By Christopher Hunt
photos by Tim Fulton and www.wingedfootfotos.com
PHILADELPHIA – Sheepshead Bay’s Naquan Alexander had no idea whether his team had won or lost. It was that close. He had seen the scenario play out in the opposite way so many times – him uncatchable down the straightaway.
This time it was him fighting like mad to hold off Rancho Verde (Calif.) before the finish. They clocked the same time, 41.93 seconds, but Sheepshead Bay placed second in the Large Schools 4x100 final at Penn Relays Saturday at Franklin Field.
“I got the baton late,” Alexander said. “I couldn’t get it in my hand. Then it took me a while to get going.”
There isn’t much room for error in a race so quick and Sheepshead Bay had two. First, second leg, Richmond Ahadzi left is mark late and leadoff Darryl Bradshaw ran into his back before they could exchange the baton. Then Alexander left his mark early and had to wait for John Thomas to insure they exchanged in the legal passing zone.
“I’m not disappointed,” Alexander said. “It’s crazy that we can run like that and not even have all our guys and still run 41.”
Ahadzi substituted Ayo Isijoli, who was suffering with an injured knee. Sheepshead Bay coach John Padula sat Isijoli Saturday, not because of the injury but for the fact that Isijoli wasn’t active in trying to treat it properly.
“He didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” Padula said. “No kid is bigger than the program. He could have run today. I didn’t let him. … Richmond is an incredibly talented kid. He just didn’t get out. But he’ll learn. It comes with experience. They’ve done a great job. We’ve got a list of goals on the door and we have a lot more to do. We’re looking forward for nationals. Everything in between is in preparation for that.”
Fordham Prep senior Wayne Seaton finished fourth in the 400 hurdles in the morning as the second American finisher, crossing the line in 53.96, the second-fastest time in the country. The winner, Jordan Rispress of Hillard (Ohio) finished in a nation-leading 51.89.
“I thought I’d do better to be totally honest,” Seaton said. “I was still pretty happy.”
He could only say that in retrospect. Seaton had two weeks without training while he attended a trip with his school to Paris. The senior resumed practice a week ago and described his training sessions as “kind of dismal.” But his legs were fresh for the race and he showed no signs of rust. He even displayed some super-human abilities.
“Coming down the last straightaway, I could hear my coach screaming in my head to finish strong,” Seaton said. “I don’t know how that happened.”
Fordham Prep coach George Febles was on the opposite end of the stadium from the home straight and about 15 rows up in the stands. It would have been hard enough to hear him three seats over.
But the Seaton heard Febles afterward when the coach told Seaton to relax for the first part of his leadoff leg in the 4x400. Seaton admitted he was still reeling from the race earlier. But he still managed to keep his team in the race. Seaton (51.4), Michael Jennings (50.4), Carlos Petrovich (49.3) and Zach Keefer (47.3) won their heat in the Large Schools 4x400 in 3:18.68, the fastest time in the state this season.
“They ran well,” Febles said. “I can’t complain. I told Wayne to back off until the last 100 meters or so and he had too much left at the end. I guess that was my fault. But the guys ran great.”
Febles also said Keefer’s anchor leg split is believed to be the fastest in the school’s history.
“I kind of wanted to be in a faster heat,” Keefer said. “I counted about eight teams that could run 3:15. We ran 3:18 in a heat without any Jamaicans. We’re excited for the rest of the season. We know we can run faster.”
Five of the seven teams that qualified for the Championship of American were Jamaican schools. St. Jago won the championship in 3:12.55.
7 NY TEAMS WON THEIR HEAT IN THE 4X400
Fordham Prep (Bronx- NY) 3:18.68
Edison Tech (Rochester- NY) 3:19.86
Saratoga Springs (Saratoga Springs- NY) 3:20.90
Uniondale (Uniondale- NY) 3:22.01
Cardinal Hayes (Bronx- NY) 3:25.42
Massapequa (Massapequa- NY) 3:27.48
Harry S Truman (Bronx- NY) 3:29.97