By Christopher Hunt
HUNTINGTON – She said it was easy. Hempstead’s Charlene Lipsey handled a field that included of some the best middle distance runners in the state. She ran alone from the start and challenge the best times ever in New York State history for 800 meters.
And without taking a second to catch her breath after the race – she said it was easy.
Lipsey won the 800 in 2:05.83 at the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Her time is the fastest in the country this season and a two-second personal best.
“She’s still not ready yet,” Hempstead coach Lenroy Raffington said. “We have bigger goals in mind.”
Both Lipsey and Raffington haven’t been shy about saying that they are looking forward to faster races and toward the national championships and that the races in between are preparation. Lipsey said that she wouldn’t run many 800-meter races this season and instead has races more 400’s so far. Her race Saturday was her first 800 meters of the season.
“I really wasn’t aiming for a time,” Lipsey said. “I just wanted to win. I think that I needed to be aggressive. When you’re in a race with some of those girls that you know are really good, you have to get out. You can’t wait for it to come down to a kick in the last 200 meters. You think that you’re going to have a better kick than them and they are going to be right here with you.”
The way Lipsey ran, she never presented an opportunity for anyone to challenge but certainly gave a target for those behind her to run fast. Garden City’s Emily Menges finished second in a personal best 2:08 and St. Anthony’s freshman Olicia Williams was third in 2:09.63, a New York State freshman class record. And as fast as Lipsey ran, she assured she had more to give.
“I knew that I was still holding back a little,” she said. “That’s very encouraging because it makes me feel like I’ll be ready when it comes time for nationals.”
The LSU-bound senior has had nationals on the brain ever since she blew a lead in the last 50 meters and lost the indoor national championship in the 800 meters to McAuley’s Phyllis Francis at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in March.
“Nationals, I took that personal,” Lipsey said. “That was my wake up call. It’s not like I wasn’t training hard in the winter but now I’m really training hard. Every since that day I’ve been working my butt off. I feel like I’m the underdog now. I think I like being the underdog.”
If that wasn’t enough, she returned later to finish third in the 400 in 56.50. She struggled down the last straightaway and shrugged her shoulders after the race as if to say, “That’s all I had left.”
Teammate Donna-Lee Hylton on the race in 55.36 after Lipsey crushed the first 200 meters.
“I really had to run her down over there (on the back straightaway),” Hylton said. “Then on the last curve I really just had to give it all I had. It felt faster than a 55.”
Hempstead swept the sprint events from the 100 to the 800. Velma Morant won the 100 and later won the 200 in 25.52. Visibly frustrated, Morant said she had run 24.4 for 200 and 11.78 as a high schooler in Jamaica before coming to the states this academic year. But she’s quickly helped Hempstead create one of the best sprint trios in the state.
One of the states’ best hurdlers, Janice Jackson, returned to competition for Medgar Evers at the Penn Relays last week. She won her first hurdle race since returning to the team in 14.40. She was disappointed with her performance though after struggling, then simply ditching, her starting blocks.
“My blocks were broken,” she said. “Darryl (Bradshaw of Sheepshead Bay) tried to help me with his but it wasn’t working so I just ran without blocks. I was distracted, thinking about everyone else running in blocks but me and I had a bad start.”
Jackson had been kickoff the team after refusing to run a relay at the Brooklyn Championships indoors and missed the state meet. Then she ran at NSIC with her club team, Awesome Power. Jackson has since reconciled with her coach, Nicola Martial, and rejoined the team last week.
“I’m just happy to be back running with the team and that we were able to come to an agreement,” she said. “I realized that there’s not a lot of opportunities for kids that aren’t on high school teams to compete against people their age. You have to do all this traveling and go around looking for races. It’s a lot harder.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.