#2 - Huntington Closes Out The Year With A Meet Record
As per our rules, Huntington Girls' 4x200m performance may not have been the fastest, or ranked the highest All-Time, but nonetheless, it was the second most significant performance taken place in 2020, and maybe even larger than that. Yes, it was fast. Their 1:40.27 was good for NY #2, and US #6. Yes, it was significant. It was the third fastest time run by a team on Long Island, surpassed only by two marks from Uniondale. Not only that, but it's the fourth fastest time by a school outside of NYC, a new Section 11 Record. But most importantly, and unbeknownst at the time to anybody watching, it would be the last. In the middle of March, it would be the last heat, the last race, of the last sanctioned meet of the year, for the Class of 2020. Never before had that happened, and hopefully, never again.
Heading into the State Meet, the Huntington Girls were not the favorite. They had run a respectable 1:42.35 earlier in the year at the Hispanic Games, but they were up against Paul Robeson, who held the State Meet Record at 1:40.75, and had bested them at those same Hispanic Games. They would get their rematch at Millrose, under the spotlight, but Robeson would remain the favorites there, at least by in-state competition.
But Huntington was strong. At Millrose Games, they split their squad. Forming around Analisse Batista and Alicia Brooks, they joined Caroline O'Rourke and Brianna Halbeisen to run a Seasons' Best 4x400m earlier in the meet, grabbing 3:58.10 for NY #7. Then, coming back later in the night, Hope Bilkey and Olivia Conte would swap in, and help the team drop a 1:42.85 for 5th place, behind Robeson in 3rd. The next time the pair would meet, would be on fresher legs. The State Meet would serve as the final matchup.
Huntington easily won their qualifier, running 1:42.54, then came back a week later to run 1:42.84. Both of those marks were run on flat tracks. It showed the girls were ready for a big jump. That jump would come soon.
States was a busy day for the two anchors on their Millrose Squad. Sandwiched between the 4x200m prelims and finals, Alicia Brooks took 7th in both the 55m Prelims and Finals. In the 600m, a hard fought effort garnered a Public School win, and Federation Runner-Up Title to Analisse Batista, running NY #2 in 1:32.05. Running right behind Batista in that 600m, was Robeson's leadoff, Lailah White. They would be on even footing for the 4x200m Final. The Prelim had gone off to start the day. Huntington had upset the standings, surpassing NY #2 Saint Anthony's and NY #1 Paul Robeson to set a new Season Best in 1:41.33. They were now the stop seed.
The gun goes off, and the lead off runners are out. Robeson is on the Outside Lane, with Huntington directly to their left. Alicia Brooks on leadoff does her best to hold off Robeson, and gets out to an early lead, closing the stagger before the backstretch. She pulls dead even off the turn, but Robeson regains the stagger by the first exchange. However, a cleaner handoff gives second leg Analisse Batista the advantage at the break line, and Huntington leads through the second exchange. Still tight through the second runner, once again, much of Huntington's advantage comes through the exchange to Hope Bilkey. One more lap around the track, and Huntington maintains their 3 meter lead. Olivia Conte grabs the baton on the anchor exchange, and opens up a gap. Huntington put the exchange directly over the finish, while Robeson came forward to the beginning of the zone, creating an unsurpassable gap. Chased down by NY #3 in the 300m in Robeson's Leanne Mc Donald, Conte increases her lead to cross the line in a new US #6 performance, and managing to take down the reigning Meet Record in the process. What a way to close out the meet.
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Little did they know, that during their check-in for the 4x200m Final, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo had declared an official 'State Of Emergency for the Containment of a Novel Coronavirus'. At the time, the spectators in the facility could not predict what would befall New York City in the coming weeks. How it would be the last live sporting event they would see for months, broadcast or in-person. Athletes would collect their medals, and rest easy knowing that whatever their result, New Balance Indoor Nationals was a week away, and times could be improved one last time. But those plans would soon change, as would the sport.