There was only one way for James Burke to finish his illustrious high school indoor career: medaling at a national meet. And that's exactly what he did. The Port Jefferson senior took silver in the mile, finishing in 4 minutes, 8.48 seconds on the third and final day of the New Balance Nationals Sunday at the Armory in Manhattan.
"I still feel like there was more in the tank," Burke said. "Breaking through that mental block of going out fast, going under 4:10 and trying to hold on was fun. It was definitely a good way to end the season."
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Burke's time broke the Suffolk record of 4:10.28, set by Northport's Tim McGowan last season. The record was the second Suffolk mark Burke has busted this season. He set the 1,000-meter mark (2:26.75) in January, according to suffolkxctf.com.
"It's awesome," Burke said of Sunday's record. "Everything about it was fun."
Only Michigan's Grant Fisher kept Burke from the gold medal, winning in 4:03.54 and breaking the meet record of 4:05.50, set by Fayetteville-Manlius' Alex Hatz in 2010. Trying to keep up with the record-setting Fisher led Burke to a much faster first-half pace than he's used to.
"I've never gone out that fast in my life," Burke said. "I went through in 2:01. The fastest I've gone out all season was 2:11. In my mind, I thought, 'Wow, I should be really tired.' But I really didn't feel it. I think I convinced myself I was more tired than I was. That'd be my only regret. Now I know I can go out that fast and run faster times in the spring."
The pace was even a little too fast for Fisher. As the Michigan product rounded the final turn, he momentarily stumbled off the track. Given his sizable lead at the time, Fisher's misstep did not affect the outcome of the race, only taking a few seconds off his final time. Fisher was not disqualified for stepping off the track because he gained no advantage by doing so, co-meet director Paul Limmer said.
"I've never seen anybody fall off the track, keep racing, and win," Burke said. "Right at that point, Sam Ritz came up next to me. I saw [the stumble], but I was really more focused on Ritz and trying to hold him off. He was making a strong move, so I was just trying to motor down the last 100 meters."
Ritz, from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was third in 4:08.67.
Burke wasn't the only record-breaker of the afternoon. Whitman's Shamar Powell placed seventh in the 800 meters in 1:52.27, breaking the previous Suffolk mark of 1:53.16 set by Whitman's Paul Ciurlys in 2000, according to suffolkxctf.com.
"Right after the 400-meter mark, I started kicking past a lot of people and got in the top four in my heat," Powell said.
Two other Suffolk records were broken at the three-day meet. Huntington's Infinite Tucker ran a 48.48 seconds in route to an Emerging Elite 400 championship Friday, breaking Bellport's Dennis Scrugs' 2008 mark of 48.56. Bayport-Blue Point's Kathleen Cibuls scored 3,347 points in the pentathlon and finished eighth. Cibuls broke Half Hollow Hills East's Farath Raphael's 2009 record of 3,140, according to suffolkxctf.com.
Huntington's 4 x 400 relay team, composed of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Exayvian Crowell and Tucker, placed seventh in 3:22.50.
Northport's Mike Brannigan finished 17th in the two-mile in 9:21.05. It was the final race of Brannigan's indoor high school career, coach Jason Strom said.