By Christopher Hunt
Newburgh coach Malcolm Burks felt like senior Randy Patterson had become a forgotten man. Patterson enjoyed a breakthrough indoor season, where he clocked 1:19.92 for 600 meters, the second-fastest time in the state, yet he hadn’t quite broken into the elite class of long sprinters. Worst yet, college coaches weren’t biting. Not like he wanted them to.
“I was calling out there before Loucks and no one would even return my phone calls,” Burks said.
Sure, Patterson owned a fast 600 time but he hadn’t legitimized himself yet. He’s locally known as a lights-out relay runner, which is entertaining at track meets but generally doesn’t make coaches at top programs salivate. Then Patterson won the 400 at the Loucks Games two weeks ago in 47.62, now third fastest in the state and ranked 21st in the country.
That’s when Burks’ phone and his email inbox blew up.
Patterson signed with Mississippi State University Monday, two days after he legitimized his performance at Loucks by winning the 400 Saturday at the Middletown Invitational in 47.88. Patterson chose MSU over Tennessee and North Carolina A&T. It happened so fast coaches were still calling after Patterson made his decision.
“He deserves it,” Burks said. “I’m proud of him for running the race that I know he’s capable of. He ran 1:19 indoors. But still, no one really thought anything of him. They should have known, a kid runs 1:19, he’s going to run a good 400 outdoors.”
Burks said the weather – it generally doesn’t get warm enough for sprinters until after Penn Relays – and a lack of elite competition were reasons Patterson hadn’t broken through. Patterson said he just needed to be more aggressive.
“I just had to focus,” Patterson said. “I had to work on my start. My first 200, I would chill and then run hard in the second 200. I had to get my start better.”
Patterson’s new assertive approach took Marcellus senior Mike Quercia out of the race in the first 200 at the Loucks Games. It gave him command early again Saturday when Middletown’s Mel Molsey trailed him for second in 47.92. Before Patterson’s race at Loucks, St. Anthony’s senior Patrick Farmer was the only New York State runner to clock 47 seconds for the 400. Now with Patterson, Mosley and Webster-Schroeder’s Brycen Spratling, there are four. Mosley and Sprating, who ran 47.46 at the Royal Comet Invitational, both ran 47 for the first time Saturday.
“It’s good for everybody on the east coast,” Burks said. “You couldn’t run anything faster until later in the season. It adds to the competition now that you have more guys running 47. It benefits everyone.”
After Loucks Patterson said he knew he could run faster. He said the same after the race in Middletown.
“I didn’t really run,” he said. “The first 200, I ran but the last 200 I just stayed smooth.”
Patterson said that he needs to be pushed in the last 200. The state championships, in two weeks, is perfect for that. Farmer, Patterson, Quercia, Mosley and Sprating have personal best all within 0.8 seconds of each other. It’s bound to be close toward the finish.
It’s not just that Patterson someone to chase after in Farmer. He also has a training partner in Fred Locklary, who had run 48.55, and he anchors the top 4x400 in the state. Both Patterson and Burks say the senior is just getting started.
“To sum it up, he’s going to run 46,” the coach said. “I’ll go on the record and say that one.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.