While there might not be much track going on in New York State, there is plenty of history to pore through. In our time off, we are looking to revisit all of the State Records for the Outdoor Season. Who these athletes were, where their marks came from, and where are they now.
From the "Snapshots Of A State Record" series, we go back to the year 2013 for a visit with some very speedy girls.
- - -
There were likely no more feared words in the world of high school girls sprint relays in the years 2012 and 2013 than when an announcer exclaimed, "And here comes Kadecia Baird!" That is the call being heard on a late Sunday afternoon at New Balance Nationals Outdoors on June 16, 2013. And indeed, if you are not a part of the Medgar Evers 4x100m relay team, you can stick a fork in any half-baked ideas of winning a national title in the next few seconds with Baird beginning to hit the jets on her anchor leg.
Both Baird and the Cougars' third leg Paige Thompson Charles were in this race two years before as sophomores when their team finished 3rd, and this time they are determined not to be denied a team national title. Baird is well decorated with individual crowns having started taking Nationals victories as a freshman, but she has also been the consummate team player and has basically blown off the 100m individual race to focus everything on ensuring that the Medgar Evers relay squad will get the win here after a week ago capturing the NY state championship on the same day that Baird was sweeping up the 100m and 200m titles for the second straight year.
The closest competition to the Cougars are the Junior Striders Track Club of Raleigh NC running out in lane 5, who have three sub-12.00 runners in Tyra Lea, Tianna Pantillo, and Ana Selina Tchume. The two teams got the measure of each other in prelims when Medgar Evers won the first heat in 46.43 and the Striders took theirs at 46.51. Two other teams from NC, the Bulldogs of Southeast Raleigh HS and Parkland are running in lanes 6 and 3 after posting the third and fourth fastest times, but Medgar Evers in lane 4 is the favorite if Baird can get the baton in any kind of reasonable contention. Her season's best 11.63 at the PSAL Championship is the top time among the anchors, as the Striders' Tchume has gone 11.90 and the Bulldogs' Emerging Elite race champ Shakina Brooks just did 11.85 to get the win. Like Baird, Tchume entered and ran not very hard in the Championship race 100m prelims to get set up for her team's relay.
If you added up the season's bests in the 100m for the Cougar quartet, the total time would be 48.24. But the sum of the parts of a close-knit team and a bit of a running start on the last three legs means that Medgar Evers is looking at a time in the low 46's. The school record is 46.22, and that would be a nice one to break. Even better, the state record is 46.16, so why not run even a little faster and pick up that mark too?
At the gun, the Cougars' rising sophomore star Brenessa Thompson who did an 11.90 for 3rd at the PSAL is out very fast and makes up the stagger on the Striders to pull even in the back straightaway before handing off to fellow sophomore Martina Brown at the 12.2 mark. Brown's best is a 12.54 and the Striders pull back the stagger and maybe a little more as both teams make the exchange at 23.4. Baird's senior comrade-in-arms Thompson Charles with a season's best of 12.17 is able to battle the Striders' third leg even around the turn as she comes up on Baird.
The final pass for Medgar Evers is made at 34.2, and it is perfect because it is executed at the beginning of the exchange zone to put the stick in Baird's hand for the maximum distance. Though she appears to hit the 80-meters-to-finish mark a half step behind the Striders' Tchume, she is already well-balanced and in full power mode. By the time the "Here comes Kadecia Baird" call is made, she has already opened up a one-stride lead and is well on the way to victory.
The Cougars do not not quite break 46, but at 46.01 they have knocked .15 off the state and PSAL conference record and .21 off the school mark. The Striders get 2nd at 46.47, a half second ahead of the Bulldogs.
For Baird, though she will go on over the next few weeks to run in 400m races at the USATF, Central America and Caribbean, and World championships, she has made sure that her final run with the Cougars is a memorable one.
When the 2013 track season started, the Medgar Evers (also known sometimes as Middle College, linked as a prep school to Medgar Evers College) span of around twelve years of spectacular results under coaches Nicola Martial and Shaun Dietz was in its later stages. Martial was technically the girls' coach and Dietz led the guys, but in reality they were just the two shared heads of a monster sprints program in Brooklyn. The guys had their biggest moments a few years earlier when Jermaine Brown and Andre Jordan racked up the wins and records, with Brown winning the 200m at outdoor Nationals in 2010.
The Cougars' girls squad blazed even a little brighter, with stars stretching back to 2005 with graduates Deiddra Rogers, Analise Austin, Janice Jackson, Nyanka Moise-Joseph, and Sandrae Farquharson part of squads that would rack up team and individual titles in the PSAL and States from 2005 on and relay national titles in the indoors 4x400m and outdoors 4x100m in 2011. Entering 2013, Medgar Evers girls owned the state relay records in the indoors 4x200m and 4x400m relays and the outdoors 800m sprint medley relay, all from 2011. All three of those marks along with a 400m mark set in 2012 at World Juniors in Barcelona, Spain included a big performance from now senior star Kadecia Baird, however, so her final year with the Cougars was going to be a time for sorting out where her star power could be applied most productively with team strengths for the best results in the relays. The Cougars had won the States 4x100m in 2012, and they would have had a streak going in the event if not for a 2nd place finish in 2011 when they did however pick up the 4x400m title.
From her entry into the Medgar Evers program in 2010 as a freshman when she would start piling up the state and even a Nationals title that June in the 200m, Baird had been a tight part of the Cougar relay squads. Martial and Dietz tried to balance the Cougars' focus on the relays with the star athletes' need to get their names mentioned prominently in that all-important hunt for a college scholarship. Many of the team's athletes hailed from Caribbean countries, with Baird holding Guyanese citizenship and her fellow senior Paige Thompson Charles from Grenada. The binding force of the relays was always strong, and many times a Cougar would be leading after the preliminaries in an event at a big meet and then scratch from the finals to focus on a relay, especially when the two events were close together.
Baird and Thompson Charles had been running together since 2010 (well, fall of 2009, if you count their extensive XC experience), but whereas Baird had been a major force on the relay squad in her freshman year, Thompson Charles had to wait until her turn arrived in 2012 and she could team with Baird to win the States 4x100m title and get a bronze in the Nationals 4x200m. The talented freshman Brenessa Thompson, like Baird and Coach Martial from Guyana, was also a part of the 2012 relay squads, nailing down most of the team that would be needed to win a national championship in 2013.
Besides the now sophomore Thompson who was setting herself up as the heir-apparent to Baird, the younger members of the 2013 Cougars also included sophomore sprinters Martina Brown, Karimah Senior, and Janai Cameron, junior Ashley Tasher, and the freshman Shayla Broughton who set a frosh state high jump record of 5-8 in almost her first meet at the Bishop Loughlin Games and then would go on in later years to win state and national championships in events such as the hurdles and long jump and naturally become a record-setting pentathlete.
With a wealth of talent to fuel a big year, the Medgar Evers championship relay quest got things going early at the Armory in the Bishop Loughlin meet in December by taking the 4x200m win at a speedy early season time of 1:41.97. In January at the Hispanic Games, the Cougars' season's prospects took a hit when Baird went down with a pulled hamstring. Fortunately, the injury was not that major, and by the New Balance Collegiate meet in early February Baird made a big return with a 37.54 time in the 300m that is an all-time NY record and was #2 for the US ever. Baird also added the second leg of a 1:38.59 of the 4x200m along with Thompson, Thompson Charles, and Cameron for a US #1 mark. Then at the Millrose Games, Thompson won the 55m championship, and the Cougars captured the 4x200 title at a new season's best of 1:38.44.
At the PSAL Championship, Baird had a super battle with Benjamin Cardozo's Deajah Stevens while winning the 300m at 38.00, then she helped take the 4x200m at 1:38.55. The Cougars lost Brenessa Thompson for the season though, scrambling the relay picture as Martina Brown stepped in. The States meet followed, and Baird won the 55m title and scratched from the 300m after prelims to lead the 4x200m to the title in finals of a great battle with New Rochelle. Again at New Balance Indoor Nationals, Baird scratched from the 200m after preliminaries to focus on the second leg of the 4x200m. The strategy for the Cougars was always to get an early lead to stay out of trouble and try to hold on for the win. Head-to-head with the same Raleigh NC Junior Striders squad they would see at outdoor Nationals, the Cougars went to finals with the second best prelims time of 1:38.95 to the Striders' 1:37.87. In finals, Brown got the Cougars out in a fast 23.58 and Baird powered through a 23.10 to open a one second lead on the Striders. Paige Thompson expanded the lead to 1.6 seconds with a 24.20, and then Cameron was able to hold off the Striders' Tyra Lea at the finish by .05 for the national crown and set an all-time NY indoor 4x200 record at 1:37.29.
Things had to get even better for the Cougars in the outdoor season with Brenessa Thompson on the mend for an eventual return to the lineup. In mid April at the Mayor's Cup meet at Icahn Stadium, Paige Thompson won the 100m while Baird took the 200m and 400m and the Cougars captured the 4x100m at 48.63. A week later at NY Relays, Medgar Evers had the first of a season-long series of contests with New Rochelle in the 4x100m and won in 47.60. At the Howard Richter meet in the Bronx at the beginning of May, Thompson made her return and the team ran a 48.64 for the 4x100m. At Loucks in early May, the Cougars again topped the Huguenots with a slightly lower time of 47.54.
At PSAL championships, Baird once again put on a spectacular show by sweeping up the wins in the 100m, 200, and 400m and then replacing Cameron in the 4x100m finals for a win at 47.94. Baird then repeated as the States 100m and 200m champ, and Medgar Evers got set for Nationals by again topping New Rochelle, but this time with very fast mark of 46.49.
The scene was set for Nationals and a repeat of the indoors battle with the Junior Striders, though this time at the 4x100m distance instead of the 4x200m. The 46.01 time in the 4x100m set an all-time NY best, and would mark the third year in a row that the Cougars would run below 47.0. That streak would continue to six straight years through 2016 for a Medgar Evers program whose top times for each year hold down seven of the top 18 spots in NY annals, with the 2005 team whose school record the 2013 team broke owning the third best mark ever at 46.22.
Following her final season that included a NY's 2nd best 400m mark of 51.32 set at the Central American and Caribbean Championship in July, Baird went on to run for first the University of Nebraska and then Texas A&M, while ThompsonCharles became a Blue Hen at the University of Delaware. Before heading off to join Baird in 2015 at Texas A&M, Brenessa Thompson went on to scoop up three individual States titles and helped the Cougars run their 4x100m win streak at States to four with titles in 2014 and 2015. Brown and Cameron were also part of an impressive feat in 2015 when they were part of a Cougar squad that beat a Rush-Henrietta team that included Sammy and Ceara Watson and Lanae Tava Thomas in the indoors 4x200m States championship.
Before Medgar Evers ran its 46.01, the previous state record in the 4x100m had been held by the 2001 A. Philip Randolph team that ran a 46.16 while finishing 5th in the Championship of America race at Penn Relays. That team consisted of Natasha O'Connor, Yendy Gilchrist, Desiree Moorer, and Natasha Hastings, who was part of the US gold medal squad in the 4x400m at the 2008 Olympics.