Flashback Friday: Isaiah Claiborne Clocks States' Best 1K

The 1K is easy to love at States. Five intense laps around the track is just perfect indoors, and the event always seems to pull out some epic confrontations. The boys top-seeded 1000m at 2018 States was run about ten minutes after the girls' incredible championship, and it almost felt like deja vu as again as the top two finishers broke the meet record just as Lily Flynn and Katherine Lee had done on the girls' side. But whereas Flynn and Lee's head-to-head came to its climax with a lap to go, on the boys' side Isaiah Claiborne of Northport and Ben Bulkeley of Fairport did not kick into the lead together until the last 100 meters.

Going into the race, it was hard to put a finger on who the favorite was. Bulkeley was the reigning champ after a great duel with Sweet Home's Chris Nowak in 2017, but his running had been confined to Section 5 competitions, and a season's best 2:31.58 at State Qualifiers wasn't up among the leaders. The top seeds all came out of a Section 1 State Qualifier race that saw four guys break 2:30. Bronxville twins Matt and Alex Rizzo had run 2:27.81 and 2:28.34 for the top two places, and Pearl Rivers' Matt Politis had gone 2:29.04 for 3rd. Isaiah Claiborne had posted a 2:29.00 at the Long Island Elite meet at St. Anthony's, and no lead runner wanted the super kicking Claiborne to be any closer than maybe 20 meters behind going into the last lap.

As it turned out, for the first 3 1/2 laps of the race the leader was Claiborne himself. He clocked three laps of 29.0, 29.9, and 30.2 to hold a small lead over Alex Rizzo going into the last two laps. Politis had been holding down 3rd for most of the race but made a surge that pulled in Alex Rizzo and they swept past Claiborne on the back straightaway going into the last 300 meters. The top three got the bell at around the 1:59.0 mark, with Bulkeley still about 10 meters back. Top seed Matt Rizzo had gotten boxed in on the first lap and never managed to get untracked and battle back up among the leaders.

The final lap was one for the ages. Alex Rizzo was on the lead heading into the back straightaway and Politis a step behind with Claiborne sealed off on the inside in 3rd and a suddenly charging Bulkeley looking ready to blast past everyone. Claiborne made his key move with about 250 meters to go as he shortened his stride to step out behind Politis. Immediately turning on the jets before Bulkeley could pass him, Claiborne zipped into the lead going into the last turn and tucked himself in beside the rail. Bulkeley made a last drive to try to power past Claiborne on the outside, but the Northport star dashed home in a meet record 2:26.05 to smash North Rockland's Liam Purdy's old mark of 2:27.63 from 2014. Bulkeley also edged in under Purdy's time at 2:27.60. Alex Rizzo held off Politis for 3rd at 2:29.30, and St. Peter's Marc Carrera edged out Matt Rizzo for 5th.

At Nationals a week later, Claiborne took 4th in the mile and joined up with his twin Elijah for a 3rd in the 4x800m and 4th in the distance medley relay. Matt Rizzo came back for a 7th in the 800m while Alex Rizzo took 14th. Politis was part of a 3rd place sprint medley relay squad for Pearl River.

In 2019 in a remarkable year for the 1000m, Matt Rizzo would not get boxed in, and would in fact win the States 1K by more than 8 seconds in a meet record time of 2:24.06, which is among the top four times in state history along with Burnt Hills' Miles Irish and Carmel's Mike Stahr who ran similar times back in 1983. At 2019 States Alex Rizzo finished 2nd to St. Anthony's Matt Payamps in the 1600m. About a week earlier on the same Ocean Breeze track, Payamps set the all-time NY best in the 1K of 2:23.46 at the USATF championships.