By Christopher Hunt
photos by Tim Fulton
CALEDONIA – Mary Cain pointed at Cornwall’s Aisling Cuffe and wanted everyone to know that “that kid over there is my idol.”
Then the Bronxville freshman ribbed Cuffe for refusing to lead the race. But Cuffe had done the smart thing. She followed Cain while the freshman added one more astonishing race to her dream season. Cain mashed her own state record at the New York State Championships Saturday at Caledonia-Mumford.
She set a national freshman record while winning the 1,500 state federation championship in 4:17.84. The time is the seventh-fastest in the United States all-time and led the greatest 1,500-meter race in New York State history. Cuffe finished second in 4:19.83 while Courtney Chapman of Fayetteville-Manilus third in 4:23.01 – all faster than Cain’s previous state record of 4:23.1.
Cuffe shadowed Cain the entire race until Cain broke away with a 63.5-second final lap.
“No wonder, I’m so tired,” Cain said. “I can’t feel my legs.”
The 1,500 played up to be showdown off a handful of the best distance runners that New York State has ever known. The moment never overwhelmed Cain. She said she hoped that Cuffe would take the pace but once she found herself with the lead she did the only thing she thought she could.
“I ran like I was being chased by a pack of jaguars, which I was,” Cain said.
The freshman led wire-to-wire and never allowed anyone to make a significant move, essentially towing the field to a historic run.
“When I saw the time, I said they made a mistake,” Cain said. “I’m not that fast.”
But Cain is that fast. She might even be faster, if you ask Cuffe. The Stanford signee gave Cain maybe another year to top the 3,000-meter state record Cuffe set Friday. And as dominant as Cuffe has been this year, she was awed by Cain’s running style.
“I did not expect to her run 4:17,” Cuffe said. “But that’s the last time you’ll hear me say that. I think she can do anything. Her stride is perfect. She looks perfect. I expected her to be smooth but she looked like she was skating.”
Cain has become a national phenom this season, ranking in the top three in the nation in the 800, 1,500, mile and 3,000. She will be considered the favorite going into the mile at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals next week in North Carolina.
Truth be told, it would be hard to find a runner on a hotter streak than Cain. Maybe expect for Ward Melville’s Mary Kate Anselmini. The senior, who will join Cuffe at Stanford, just missed breaking her own national record in the 2,000 steeplechase, winning in 6:33.14. The steeplechase, like the 1,500, was an anticipated matchup between Anselmini and North Shore junior Brianna Nerud, who broke Anselmini’s Long Island record the week before Anselmini came back and set the
But Anselmini grabbed control early and never allowed Nerud, or anyone else, to impact the race. She defended her state championship and poised herself to repeat as national champion next week at NBON.
“I was actually really nervous coming into the race,” Anselmini said. “I think what made this race different than last week (when she set the national record) is that I had something to defend. I planned that, if everything went the way I expected, to make my move with 700 left but I think when I didn’t feel anyone around me it threw me off a little.”
Anselmini fought off a foot injury at the start of the spring season but has been on a tear for the past two months beyond even what she expected. Dropping more time off her national record isn’t out of the question.
“If I could break 6:30, I would be over the moon,” Anselmini said. “But I don’t’ want to be greedy. I just want to focus on racing.”
Elmont junior Valencia Hannon is another Long Island runner flourishing after rebounding from an injury. Hannon has set a personal best the last four times she crossed the finish line in the 100 meters, none more important than the last two. She won the Division I state championship in 11.88. Then won the state federation title in 11.87. It’s almost becoming tradition to hear Hannon scream, clap and dance after each race.
“I deserve to have fun,” Hannon said. “I’m winning and I’m healthy.”
Hannon missed almost half of the outdoor season after she strained her groin at the indoor state meet. She struggled in her first few races but have never put together a better string of performances. Hannon made controversial move in the Division I 200 final when she intentionally false-started. Hannon wanted to scratch from the race but the rules dictate that if an athlete scratches from a race they can no longer compete in the competition.
Hannon wanted to focus on the 100 without worrying about two more 200-meter rounds. It is a move commonly done at championship competitions when runners want to pull out of a race but not the entire meet.
“I felt like it was unfair to the other ladies that worked so hard to get here,” Hannon said. “I think it was unfair that I had to false start but I had to do it.”
The state meet also saw the resurgence of Sandrae Farquharson. The normally stoic Medgar Evers junior smiled toward the sky when she blitzed the 400 federation final in 53.83, a season-best.
“It’s great to run 53 again and get back to where I was,” said Farquharson, who holds a personal-best of 53.76 from 2008 when she was still racing in Jamaica. “It shows that I’m getting back.”
Farquharson held off Colonie’s Kyle Plante in the home stretch. Plante finished second in 54.32.
“I wanted to make my move at 150 instead of 110 like I did yesterday,” Farquharson said. “After that it was pretty much catch me if you can.”
400 hurdles: Garden City senior Michelle Rotondo won the 400 hurdles in 60.62. “I started running the hurdles as a freshman and ever since then they’ve been saying I could win a state championship,” she said. “It’s nice to finally do it.”
100 hurdles: Williamsville South junior Kailyn Arcury, who won the Division I and federation 100 hurdles championship. Arcury first set a personal best in the division final in 14.28 then held off Cardozo’s Akayla Anderson again to win the federation title in 14.26. Anderson finished second in 14.27. “It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Arcury, who also on the indoor 55 hurdles title. “This is a great day. Probably the greatest day of the year.”
200 championship: Mount Vernon junior Tanaya Yarde held off Ashley Field of Amherst in the stretch to the federation title in 24.64. She earlier won the Division I title in 24.40. “Throughout this season, I got everything I wanted,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself.
Notes: Fayetteville-Manilus posted the second-fastest time in the country this season, wining the 4x800 championship in 8:55.93 with Heather Martin, Katie Breslin, Katie Sischo and Courtney Chapman. Shenendehowa was second in 9:03.91 and Bronxville third in 9:06.48. … Medgar Evers won the 4x400 in 3:42.60, the best time in the state this season and the fourth-best in the country. .. Taft earned a state federation championship in the 4x100 in 46.97, joining Medgar Evers as the only teams in the state to break 47 seconds this season.