By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – Matt Lorenzo didn’t want to be that guy again. He didn’t want to be able to say this again:
“At nationals, everyone showed up but me,” the Upper Dublin senior said.
Lorenzo didn’t want to re-live that moment. Not in front of this many people. Not at Penn Relays. So Lorenzo took the opportunity to vanquish the moment, erase the memory of a sixth-place finish at nationals that rested on his shoulders.
So Lorenzo did what he was supposed to do this time. He put Upper Dublin in position to race. His teammates took care of the rest. Lorenzo (3:08.6), Chris Melton (50.0), Paul Reilly (1:55.3) and Mike Palmisano (4:14.6) won the boys Distance Medley Championship of America in 10:08.48 Friday at Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
“All day I was thinking, I had no idea where I was going to get the stick,” Palmisano said. “Matt did a great job.”
Lorenzo handed off to Melton in fourth. Melton and Reilly moved the team into the lead when Palmisano took over on the 1,600-meter anchor leg. It wasn’t long before West Windsor Plainsboro North’s Jim Rosa decided to control the pace and moved to the front. Palmisano latched on to his shoulder and shadowed him until about 300 remaining when Palmisano started to fall back.
To anyone watching, it seemed that Palmisano’s tank hit empty and that he’d watch while Rosa pulled away. But instead Palmisano’s drop off was more like the dead silence before an explosion. He zoomed by Rosa and WWWN’s anchor just couldn’t respond.
“We wanted to show them, we wanted to show everybody, that we’re here and not just some team,” Lorenzo said.
Jeremy Rae of Lakewood High in Ontario, Canada made a similar point. Rae, who’s headed to Notre Dame in the fall, blasted off the starting line and buried the field early in the boys championship mile. It stayed that way too – with Rae 30 meters ahead of the pack – until the bell lap. Rae ‘s arms had receded into his chest and he looked like he was tying up. Ocean City’s Brett Johnson used the show of weakness to pounce and made a mad dash to reel in Rae.
But as soon as Johnson got a step behind Rae, it was like he set off an alarm clock in Rae’s sleeping mind, and a renewed Canadian miler went flying down the home straightaway to win in 4:08.13 in his first race of the outdoor season.
“I heard him,” Rae said. “Then I realized that crowd was getting really loud so I knew someone was coming on me. That kind of woke me up. It’s hard to be out there the whole time by yourself. I know I can run much faster.”
The strong move punished Johnson and he faded to fourth. Drew Shields of Fishers (Ind.) finished second in 4:12.34. Shields also said he needed a wake-up call during the race and it came when he looked up with two laps to go and he was stuck in sixth place. Then he looked ahead to see Johnson making a surge for Rae and realized he needed to start running.
“I knew who Jeremy Rae was but I didn’t know what he looked like,” Shields said. “Maybe if I knew that was him I would have tried to stay up a closer.”
It looked like Sherwood star Solomon Haile was experiencing the same ills in the boys 3,000 championship at first as well. Haile never broke away from the pack and instead was content to sit with a bunching pack for most of the race. Haile led headed into the home stretch but virtually stopped with 75 meters left and Robert Micikas of Crestwood (Pa.) came up to win in 8:23.84, a personal best and the fastest time in the country this season. Haile fell to fourth. Ben Furcht of Lower Merion (Pa.) finished second in 8:24.72 and Bobby Andrews of Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) was third in 8:25.40.
“I didn’t come in here expecting to beat him,” said Micikas, who has committed to Cornell. “Once I saw him with like 400 meters left I figured I might as well go for it.”
Haile said he had been struggled with allegories and a cold. On the home straight he said he just had nothing left.
“I was expecting this was going to happen,” Haile said. “I was prepared for this. … I’ll be back for nationals. I’m going to avenge this race.”
As unaccustomed as people are to not seeing Haile completely dominate a distance race, the same could be said for Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.) taking the line in the girls 4x100 Championship of America. Roosevelt’s prowess has been in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays enough that the crowd reacted whenever their school was announced. Even as leadoff leg Abidemi Adenikinju took the line she could hear boo’s raining in from overhead.
But none of that affected the team. Adenikinju, Aurieyall Scott, Jenea McCammon and Afia Charles finished second in 45.24, behind Vere Tech of Jamaica which won in 45.10. Roosevelt’s time is the fastest in the country this season.
“We came in thinking that if we don’t win we want to run fast,” Adenikinju said.
They accomplished that. And success was all the more important after the team didn’t qualify Thursday for Friday’s 4x400 final.
“I think we did really well,” Charles said. “Yesterday was one of the worst feelings. But it’s like our coach said, ‘Everybody loses. We don’t always win. It was just a humbling experience.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.