West Babylon’s Brittany Korsah jogged around the small awards area located in the middle of the track at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island. Trying to dodge the strewed bags and resting legs, she slowly went through a quiet warm-up regimen.
Yes, Korsah was waiting to be announced as the state public school indoor 300 meter champion (in 39.34 seconds), but her mind was elsewhere — she had a 4 x 400-meter relay to run and she wasn’t going to let the euphoria of the award ceremony deter her from warming up.
Champions prepare and Korsah was leaving nothing to chance. “I knew I could do it because I’ve done it before,” Korsah said. “I just stayed focused and stretched a lot.”
Korsah’s teammate Hannah Heller was preparing to step in for a teammate on the largest of stages. Dana Beggins, a key member of the unit that has already won a Suffolk Small Schools and Millrose Games championship, had to pull out of the relay because of illness, leaving the leadoff duties to Heller.
“I’m not the best one here,” Heller said. “But I thought I did pretty decent for my third time running a 400 . . . I kept the pace. I wasn’t 100 percent sure how fast I should go.”
Perhaps distracted by their own sets of individual circumstances, neither Korsah nor Heller let their performances suffer. West Babylon’s unit, composed of Korsah, Heller, Nadja Ashley, and Paige Keefer, won the state championship in three minutes, 53.03 seconds Saturday afternoon.
Korsah, running the third leg, took control of the race, handing it off to Keefer in perfect position for the senior to bring home the championship.
“I just went all out for both laps,” Keefer said. “I knew Dana [Beggins] was sick and I didn’t want that to be the reason we didn’t get the state championship. Hannah [Heller] stepped up and did more than amazing. I just wanted to finish it.”
Long Island ruled the 4 x 400 on this day. Elmont took the boys race, with Malik Johnson, Lucas Mathieu, Damahya Coeur, and Demoni Gilkes running a 3:22.85. Elmont ran in control most of the race, chasing nothing but the clock. Newburg Free Academy was second in 3:24.47.
“I knew that I had to stay with Newburg and that I was going to catch them by the back stretch,” Coeur, the leadoff leg, said. “Once I got to the last curve, I used everything I had and came home swinging.”