By Christopher Hunt
Neither Blake Heriot nor Brady Gehret had raced 300 meters before. Yet, in two different sections of the junior boys 300 they notched the two fastest times in the country this season.
The races looked almost identical. They both lined up in Lane 5 with the runner to their outside producing a tremendous start that gave them both a reason to chase. When those Lane 6 runners faded both bulleted to the front. Heriot (Gahanna, Ohio) raced in the first section, posting a time of 33.66, after Brooklyn’s Jermaine Brown pulled up on the home stretch.
Gehert (Altoona, Pa.) topped Heriot’s mark in the next heat, running 33.51 to win the junior 300 at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational Saturday. Heriot finished in second overall (33.66) and Fuqauwn Greene of New Bern (N.C.), who finished behind Gehret, placed third in 33.84. The top three places clocked the top three times in the country this season, respectively.
“It’s definitely really weird,” said Gehret, who ran 47.02 for 400 meters outdoors. “It’s probably harder than a 400.”
Both Gehret and Heriot has 47-second 400-meter speed, which showed as they pulled away in the stretch but Heriot said he was hoping to race in the same section with Gehert.
“I’m very disappointed,” Heriot said. That’s why I came here, to race John Thomas, Fuquawn Greene and Brady Gehret. I’m disappointed but you do the best you can. It’s stil second in the country.”
In fact, 11 of the 13 junior and high school races this weekend produced national leaders. One of which was the boys 600.
Michael Quercia knew the pace shot out too fast but he could even follow or take the back seat and watch the race unfold in front of him.
The Marcellus senior is accustomed to front-running. But instead, he latched on Keith Griffith (Florence, N.J.) and let Griffith carry them through two laps. The pace ensured that someone would pay and Griffth, having done all the work, was then forced to foot the bill. All Quercia needed to do was take advantage.
“We went out a little too fast,” Quercia said. “I knew it was going to happen because of all the 400 runners that were in the race.”
Querica had never raced at the Armory before and said it was just his second time even competing on a banked-track. A shot to run on a fast track invited Querica to shoot for a national record (1:17.9, Shaquan Brown, Paterson, N.J., in 2005). But he admitted that following the ambitious pace was a mistake. Instead he won in 1:19.37, the third-fastest time in New York State history and the eighth-fastest in the country all-time.
Newburgh’s Randy Patterson vacuumed the gap that Quercia built on the home stretch to finish second in 1:19.92, a Section 9 record and the 16th fastest in the nation all-time.
Quercia gave up football to run cross country this fall and called himself in phenomenal shape. He started running track as a short sprinter who found success in the 400 last year. Now Quercia is last to run the 800 meters at the Nike Indoor Nationals next month.
In the junior girls 600, Catherine McAuley’s Phyllis Francis gave another dominant performance. Francis said she hadn’t been feeling well which could have accounted for her conservative start. She was at the rear of the race through the first lap but picked up most of the field through the second lap.
Francis used the bell lap to break away and improve her national leader in 1:31.22. Becca DeLoache (Myers Park, Charlotte, N.C.) finished second in 1:32.64, now the second-fastest time in the nation. Francis though, has yet to be challenged this season outside of her third-place finish in the 400 meters at the Millrose Games Jan. 29 when she raced against three professional runners.
“I wanted to run the first lap in 30 and just decrease each lap after,” Francis said. “I didn’t want to go out too fast. I just wanted to keep improving my time.”
Cardozo, for the second time, added a new freshman to a relay and set a United States-leading mark. Lateisha Philson, Ahtyana Johnson, Mya Lighty and Chamique Francis won in 1:38.60.The race was nearly even through the second leg with Cardozo, Medgar Evers and Suffern until Medgar Evers’ Kadecia Baird got jammed between Johnson and Suffern’s Jen Clayton, tangled feet with Clayton and fell hard to the track.
“We’re stlll trying to figure out who’s going to be on the relay. We’re still trying new things,” Johnson said.
Johnson moved from anchor to second leg and the Judges added freshman Lighty to the relay. Much like the three veterans did to Sabrina Southerland before they set the national leader in the 4x400 Friday, Johnson, Francis and Philson stayed in Lighty’s ear. When asked what sort of advice did the relay give Lighty laughed.
“They said I better run or they’re going to catch me after the race,” Lighty said.
Saratoga Springs didn’t have the chance to benefit from Shenendehowa’s folly in the girls 4x800. The race stayed close throughout, even after Shen dropped the baton on the exchange to the third leg. Shen quickly recovered and even regained the lead but Saratoga’s Keelin Hollowood grabbed the front before handing off to Brianne Bellon.
Amanda Burroughs, Margaret MacDonald, Hollowood and Bellon finished in 9:10.16 while Shen followed in 9:10.75, the two fastest times in the country.
“I was kind of nervous because it was going back and forth,” Bellon said. “For a second, I thought (Keelin) would get a good lead but they were right back in it. I just wanted to keep the lead so if anyone would come up I would push a little more to keep it. If you let one person by, you never know if two more are coming.”
Liverpool didn’t have to worry about traffic in the boys 4x800. Only leadoff Chris Clemons fought through some congestion but once he gained the lead, Liverpool never looked back. Clemons (1:58.6), Alex Wilke (1:57.6), Colin Savage (1:55.8) and Zavon Watkins (1:55.3) in 7:47.32. St. Joseph by the Sea finished second behind a heroic anchor leg by Danny Zaccariello in 7:49.03, making them the only two teams in the country under 7:50 so far this season.
“Chris got boxed out in the beginning and basically had to stop,” Liverpool coach Justin Block said. “Wilke’s been in the pool for two weeks with a foot injury (he started training again last week). Colin has run faster and Zavon just looked flat.”
Liverpool’s performance a Section 3 record but Savage said the team is eyeing the state record of 7:42.22 set by Syosset in 2005. The team agreed they could have run faster but are headed in the right direction.
“It’s nothing negative,” Block said. “It’s all positive.”
Sheepshead Bay almost bettered its nation leader in the boys 4x200 but when Newburgh’s Fred Locklary scurried into the lead after the baton exchange, winning took precedent. Sheepshead Bay’s anchor, Paul Fyffe, smothered Locklary around the first turn and even tried to squeeze ahead on the inside down the back straight.
“All I was thinking was that I didn’t want another states,” Fyffe said, referencing last winter’s indoor state meet when he tried to pass on the inside and ended up losing a close race to Ramapo for the 4x200 state title.
Locklary closed down on Fyffe just before the last turn and forced Fyffe to slam the brakes. But Fyffe recovered and pushed ahead just before the finish. Sheepshead Bay won in 1:29.05 with Newburgh second in 1:29.29 and Medgar Evers third in 1:29.80.
Alec Faldermeyer of Minisink Valley won the junior boys weight throw in 82 feet, 10.5 inches.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.
photos by wingedfootfotos.com