By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK - Oh, the coulda-woulda-shouldas of it all.
+ If the star sprinter had only timed his “lean” a tad better, the hundredth-of-a-second differential between one more point for his team, and one less for its principal rival.
+ If the star discus thrower’s top effort had slithered to the turf just a few silly centimeters further.
+ If the standout hammer thrower’s all-out heave had not skimmed the cage, thus cutting off his implement’s flight, oh a meter or two shy of its expected destination.
+ If the star racewalker’s hamstring had held up for sure four or five extra points, rather than an unhappy limp-off to the sidelines.
Well, all these mini-moments were principal ingredients in the final standings of the men’s division of the 11th annual USA Track and Field National Club Championships, which concluded an eventful, up-and-down, back-and-forth two-day run Saturday at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island (including 2 1/2 hours on rain/lightning delay late Friday.)
The final verdict, please:
1. Central Park Track Club/New Balance, 167 points; 2. Shore Athletic Club of New Jersey, 164 ½.
This will rank as an all-timer in the down-to-the-wire division of a major American championship meet. When Gregg Cantwell crossed the line, giving Central Park both a meet-record 10:01.13 victory in the distance medley, 22nd of the 24 events on the card to be scored, it put CP on top by a hair.
But when the final results of the men’s long jump, event 23 - won by Cadeau Kelley of Shore AC - found their way to meet headquarters, and stats central, at the top row of the Icahn Stadium stands, they tightened the points count to: Central Park 159, Shore AC 158 ½.
And so the drama tightened and partisans of both leading teams gritted their teeth, knowing that the destination of the coveted National Club team championship trophy was going to ride on the results of the concluding 4x400 relay. Ah, the excitement of it all. What a script. And what a windup.
Given the team-points focus, it didn’t matter who won the race, that was irrelevant. Shore AC simply needed to beat Central Park to win it all. Central Park simply needed to beat Shore AC to win it all.
Through the first three legs of the race, there was little to choose between the teams. But with some 120 meters to go, CP’s Dustin Emrani began pulling away. Oh, the win went to New Horizon Track Club’ in 3:08.94. But in the race-within-a-race that determined all, it was CP 3:10.68, Shore AC 3:12.99.
And there you had it. With the full slate of 24 men's events in the books, it had been decided by all of 2 ½ points, 167 to 164 ½.
Central Park, coached by Devon Martin, both the gracious host club of the meet and the defending champion, had regained its crown, narrowly holding off the Shore AC squad that had always won in previous editions of the meet staged at Icahn, taking the titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009. CP had won the 2010 crown at San Francisco as gold-medal road warriors.
Placing 3-4-5 were Norfolk Real Deal of Virginia 72), Zenith Velocity (52) and Team Nebraska Brooks (49.)
There was plenty of excitement in the women’s National Club title meet, too, but nothing close to the homestretch scoring scenario of the men’s meet. Norfolk Real Deal, which had also won in San Francisco a year ago, parlayed its sprints-jumps-relays depth into a 138-point total to regain its crown. The gallant CP ladies settled for second at 129.
Going 3-4-5 were Club Northwest of Washington (105 points, netted by just eight athletes), Shore AC (94) and Southwest Sprinters of Texas (80.)
With its men’s win (at 167) and its women’s second place (at 129), CP also took the combined points title with 296.
As usual, there was glory in it for all.
“We have 1,232 total individual entries, and that’s an all-time high for the meet,” said Bill Roe, the Washington Stater who served eight progress-filled years as USATF president, and now is a key mover on USATF’s Club Council, at midday Friday, before it all started.
“They represent 78 clubs from 21 states. This is our (the Club Council’s) biggest meet ever.”
They went on to prove that club competition - which once played a huge role in the sport in this nation, before the shoe companies and corporate sponsor-moguls came into the game, in many cases snaring away athletes and pummeling the programs of local clubs all over the land - was still a most viable entity.
Born in Indianapolis in the year 2001 the National Club Championships meet has gotten bigger and better - oh, with a few glitches along the way - virtually ever since.
This one even attracted a pair of newly crowned women’s USA National champions, fresh from their Eugene/Hayward Field triumphs.
Amanda Smock of Team Nodak (of North Dakota) led the triple jumpers at 45-3 ½. Maria Michta of Long Island’s Walk USA club, the 20K titlist at Eugene (and bound for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, as holder of a Worlds ‘B’ qualifier) won the 5,000 racewalk in 23:30.79 (with kid sister Katie fourth.)
After 48 finals, the top points producers (individual events as well as relays) were Shore AC sprinter Kevin Thompson and Team Nebraska Brooks thrower Aubrey Baxter.
Thompson collected 17 points on his third-place in the 100 followed by his 200 win 20.66 (also the best single men’s men’s mark in the meet, based on the IAAF tables) and a leg on Shore AC’s second-place 4x100 team.
Baxter netted 29, with a meet-record shot put in at 51-2 1/4, on top of her second in the hammer throw, third in the discus, and fourth in the javelin.
Scoring highest of all women’s individual marks was Aliann Pompey’s 51.66 in the 400 for Shore AC. The three-time and going-for-four Olympian (who competes for Guyana) was just 5/100ths off the meet record of 51.61 she ran in 2007.
Joining Baxter as meet record-setters on the women’s side were: Club Northwest of Seattle (Bill Roe’s squad) 10,000-meter runner Claudia Copeland, 34:55.86; Shore AC disscus thrower Sylvia Galarza, 160-0; Connquest of Connecticut hammer thrower Ashley Harbin, 207-1; and relay marks of 3:42.66 by Real Deal’s 4x400, and Southwest Sprinters (of Texas), 3:57.74 sprint medley.
NYAC’s Aidan Walsh (the former Fairleigh Dickinson star from Ireland) lowered the meet’s 1500 record to 3:51.49.
And in the very first event of the meet, Shore AC’s Matt DiBuono, the Fordham graduate who has made huge progress in the hammer, and went third in the Eugene Nationals, sent the 16-pound ball-on-a-wire to a meet mark of 234-0. Already holder of a “B” qualifying mark of 251-4 (set at West Point June 1), DiBuono continues his drive for an “A” mark of 78 meters/ 255-11 that would be his ticket to the Daegu Worlds.
Central Park’s Kateema Riettie led the women’s javelin at 157-5.
CP’s Darryll Oliver (1:52.16) and Damion Drummond (1:52.32) ran 2-3 in the men’s 800 back of Self Esteem Club’s Kevin Hicks (1:48.54.) Elite Health’s Althea Chamber (2:08.39) held off CP’s Stephanie Herrick (2:09.49) to win the women’s 800.
Rutgers athletes, recent and current, played major roles for Shore AC. Shameka Marshall won both the women’s 100 hurdles and long jump, Galarza set the discus mark, Adam Bergo won the men’s high jump, Jen Austin was second in the women’s jav, and James Plummer third in the men’s discus.
Other Shore AC individual winners were Barry Krammes, 233-2 men’s javelin as the prelude to a European tour, and women’s high jump champion Priscilla Frederick, 5-10 ½.
A hot men’s 400 final saw New Horizon’s David Dickens (46.40), outduel Central Park’s Terrance Livington (46.83) and Shore AC’s Marvin Lewis (47.24.)
Jeff Perrella, 10,000-meter champion in 31:37.09, gave Garden State Track Club of New Jersey its first National Clubs gold medalist.
The 2012 USATF National Club meet heads out to Omaha, Nebraska next July. But, hopefully, for the many Eastern athletes and clubs who traditionally raise the participation levels and set a few meet records along the way, the 2013 National Club Championships will be back at Icahn Stadium in 2013.