” he said.
Gueye wasn’t the only one to turn inexperience into success. Sheepshead Bay junior John Thomas had never raced 300 meters before. Yet he burned through the first 200 meters in the final and came off the final curve with full command of the race. He won in 34.21, the fastest-time in the nation this season. Only one person in the country even ran faster last year.
“I blocked out everything,” he said. “I was just thinking about me and my race and nobody else.”
Plus there was more at stake than a gold medal.
“My coach promised me that if I won I’d get Sheepshead Bay sweatshirts in every color,” he said, which turned out to be four different sweatshirts. “I want them.”
It could end up being an expensive promise if he made it to the entire team. Bradshaw (23.0), Ayo Isijola (22.5), Paul Fyffe (22.9) and Naquan Alexander (23.1) won the 4x200 in 1:31.52. Fyffe was the newcomer on a team that won the outdoor national championship in the 4x200 relay.
“We ran hard,” Fyffe said. “We practice hard and we ran hard.”
It looked like they hadn’t missed a beat. The baton exchanges were almost flawless and once Isijola grabbed the lead on the second leg, the team never let up. Fyffe said he never doubted the win.
“As soon as the race started and Darryl went on the leadoff, I knew the race was over,” he said.
No one quite dominated events though like Carlton Lavong of Methacton. Lavong broke a 22-year old meet record in the long jump, flying out to 22 feet, 2.75 inches. The topped a record of 24-1.75 set by J. McDonald of Kingston in 1986. Then Lavong came back to win the triple jump in 47-1.
“I actually came in here looking to jump 25 feet,” Lavong said, explaining that he jumped 24-1 twice over the summer with the Philadelphia-based Mount Airy Track Club.
Lavong liked the Armory to the facility at Penn State, where the Pennsylvania meet will be held, in terms of atmosphere because of the banked track and the surrounding bleachers.
“I like to put on a show,” he said. “The atmosphere here fits me. If there’s no crowd there’s no me.”
But mostly it just seemed that he has the state meet on the brain after he only jumped 21-10 last year at the winter state meet and failed to make the long jump final.
“This is big but I still have unfinished business at the state meet,” he said. “I’m out to make a statement in Pa.”
Middle County senior Miles Lewis made a statement in the 55 dash, whether it was intentional or not. He shocked even himself winning in 6.46, more than two-tenths of a second faster than his previous best.
“I’m not even really a 55-meter runner,” he said. “This is crazy. This is like the world right now.”
Lewis had even been limited in training because of some pain in his left hip. Saturday was meant to serve as a hard practice. Instead it became a confidence-builder.
“I can’t believe I won against those guys,” he said.
Colonie senior Tyler Stewart wasn’t quite as surprised but is finish was no less exciting. The 1,000 meters had become a four-man dash for the finish with 150 meters left. Iona Prep’s
Sean Halpin had led for most of the race but dropped back to third before zooming down the back straightaway to regain the lead. Stewart followed with Fordham Prep’s Mike Jennings and Louis Serafini of Niskayuna in tow.
“I know a bunch of those guys in that field,” Stewart said. “Some of us even warmed up and stretched together. So I was really familiar with what was going to happen.”
Stewart swung wide and edged Halpin in the last 40 meters to win the 1,000 in 2:31.49, the fastest-time in the country so far this season. Halpin finished in 2:31.61.
“I was actually surprised that Halpin took the lead early on like that,” Stewart said. “On the back straightaway I knew I had to go. That was really good.”
Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) senior Clayton Parros had a similar sentiment after winning the 600 in 1:21.59. Parros is primarily a 400-meter runner in his first 600. He held off a charging group in the stretch to finish ahead of Fordham Prep’s Zach Keefer in second in 1:21.71.
“I saw them coming up,” Parros said. “I was just thinking to hold them off. It’s almost over. My legs were just going. I didn’t even feel them anymore.”
T.J. Hobart of Baldwin (Pittsburgh, Pa.) showed off his own finishing kick in the mile. He won in 4:20.65, closing the last lap in 62 seconds. Port Washington’s Marco Bertolotti challenged for the lead with 250 left which simply incited Hobart’s kick.
“I just wanted to sit back and stay relaxed,” said Hobart, who added that he was hoping to qualify for the mile at the Millrose Games this season. “My coach just took me out here to get a race in. The kick was pretty good. It’s not where I want it to be yet but it’ll get there.”
Transit Tech was also working out some kinks while winning the 4x800 in 8:08.27 with a squad of Fard Rollock, Kameron George, Malik Sykes and Elijah Rollack.
“We came out trying to get everyone around 2-flat and break 8 minutes,” George said. “We weren’t successful but there will be other opportunities to do it.”
Robby Andrews of Manalapan (N.J.) on the 2-mile in 9:27.72 and Don Bosco’s Scott Weissmiller won the pole vault by clearing 14-0.
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.