By Christopher Hunt
Natasha Hastings was preparing for her race in a remote area on the first floor of the Armory when she locked eyes with her mother. Her mom asked what was wrong.
“I just feel like crying,” Hastings said.
And then she did.
“It was just because I just feel like I’ve waited so long,” Hastings said. “Everyone knows the last two years have been pretty rough. I feel like this is the year that everything is going to fall into place.”
Hastings took a step Saturday, winning the elite women’s 400 at the New Balance Games in 52.26 seconds. She is back training with Curtis Frye, who coached her at South Carolina and is now managed by her mother, Joanne Hastings. The night before at the Great Dane Classic, Hastings won the 60 in a personal best 7.28.
“I feel like I was born here,” Hastings said. “I’ve been running on this track since before it had banks. It’s always special to come back to New York and race.”
Hastings was certainly the hometown favorite but Jen Simpson, formerly Jen Barringer, made her mark in her debut at the New Balance Track and Field Center. Simpson handily won the women’s mile in 4:28.60.
“It went really, really well,” Simpson said. “I was surprised at how good I felt. I couldn’t have imagined a better place to start my season.”
Carmen Douma-Hussar was second in 4:30.88 with Frances Koons third in 4:31.53. The 18-year old Irish phenom, Ciara Mageean placed seventh in 4:38.81.
Phoebe Wright made her professional debut by winning the women’s 800. The former Tennessee standout finished in an impressive 2:00.39. Heidi Dahl was second in 2:01.80 and LaTavia Thomas third in 2:01.81. 2008 Olympian Maggie Vessey was fourth in 2:03.40.
“Going from college to professional running is really different,” she said. “Your goal is not to go out there and do things different. The 800 has a rhythm and my goal was just to find the rhythm.”
The men’s mile saw four runners break four minutes led by Craig Miller, who finished in 3:59.10. Taylor Milne was second in 3:59.34, Garrett Heath third in 3:59.58 and Rob Novak, a Seton Hall grad, broke four minutes for the first time in fourth in 3:59.70.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Miller said. “With two laps to go I was feeling pretty well. Last two laps I just went all out.”
Kyle Miller made a solo run out of the men’s 1,500, winning in 3:41.99. Former Columbia star Liam Boylan-Pett was second in 3:43.60. Michael Courtney won the men’s 400 in 47.19 over Lalonde Gordon, who was second in 47.35.