By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – Redemption. It’s the biggest cliché in sport – to try and fail then try again and succeed. It’s a cleansing of sorts, washing away of doubt and memories that make you cringe. And sometimes proof that at least someone was wrong.
That’s all Warwick Valley talked about Saturday after Pierre Armond (1:55.3), Dan Ramierz (1:55.1), Dan Paez (1:55.8) and Tim Luthin (1:55.6) won the 4x800 Championship of America at Penn Relays in a nation-leading 7:41.77. (Photo by Don Rich)
“This is a tremendous group,” Warwick Valley coach Mike Potter said. “This is all they’ve been talking about since the winter.”
It goes back to last year when Paez dropped the baton in the 4x400. He did the same thing in the distance medley relay at the Nike Indoor Nationals, which earned the team a disqualification. But this time, Paez took the lead in front on the third leg.
First he dropped back into third behind Jamaica’s Kingston College and Long Beach Poly (Calif.). Paez latched on, never fell out of contact and then blitzed the last 200 meters to provide Luthin all the cushion he needed while Kington College chased and Georgetown Prep’s anchor Joseph Woiwoode nearly lit the place up with a 1:51.4 anchor that pulled his team to third. Kingston College was second in 7:43.50 followed by Georgetown Prep in 7:43.76.
“It was great to give Tim a lead because those guys are usually making up for me,” Paez said.
The team is as close as most relays get. They all made a controversial decision to not compete for their high school team this winter in order to continue training with Potter, a decision that Potter didn’t want to talk much about. The fact that they were in contention in the DMR at indoor nationals but watched their chances die when the baton clink-clink to the track made the winter almost feel like a wash.
But they knew they had top-flight relay and the Penn Relays allowed their first chance to show off. They stole the stage.
“Since December we’ve been focusing on the 4x800,” Luthin said. “All winter we were aiming for nationals. In the DMR, disaster struck. This really was all about redemption.”
Warwick Valley lead most of the race, outside of the 500 meters or so that Paez trailed before storming back. Potter knew with such a balanced team, they were going to need to be aggressive.
“We don’t have that stud anchor,” Potter said. “I told them if they got the lead that they were going to have to put the pressure on. They knew what they had to do.”
New Yorkers take the vertical jumps
O'Neil Sandiford doesn’t practice for the high jump. Not much anyway. There is no facility at Paul Robeson for the junior leaper to train properly so he uses competition as practice, which, at times, makes every attempt an experiment – an opportunity to learn. (Photo by Tim Fulton)
At the New York Relays last week he won the high jump, trying a new, more aggressive, approach. It earned him a victory but his performance was a dud. Maybe he just needed some repetitions.
Sandiford rebounded by winning the high jump championship at the Penn Relays Saturday in a personal best 6 feet, 11.50 inches, the 12th-best in the country this season and the leading mark in New York State.
“Everything was just right today,” Sandiford said. “The weather, the excitement, the crowd, everything was just right.”
It wasn’t that Sandiford’s victory came without struggle either. In fact he had been losing for most of the competition. Mark Jones of Summit (N.J.) cleared all his heights on the first attempt before committing his first miss at 2.09 meters (6-10.25). Sandiford cleared his opening height, 6-5, on his first attempt but missed twice at 6-8 before clearing then twice at 6-10.25.
“That was really nerve-racking,” he said. “I knew it was the difference between winning or getting fifth. I don’t even know what happened. I was just so excited.”
Jones cleared on his second attempt and stayed alive by clearing on this last try. Then the junior soared over bar, his best height ever, on his first attempt at 6-11.25 for the win.
Arlington’s Jordan Yamoah won the pole vault championship on his final attempt, clearing 15-5, bettering his state-leading mark. Yamoah is proving to be a big meet performer. Indoors he had his best mark when he won the NSIC national title, clearing a lifetime best 15-5.75.
When Robert Woods of Junipero Serra (Calif.) took the baton in the 4x400 Championship of America, he saw Jamaicans Wolmer’s Boys and Vere Tech building a lead and he had one thought.
“I’m going to win this,” he said.
He closed the gap and by the time the team reached the straightaway, they were three-abreast with Woods still charging. Vere Tech faded and Woods couldn’t do enough to catch Wolmer’s, which won in 3:14.59. Junipero Serra with Randall Bennett (51.2), Franciso Olloqui (49.0), Pete Lauderdale (48.09) and Woods (46.46), finished as the first American team, second overall, in 3:14.72. Vere Tech was third in 3:14.97.
“I just ran out of legs,” he said. “It was great to come out here and run with the best. We put our sophomore out first (Devan Span was injured and couldn’t compete) and he did was he was supposed to. We ran great.”
Wolmer’s Boys also took the 4x100 championship in a Penn Relays record 39.78. Junipero Serra was also the first American team to finish, placing fifth in 41.01.
In the 4x400 prelims in the morning Altoona’s Brady Gehret had the fastest split of the day in 46.1. St. Anthony’s senior Patrick Farmer ran the second-fastest of the morning at 46.7.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.