By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – She’ll look down at her ankle and remember the day. It won’t be the metal spikes and tore a layer of skin from her ankle but the subsequent moments that will burn into her memory.
“It’s all a learning experience,” Hempstead senior Charlene Lipsey said.
Lipsey finished third in the girls mile championship at the Penn Relays in 5:00.50 at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania. It was Lipsey’s first outdoor mile race. She ran two indoors with a best of 4:55.81. Her race Thursday though, was at the very least, a culmination of her tremendous versatility.
The LSU-bound senior first ran the second leg on Hempstead’s 4x100 relay, then anchored the Tigers’ 4x400 with a 55.4 split. Donna Lee-Hylton, Lipsey, Velma Jackson and Asheka Gibson finished in 3:55.24, the third fastest of any New York school for the day. But Lipsey said all the races didn’t affect her. After the 4x400 she went back to the hotel for a nap and reset herself before the mile.
It wasn’t long before she was knocked to the rear of the lead pack. She never gained position in the thick of the race, languished around fourth for most of the race and sprinted up for third on the home stretch.
“I tried to settle in but I was just all over the place,” Lipsey said. “I’d speed up then slow down, move up then move back. There was so much going on. My mind was just elsewhere.”
Lipsey said contended that the two earlier races didn’t affect her legs and in fact may have benefited her in the long run.
“I know it’s just going to make me stronger,” she said.
Suffern senior Shelby Greany also had a race that will linger in her memory. Greany was poised to strike with 300 meters left in the girls 3,000 championship, pressing Emily Jones of Bromfield (Mass.) down the back straightway. But with Greany moving on Jones’ shoulder, Stephanie Morgan of Barnesville (Ohio) swooped by both of them for the win in 9:31.32 with Jones second in 9:32.22 and Greany third in 9:35.42. The times are the top three in the country this season respectively.
“When you work so hard for something and you really want it, it just hurts when you don’t get it,” said Greany, who was in tears after the race.
But even her coach was hard-pressed to find a mistake Greany committed in the race. She stayed out of trouble, stayed in position and covered any surges.
“She made all the moves she needed to,” Suffern coach Jeff Dempsey said. “You can never feel bad when you make all the right moves and lose.”
Her time is a 13-second personal best and a Section 1 record. Cornwall sophomore Aisling Cuffe finished fourth in 9:45.82. Roslyn’s Emily Lipari led for half the race but fell back to fifth in 9:50.96 and North Shore’s Samantha Nadel finished seventh in 9:51.80. Greany basically said she ran out of gears in the stretch.
“I’m happy with my time,” she said. “I could’ve stayed short (with my strides). I could have pumped harder. I didn’t focus on my form. I think it got a little crazy at the end and I didn’t focus on my form like I should have.”
Danicka Simonson (3:36.4), Kathleen Klein (59.6), Alex Burtnick (2:19.0) and Lizzie Predmore (5:11.3) also placed third for Shenendehowa in the girls Distance Medley Championship of America in 12:06.26.
“We’re happy but we know we can definitely run faster,” Predmore said.
Shen spent most of the race in second place after a solid leadoff leg by Simonson. “It was kind of intimating at first because of all the time and it was really physical in the beginning,” she said.
“There’s something special about Penn,” said Shen coach Steve Cloutier, who was wearing the Penn Relays watch he earned anchoring a Shen distance medley relay in 1999. “It doesn’t matter the weather or how you’re feeling, it’s always something special. I think it was going to be tough to run fast here at this point in the season. But they believe they’re going to do something big.”
The only thing that kept Shen from finishing second was a monstrous 4:53.8 anchor leg by Southern Regional’s Jillian Smith that brought her team from the abyss of seventh place to running out of room to chase the leader in the home stretch. The leader, Tatnall (Del.), which led throughout, finished in 11:49.37 with Katie Buenaga (3:33.3), Tia Cooper (57.4), Carly Simmons (2:19.4), Juliet Bottorff (4:59.3). Southern Regional was second in 11:58.74.
It was questionable that Smith would run at all after injuring her hip flexor at the Comet Relays two weeks ago. Southern’s star half-miler, Chelsea Cox, also struggled on the 1200-meter leadoff leg which buried the team for most of the race.
Cardozo ran without its top quarter-miler and narrowly missed qualifying for the today’s Championship of America. Ahtyana Johnson (57.8), Tessa West (56.6), Latiesha Philson (56.6) and Alexis Mapson (60.2) finished second in their heat in 3:51.23, the fastest time in New York State this season and just three-hundreds of a second outside of qualifying for the final.
“That hurts man,” Cardozo coach Gail Emmanuel said. “It really hurts.”
Chamique Francis, who would normally run the anchor leg for Cardozo, had been suffering with an upper thigh injury that she seemed to aggravate in the 4x100 and sat out of the 4x400. Still, Emmanuel said her young time could have done better.
“I can’t beat up on the kids,” she said. “It was their first time, for most of them, and they ran the best they could. They ran their hearts out. I still think that we this team, we could have run faster.”
Only West had competed at Penn Relays before and she said the team responded well to the pressure and the atmosphere. She especially commended Philson, a freshman hurdler who normally sticks to the short sprints.
“Latiesha hates the 400,” West said. “But she knows it’s about the team and she really came through for us. She really ran great and sometimes you do things that you don’t like doing because you want to help the team.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.