Well folks, that's it for the 2011-2012 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships, all athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our first year as well, as we became independent early last August. Since that time, you've viewed our page over 10 million times, and added to our growing Facebook and Twitter followings. We've had great performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To put it lightly, it has been a great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2013. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
4. No Barriers Too High Between Nerud and National Acclaim
Steeplechase is a special event. Almost unique to New York in high school competition, the event combines endurance and athleticism like no other event can. It's the only race where the best seat in the house may not be at the finish line. And in 2012, one runner broke off on an incredible tear across the event on a National stage. But the story doesn't start in 2012. The legacy began in the spring of 2011. The 2000m steeple was a showdown between two fellow Long Islander, Mary Kate Anselmini (Ward Melville) and Brianna Nerud (North Shore). Both were fast pacers, clearing the barriers as if they were not there. Anselmini had a one up in the race however. Just the week before, in qualifying for States, she had set the State Record in the event at a solid 6:33.01. Anselmini would go on to win the title at States, with Nerud close behind in 2nd. Again, the story wasn't over. While Anselmini had clenched the title, Nerud had one year left.
It can be argued that a New York cross country season is the perfect training for a good steepler. The need to bound through the mud and attack the hills replicates many of the techniques needed to get over the barriers and through the water pit. Nerud capitalized on her steeple speed to land high finishes at both the cross country state meet (8th in merge) and at Nike Cross Nationals (17th). Then came indoors. Just weeks after wrapping up the xc season, North Shore was on the track pushing the pace even more. Coupled with her very quick teammate Samantha Nadel, Nerud was an integral leg in a DMR relay that saw the section 8 squad flirting with National Records. She had already been a part of a 4x1500m relay that had claimed the New York State Record. However, an injury mid-season to a member of the relay pushed Nerud to more individual endeavors. That lead her to another state record, the indoor 5000m at New Balance Indoor Nationals, where she grabbed third with a 16:43.56. But this was only foreshadowing for the season to come.
In her first race of the season, Brianna went well under the 7 minute mark for the 2000m steeple, a standard mark that separates the good from the great. Nerud would continue on this path, going undefeated for the rest of the regular season. But that would only be half of her season's story. Nerud knew that to compete in the IAAF World Juniors, she would have to acclimate to the international and college distance of 3000m. This was accomplished by entering into several open events unattached, populated by college athletes . And compete she did, fairing better than expected, and beating many of the athletes who already experienced collegiate runners. This new found speed, when brought back down to the high school distance, produced unprecedented results. At the St. Anthony's Invite, Nerud solidified her spot in history, running a new New York State record 3 seconds faster than Anselmini. It also lead to an outright win in rough conditions at the Outdoor State Meet. But moment #4 would be her time in Barcelona. Qualifying safely a mere 4 seconds over the National Record, Brianna Nerud was poised for success. She had never had to chase anyone in a steeple race before. The prelims of the IAAF World Juniors gave her that chance, and led to a spectacular performance, where the National Record was shattered by 8 seconds, leaving wonderment in how far would her speed take her in the finals. But Brianna did not fail to repeat, as she shocked the USA again, by lowering her own National Record by another 8 seconds, and placing 5th overall.
3. Boys and Girls Prove Their Relay Supremacy
Founding a perfect relay is a coach's dream. And it is not easy. You need 4 top notch athletes, all with a desire for success, but an understanding of teamwork. That is not always so easy to find in the bravado of most sprinters. Boys and Girls (Brooklyn) managed to defy these odds, and created a stranglehold on the boys relays that it would not let go. Stemming from a capable relay pool that had 10 solid yet interchangeable members, they were not only successful in precision, but also in range, as they pulled away in winter as clear favorites in two events. But what makes them moment #3, was distinctly their redemption fueled attacks on the Nationals' stage, both in winter and in spring.
On the surface, the indoor season seemed to be all about the 4x800m. It was partly because the event is often attributed to being the best transitional event from cross country. What was so shocking, was that Boys and Girls were winning routinely winning these event, all while never touching a cross country course. Even more impressive was the range of the quartet that made up the key players. Robert Rhodes, senior anchor of the relay finished in style, capable of 1:51 splits to cap off the race. On lead-off was the opposite end of the spectrum, as freshmen Richard Rose was getting thrown into the most unforgiving relay events there is for the first time. Coupled with Darryl Williams and Javaun Grant, the relay proved to be exceptional, as the first team to break 8:00 for the season, and quickly approaching 7:50 at mid-season.
But there were gaps in the 4x8's dominance. Times that were 10 or 15 seconds off the top times presented in early season. These 8:15's were being run with the "B" team, used as training for single members of the relay. But as the 4x800 training races were going on, the Boys and Girls 4x400 was taking center stage. Aided by additional legs Donniel Nelson and Curtly Renwick, Boys and Girls was exerting their dominance in the shorter relay as well. Low 3:20's became more regular, soon dipping below even that. At New Balance Collegiate, the squad would no longer be looked upon as up and comers, but as the team to beat, as they ran a time of 3:15.12, which would stand as the nation's fastest for the entire season. A week later, it was time for the combination. They knew that if they were to tackle both relays at the Indoor State meet and beyond, practice made perfect. Attacking the Millrose Games, Boys and Girls left with titles in both of the relays, a prelude of what was to come. That double would prove to be elusive, however, at the state meet, as the 4x400m title would be attained, but the 4x800m was lost. It made for the perfect precipice for redemption as New Balance Outdoor Nationals loomed. The looser schedule would mean more time for recovery, and the ability to sub in members from the relay pool. This advantage proved fruitful, as Boys and Girls sped away from the crowd in the 4x800, winning in the Nations fastest time of the season, 7:41.10, and coming back to do the same in the 4x400m Sunday afternoon. The boys of Boys and Girls had proven their dominance.
The outdoor season provided more questions than answers for the Brooklyn boys. The coming out party for most relays, The Penn Relays, proved to be tough for Boys and Girls. A 7:49 showing in the finals of the 4x800, respectable by most others' standards, showed wear and tear on the athletes physique. The race would serve as a point of focus and reflection, as the longer relay began to fall from being the priority. The Boys and Girls had opted for a tougher route, the 4x400m. The national competition was much stronger than had been in Indoors, with the inclusion of teams from Texas and Florida joining the mix full steam, as their outdoor season begins mid-February. Likewise, they were not alone in New York either, as Mt. Vernon was continuing to pick up steam in the event as well, highlighted by senior Steven Gayle. They had run 3:17 twice before Penn Relays, showing they maintained a majority of the momentum they had gained in winter. But it was the Loucks Games that would send a message to the southern states that New York was still in the game. Taking out in blazing speed, Boys and Girls would run 3:14.15, which would again stay as the states leading time throughout the remainder of the year, and remains as the 4th fastest mark of 2012. But again, much like indoor, circumstance struck at the State Championships. A very strong Mt. Vernon contingent nipped the Boys and Girls' at the line, a margin of only .06, shutting down the thoughts for a state title. This was a position that was all too familiar to indoor. And then, as if played on repeat, Boys and Girls put on a show of redemption at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, winning over the relay that had bested them the week before, and taking gold on the national stage in 13:14.95.