By Christopher Hunt
WARWICK – So many scenarios could have replayed his mind. Flash back to the 4x800 at the state championships. Flash back to the sprint medley at nationals, the 4x800 at nationals. Those races Fordham Prep’s Michael Jennings had to watch a few of the biggest races of his scholastic career slip through his fingers like sand.
This episode of déjà vu went back to the same meet last year. In all those races Jennings had the lead and waited for someone to take over the pace. At this year’s Warwick Fast Times, Jennings took the baton on the anchor leg just behind Warwick’s Charlie Armand. Then Jennings shadowed Armand for 500 meters while Arlington’s John Muller made a frantic chase from behind.
Muller challenged but had burned too much energy closing the gap but his presence on the back straightaway forced Jennings to make a move on Armand, which forced Armand to respond. Then the Jennings and Armand were left to push each other until one of them broke on the home stretch. Both started flailing with 20 meters left but Jennings inched ahead to give Fordham Prep the win in 7:46.4 at along with Phil O’Connell (1:59.4), Carlos Petrovich (1:54.9) and Zach Keefer (1:57.3). Warwick Valley was credited with the same time but finished second. Jennings anchored in 1:54.8.
“I guess you are a pretty good anchor,” Fordham Prep coach George Febles said to Jennings after the race.
“Only at this meet,” he responded.
Jennings remembered being outkicked by Armand at the state championships in the 4x800 indoors then dropping two heartbreaking losses to Washington Township’s Xavier Fraction at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships. But last year at Warwick Fast Times, Jennings outkicked a steep field in the last 200 meters then simply outlasted Armand in the stretch Monday night.
“I was sitting on Warwick the whole time,” Jennings said. “I was right on his shoulder. Then Arlington came up and that messed up my plan. (Armand) outkicked me at states so I had to get him back. I knew he wasn’t going to back off. He’s a strong kid.”
Fordham Prep devoted most of this season’s relay races to the 4x400, where the Rams are among the favorites for a state championship. But after a disappointing showing at Penn Relays, Monday’s meet served as a chance for absolution. And a chance to run fast. The time is the second fastest in the state this season.
“This is the place to run a 4x800,” Febles said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Then on weary legs and short rest, the team came back to win the 4x00 in 3:18.99 with Jennings (50.4), Wayne Seaton (49.5), Petrovich (49.2) and Keefer (49.5). Once Seaton broke away from St. Anthony’s and Farrell on the second leg, the Rams weren’t challenged again. More importantly, they showed they can still run fast with a hard race already in their legs.
“We knew we could do it,” Keefer said. “We’ve had guys triple and run under 49. I remember when it was hard to break 3:25. Now breaking 3:20 is pretty simple. It’s late in the season and guys are really strong and consistent right now.”
Strong and consistent is a perfect way to describe the Bronxville girls relay. Olivia Bruton (2:20.3), Tori Flannery (2:19.0), Caitlin Hudson (2:15.0) and Henrietta Miers (2:13.0) won the girls 4x800 relay in 9:06.12. Afterward, the girls talked about taking aim at a sub-9 minute race at some point this season.
“I think we have the potential,” Hudson said. “I think it’s really about all of us running out personal bests on the same day.”
Bronxville has historically been a top-notch relay team and the coach, Jim Mitchell, said they still have plenty more to give this season.
“When you win up there it’s always a good omen for the state meet,” he said. “The girls were tremendous today.”
Warwick Valley won the girls 4x400 in 3:56.64 with Kayla Leahey (61.0), Gab Astorino (60.5), Sharnai Bentley (57.7) and Jacqueline Kasal (57.1). Newburgh won the girls 4x100 in 48.75 and the boys 4x100 in 43.00.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.
Stephen Furst - 4:02.31
Michael Didi - 4:03.16
Mike Kerrigan - 4:05.25
Alex Wechsler - 4:07.36