By Christopher Hunt
photos by Tim Fulton and Don Rich
NEW YORK – The best indication that Aisling Cuffe was on pace had nothing to do with time. The Stanford-bound senior wanted to listen to her body and she knew her legs would pass the message.
“I told myself that if I get to the point that I feel like my legs are going to fall off then I’m doing good,” Cuffe said. “I definitely felt like my legs were going to fall off.”
Cuffe, of Cornwall (N.Y.), became the second scholastic runner to ever break 10 minutes in the 2-mile, rousing the crowd at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, to win in 9:56.85. She missed the national record by less than a second – 9:55.92 by Melony Fairchild of Boulder, Colo. in 1991.
“You know that saying that if you shoot for the moon you’ll reach the stars?” Cuffe said. “I wanted to shoot for the record and I figured that way I’ll break 10 minutes.”
Her en route time through was also a second off of the national record at 3,000 meters. Fairchild clocked 9:17.4 when she broke the 2-mile record. Cuffe went through 3K in 9:18.36.
Cuffe’s season has mostly been geared toward cross country and she only started speedwork two weeks ago before the New York State championships. She’ll compete at the World Junior XC Championships next Saturday in Punta Umbria, Spain.
“Having that really took the pressure off today,” she said. “I guess it’s like, I know my season’s not over. I know I’m here today, Spain tomorrow. Race on Saturday. It still would have been nice to run exactly one second faster.”
Both Cuffe’s times for 2 miles and 3,000 are New York State records. Medgar Evers also left the New Balance Track and Field Center Sunday with a New York State record. Nyanka Moise-Joseph (56.2), Kadecia Baird (56.1), Shakele Seaton (55.9) and Sandrae Farquharson (54.3) claimed the national title in the 4x400 relay in 3:42.67, the sixth-fastest performance in U.S. history.
“We know we have four girls that all wanted this,” Moise-Joseph said. “Everyone was supposed to go out there and run the first 350 and then hold on for dear life.”
Most looked for Medgar Evers to race in the 4x200, where the Cougars hold the national-leader and state record at 1:37.73. But coach Shaun Dietz decided to keep the girls out of the sprint relay. He held Farquharson out of the 400 as well. She battled a flu all week and the team wasn’t even sure that she would run the 4x400. Kennedy Alexis remained on standby as an alternate.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Dietz said. “It was safer to keep the girls out of the 4x2. They’ve been running fast all year and I wanted to keep them away from injuries. Plus, they tend to think that after they win the 4x200 that their job is done. I wanted them to stay focused.”
Farquharson denied any pressure at all. She wanted to ensure that seniors Moise-Joseph and Seaton left their final high school indoor meet with a national championship. The time bettered a state record of 3:43.63 set by Boys & Girls in 2002.
“This race was really for them,” Farquharson said. “We don’t know when we’ll have another team like this.”
Medgar Evers absence did become a storyline but didn’t take away from the excitement of the race. Western Branch (Va.) dominated the race for three legs but was exposed by the fact that its star sprinter, Keilah Tyson, pulled out of the meet with an injury. That left the door open for Speed City (Long Beach Poly, Calif.) and anchor Akawkaw Ndigpabor, who tracked down Western Branch’s anchor with a 23.5 split. Speed City won the championship in 1:38.65, the second-fastest time in the country this season.
Kendall Baisden (Detroit, Mich.) won her second straight national title in the 400. The Detroit Country Day junior held off Michigan rival Dynasty McGee on the final curve to win in 54.23. McGee was second in 54.86.
“I knew she was coming,” Baisden said. “I just knew when I got off the turn it was time to go.”
Another Michigan resident, Hannah Meier (Grosse Pointe South), produced one of the most improbable wins of the meet, claiming the mile from the first of the two-section final. The sophomore won in 4:48.50, good for an eight-second personal best. Philadelphia’s Cierra White won the 200 in 23.95. Ciarra Brewer of Union City, Calif., won the triple jump with a leap of 41 feet, 8.50 inches.
Ajee Wilson of Neptune (N.J.) won the 800 in 2:06.17, fending off Cardozo’s Claudia Francis on the bell lap. Francis finished second in 2:06.98 with Olicia Williams of St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) third in 2:07.81.
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.