By Christopher Hunt
photo by Tim Fulton

Liverpool’s Zavon Watkins and Jeremy Greenwald of Grassfield (Va.) went shoulder-to-shoulder, all-out, pedal to the floor.

Greenwald charged hard down the backstretch and Watkins decided he needed to beat Greenwald to the last turn. Watkins has nothing to prove. But he ran like he did.

After a disastrous run at the Millrose Games last week, the superstar Liverpool junior put his season right back on track, winning the junior boys 1,000 in 2:27.27 at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational, the fastest time in the country this season. Greenwald, the previous national leader, finished second in 2:27.45.

“After what happened at Millrose, I wanted to come here and prove that I could still run,” Watkins said. “I really wanted to come here and run something fast.”

At the Millrose Games last week at Madison Square Garden, Watkins tripped behind Westbury’s Owen Skeete on the final lap of the high school boys mile and fell before he could make any impact in the race.  Not naturally a miler, Watkins went for the experience but left feeling more bitter than accomplished.

 He planned to change that Friday, when he could run at a more natural distance.

“A lot of people had a lot of confidence in me that I could run fast here,” Watkins said. “The mile isn’t really what I do. This is what I do.”

Cardozo senior Claudia Francis didn’t have the battle that Watkins did in the last lap but she turned a solo run into one of the fastest performances in United States history. The Oregon-bound Francis won the junior girls 1,000 in 2:48.75, which is the second-best time in New York State history and the 10th fastest time ever in the U.S.

After Francis race a professional field in the 800 at the New Balance Games two weeks ago, she said planned attack races more forcefully and worry more about times than wins. She did exactly that. She set a pace that the field refused to follow and stayed around 33 seconds until she wavered slightly on the last lap.

“I’m happy with how I ran,” Francis said. “I usually don’t run like that – constant. I’m starting to learn to run not just to come in first but learning how to race for time.”

Francis announced this week that she would join her older sister, Phyllis, at the University of Oregon. But even with her signing out of the way, she is still looking to impress her future coaches. Currently she leads the country in the 800 and 1,000 meters.

“I have to step it up a little more because I’m going to college in the fall,” she said. “I need to start getting my times down.”

Because Francis ran the 1,000, Cardozo also sat Chamique Francis, who signed with Texas Thursday, and ran a ‘B’ relay. That opened the door for a free run for Medgar Evers and the Cougars delivered in grand fashion.

Nyanka Moise-Joseph (56.1), Shakele Seaton (56.8), Kadecia Baird (56.5) and Sandrae Farquharson (55.3) posted the nation’s fastest time this season in 3:44.66.  The team said they were chasing the meet record of 3:41.75 set by Roosevelt (Md.) in 2009.

“We weren’t even thinking about winning,” Moise-Joseph said. “We wanted that record.”

Some are starting to consider Medgar Evers a favorite for a national title this season after upsetting Cardozo at the Millrose Games last Friday. Seaton and Baird are both healthy after dealing with early-season injuries and with the addition of Farquharson on the anchor, the Cougars can match-legs with any team in the country.

“I’m really proud of this team,” Moise-Joseph said. “I know I’ve personally overcome a lot but we all have come a long way.”

Abington (Pa.) is securely its own place as the team to-beat in the country as well. Josh Swift (49.5), Macey Watson (49.4), Tevin Smith (48.8) and Will Taylor (49.1) broke the Pennsylvania state record, winning in 3:16.78. They smashed the previous record held by Glen Mills of 3:18.73 in 2002.

DeMatha led the race for two legs until Smith took over and cracked open a 10-meter lead that DeMatha couldn’t recover from.

“We all had a job to do and we all did it,” Smith said. “My job was to get the stick to Will in first.”

DeMatha’s anchor made a hard push to recapture the lead in the last 100 but Taylor closed the door on the race and the state record.

“It’s all about who has a good day,” Smith said. “Today we all had a good day.”


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