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Cooldown Lap: Suffolk State Qualifying Meet
Let the countdown begin.
With the Suffolk state qualifying meet in the books, we are officially on the clock for the state meet at Cicero-North Syracuse HS next weekend. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until Friday to get your Long Island track fix. Let’s take a cooldown lap of the Suffolk state qualifiers, with notes and quotes that may or may not have made the paper:
-- The state meet may be held upstate, but it’ll probably feel like home to the Bayport-Blue Point girls. That’s because the Phantoms are bringing eight (!) athletes up to Cicero—and many of them have a legitimate shot of taking home state gold.
Leading the way are Jordan Collins (discus), Katie Saroka (steeplechase, 4x800), and Bailey Walker (400 hurdles, 4x400). All three are tops in their events among New York small schools, with Collins holding down the top spot in the discus across both Divisions I and II.
Collins is also second in the state in the shot put, and Walker is second among small schools in the long jump. Joining them are Casey Hasher (100 hurdles, 4x400), Courtney Dooley (4x400, 4x800), Sam Triani (4x400), and Taylor Darby (4x800).
“You’re thrilled as a coach,” Phantoms coach Vin Ungaro said. “Especially in the small schools, you don’t want to send kids up there that aren’t competing. So when you look at our group, it’s impressive. They’re definitely the best team I’ve ever had.”
-- Let’s go back to Friday’s thrilling race in the 3,200 for a second. It came down to Northport’s James Dickinson and Whitman’s Michael Damato. But Dickinson wasn’t just battling the rest of the field on that final lap—before catching up to Damato, he was also battling himself.
“To be honest, when I was coming through on the last lap, my mind was playing tricks on me,” Dickinson said. “I was like, ‘This is not going to happen.’ But I relied on my mile speed, and when I came around and saw [Damato] I realized that was where I needed to be to go to states.”
One of the toughest things about distance running is staying focused over a long stretch—and then recovering if you happen to have a mental lapse. The fact that Dickinson was able to come through in the end should help him come states.
-- One thing to take away from the long jump: Never doubt your Auntie.
Before the start of the long jump, Huntington’s Tyriek Johnson was approached by Wyandanch coach Patricia Taylor, who Johnson affectionately calls “Auntie” because she has seen Johnson compete since middle school. Taylor told Johnson, “You’re going to get that 24 feet today. I can just feel it.” Johnson gave her a sort of quizzical look, seeing as a 24-foot jump was more than a foot above his personal best, and countered with, “Nah, I’ll hit 23 plus tax.”
Lo and behold, Johnson hit 23-11 1/4 on his final jump of the afternoon—and Auntie was there to watch. Needless to say, Taylor couldn’t contain her joy as she yelled out to Tyriek, “See?! I told you you’d get 24!”
“I didn’t get a chance to see him when he was at divisionals,” Taylor told Newsday afterwards. “But I knew he was doing well for the season.”
-- Janel Francis continues to prove her all-around dominance. The Copiague senior qualified for states in three of her four events: the 100, the 200, and the long jump. Whether or not she’ll compete in all three is still up in the air—she says she will take the week to determine her plan of attack with coach Toni Spencer.
But still, qualifying for three events has to be a good feeling, right Janel?
“I’m really excited,” said the Richmond-bound senior. “I ran really good times today. It was the first time this season that I’ve hit 24 [seconds] in the 200, so I’m really proud of myself.”
Francis won that 200 in 24.89 seconds as she got out to a strong start and cruised over the final 100 meters to win it.
“That was probably the hardest race that I had to run,” she said. “On the curve, I just wanted to get out early so it would be easier for me to maintain the lead.”
-- After the seeds are made available, keep an eye out towards the middle of the week for an event-by-event preview of the state meet right here on the Underblog. I’ll be breaking down each race, complete with a quick summary of how Long Island as a whole should fare in each race.