Flashback Friday: 2018 Steeplechase - The Fall and Last Dash

To say that Brooklyn Tech's Aziza Chigatayeva pulled off a big surprise to win the 2018 States 2K steeplechase championship would be to state the obvious. Coming in as the 9th seed overall with a season's best 7:00.37 (she went a little under 7:00 three times in 2017) in a 5th at the Loucks Games, she was not mentioned as a likely candidate for a medal in the meet previews. Since the girls steeplechase inception at States in 2002, no athlete from the PSAL had ever finished in the top 5 there, and even a top 10 place was rare, though Chigatayeva was 6th in 2017. And despite a gallant effort that put her in 2nd place with 100 meters to go in the race, there would have been likely no one in the Cicero-North Syracuse crowd of spectators who thought that Chigatayeva would Engineer a win as Tully freshman Brooke Rauber sprinted toward the final barrier.

But as in 2014 in the boys 3K steeplechase at States when Corning's John McCarthy was taken down on the final barrier and Hilton's Tyler Ranke came up for the win, the last obstacle was the tough one for Rauber. She had taken over the lead from Chigatayeva with about 200 meters to go just before the last water jump and seemed to be flying away to the win. But as Rauber approached the final barrier she made a series of small stutter steps before her jump, clipped her heel on the barrier, and went down hard, banging her head on the track. Rauber lurched to her feet and staggered off to the right as Chigatayeva hurdled the last obstacle and dashed in to claim the Federation title at 6:43.04 for a big PR and a PSAL record. Rauber reeled over the line at 6:45.34 to take the NYSPHSAA title and set a new freshman state record. A big surge over the last two laps carried FDR's Sarah Trainor from 8th to a 3rd place finish at 6:47.78.

A week later at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, the NY steeplers were back at it and took the 2nd through 8th places behind super sophomore Taylor Ewart of Beavercreek OH. This time Trainor got the NY group's top time at 6:41.47, followed by Rauber, Chigatayeva, Kaitlyn Chandrika of Mt. Sinai, Madison Neuner of Liverpool, Mary Borkoski of Pearl River, and Haleigh Morales of North Rockland. In 2019, Trainor set the national record at the FDR meet on May 8th at 6:29.08 and then went on to set a States meet record with a 6:31.59 as Rauber again finished 2nd at 6:41.95 (and also took 2nd to Ewart at Nationals) and Cornwall 8th grader Karrie Baloga set a state 8th grade record in 3rd at 6:43.19.