By Christopher Hunt
Before the start of every season, there are those people that look at the class that just graduated and those that returned to their team and they ask, who will be stars this year? Who will make an impact?
And almost every year there will be a meet, like the Stanner Games, that answers those questions with a few names that you never heard of but names you’ll unquestionably hear again. Start with Zavon Watkins of Liverpool. The sophomore, in his first indoor track season, blitzed through a solo effort and broke the sophomore class national record while winning the 1,000 meters at the Stanner Games in 2:29.30 at the New Balance Track and Field Center, the fastest time in the country this season. Watkins topped a time of 2:29.60 set by Sintayehu Taye of Cushing Academy (Mass.) in 2006.
“My coach had a feeling I could beat the time so I just went after it,” Watkins said. “Normally I would try to sit on somebody but I wanted to see what I could do.”
Watkins considered skipping the indoor track season to play basketball, as he did last year. But he wanted a chance to run with the group he joined to run 7:44.46 in the 4x800 last spring.
“He’s incredible,” teammate Colin Savage said. “He doesn’t realize how much talent he has. We had to convince him to run indoor. He was all into basketball. The kid has so much just raw talent.”
Savage said that watching Watkins only motivated him when he raced in the mile an hour later. Savage also had a breakthrough race in the boys invitational mile. He took over with three laps left, passed Miles Schoedler of Ocean City (N.J)., and ran away with the win in a personal best 4:18.51. The time is six seconds faster than his previous personal best and three seconds faster than his outdoor best.
“I felt like the pace was a little bit slow,” Savage said. “Normally at that point in the race my legs start burning and feeling tired. I just felt good today.”
Liverpool ‘s Chris Clemons (1:59.2), Alex Wilky (1:59.8), Savage (2:03.4) and Watkins (1:53.9) set a meet record, winning in 7:56.42, the fastest time in New York State this season and the third-fastest in the country. Savage looked fatigued from the earlier race and can run up to 10 seconds faster. Clemons blew the race open from the first lap on and Watkins never backed off. He nearly lapped the entire field.
Harborfield’s sophomore Kelsey Margey was among the new faces that made an impact Saturday. In only her second mile race ever, Margey won the invitational girls mile in 4:56.94, the third-fastest time in the country this season. Margey is in her first ever track season. She is primarily a soccer and lacrosse player. She still isn’t even sure how fast 4:56 really is. But she knew when to take over the race though.
Holy Trinity’s Colleen Schmidt led most of the way with Riverhead’s Katie Skinner latched onto her shoulder headed into the bell lap. But Margey surged down the back straightaway and zipped to the front. Schmidt responded on the last curve and nearly pulled even on the home stretch but, like a seasoned runner, Margey managed to keep Schmidt just off her shoulder for the win.
“I was coming up behind her and she just looked over at me,” Schmidt said. “I tired go pass her but she just kept it.”
Schmidt finished in 4:56.99 as the top four girls broke five minutes. Margey, who also finished second at the Hispanic Games in the 800 in 2:14.31. Margey said she only decided to try track and field to stay in shape for lacrosse. Now she’s a lock to be invited to the high school invitational mile at the Millrose Games Jan. 29. She never realized she might be an instant success. The same is the case for St. Anthony’s senior Patrick Farmer.
Farmer has been in the buzz around the state after winning the invitational 400 meters at the Hispanic Games last Saturday. He won the 300 meters in 34.22, the second-fastest time in the country this season. In the final, Farmer started in Lane 5, which is considered a preferred lane, reserved for the fastest seeded runner. Farmer gobbled the runner to his outside but when he rounded the last turn Newburgh’s Fred Locklary had a step on him.
But Farmer accelerated again to earn the win. He said he would have preferred Lane 1, the same lane he was assigned at the Hispanic Games.
“I want to chase people,” he said, “as many people as possible.”
A familiar face, Phyllis Francis of Catherine McAuley, won the girls 600, the same way she did last year – by setting a meet record. Francis leisurely won in 1:32.14, to break her own record of 1:32.30 set last year. Her time is the fastest in the country this season. Francis, won on the NSIC 800 national title last March, looks to be tremendous shape.
“I feel like I’m in better shape,” she said.”I just want to keep improving on my times.”
Newburgh’s Randy Patterson won the boys 600 in 1:21.67, a personal best. Patterson had previously run 1:22.50 on the flat track at West Point in November. He shook his head when he looked at the clock.
“I got out slow,” he said. “I didn’t feel smooth. I felt real ragged out there. I wanted to run 1:19.”
Kellenberg’s Kim MacKay won the girls 1,000 in 2:57.72, the fastest time in the state this season and the third-fastest in the nation.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.