Top two relays to forego state meet for Grand Prix

By Christopher Hunt

The state championships, any championship competition, is supposed to be a who’s who in the sport. But because the Adidas Grand Prix lands on the same weekend at the New York State championships, part of the discussion will be who’s absent.

Cardozo and Medgar Evers girls 4x400 relays will opt to run at the Adidas Grand Prix Saturday at Ichan Stadium instead of competing at the state meet in Vestal this weekend. That means Chamique Francis and Ahtyana Johnson, the top two quarter-milers in the state, won’t compete in the 400 and Lateisha Philson, one of the favorites in the girls 100 hurdles, won’t be in Vestal.

“We’re already doing well in the state,” said Cardozo coach Gail Emmanuel. “Any opportunity to see some of the top teams in the country, or internationally, you have to take it. You want to run against the best.”

Cardozo’s relay includes Philson, Francis, Johnson and freshman Sabrina Southerland, who won the 1,500 at the PSAL championships Saturday. The Judges own the second-fastest time in the country this season, clocking 3:41.62 at Penn Relays in April.

Medgar Evers’ relay, which includes Rachel Leeke, Shakele Seaton, Kadecia Baird and Nyanka Moise-Joseph, holds the second-fastest time in New York and the ninth fastest in the country at 3:43.14.

“They want to do both but they can’t,” Medgar Evers coach Nicola Martial said. “I think the organizers need to do a better job planning. It’s rough to have (both meets) at the same time.”

Like Emmanuel, Martial said it was more important to see the best competition possible, even if it costs a chance at a state title. The invitational high school 4x400 at the Grand Prix is similar to the Championship of America at Penn Relays, and is expected to include Jamaican teams. Baird was suffering with a hip injury at Penn and Medgar Evers was forced to pull out of the championship final.

“We got a taste that competition when we made the Championship of America at Penn,” Martial said. “This is like another Championship of America in New York.”

Medgar Evers will send a 4x100 relay to the state meet. Cardozo also qualified Kayla Anderson in the 100 hurdles and she will compete.

Both Francis and Philson both said that when Emmanuel told the relay that would miss the state meet that they all understood. For Francis, her biggest competition would have been her teammate Johnson. Philson will miss a rematch with Saratoga Springs junior Madalyne Smith, who Philson edged for the 55 hurdles title indoors.

Even some athletes who aren’t affected by the scheduling conflict understood the decision to skip the state meet, especially for runners that can make noise on the national stage.

“All you get up there is a little medal,” Sheepshead Bay’s John Thomas said. “States is like a practice meet for nationals. You’ve raced those people before. You want to go somewhere where you can run fast.”

There are other top PSAL athletes that will miss the state meet. Whitney Fountain of Christopher Columbus, who broke the state record in the pentathlon, won the 200 at the PSAL championships but will forego her final state championship to attend her senior prom.

“I wasn’t going to go to prom,” said the Clemson-bound senior. “I was all set and ready to go to states. But then I didn’t want to let down my friends.”

Strymar Livingston, a member of Columbus’ boys team, is done for the season. His season ended before the PSAL championship. He attended the meet by did not compete for disciplinary reasons. Livingston is the PSAL leader at 400 and 800 meters and would have likely made the medal stand at the state championships.

Sophomore Kelsey Margey, who had a tremendous debut season in the winter for Harborfields in Long Island, accepted an invitation to run in the high school girls mile at the Grand Prix. Margey decided to leave the team after the indoor season and now trains with former Mepham coach Paul Limmer.


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