When Courtashia Felton took the baton from Ayanna Higgins with 400 meters to go in the 800-meter sprint medley relay, she had her work cut out for her.
Felton could see two runners ahead of her. One of them, she estimated, held about a 30-meter lead.
But with her long legs pumping, the Hempstead junior gained ground fast. Soon she was within reach. Then she was even, and in the last 20 meters she made her final push for one of the most exciting finishes Saturday morning at Uniondale’s 14th Knight-Time Invitational.
Felton, Higgins, Dajour Jones and Mya Smithson edged Elmont’s quartet by 1.11 seconds with a time of 1:55.89.
“When I saw her getting closer and closer, I was like, all right, I’ve got this,” Felton said. “I started to see that she couldn’t keep up as much so now I’ve got to make my move. I started to use my arms, and I was able to pass her in the last 20 meters.”
Smithson led things off for the Tigers, who said they ranked first among Long Island sprint medley relay teams in the indoor season. But Smithson knew she faced a stiff challenge during her 200-meter leg.
She said she was sick all week with a virus.
“I knew today was a big meet and when coach texted me and said we’ve got to do this relay, I was in my bed and like, ugh, so I just had to gather myself and I just told my mom, man we’ve got to handle some business tomorrow,” Smithson said. “So I had to get myself together and come out for my girls and run this relay.”
When Smithson handed off to Jones, Hempstead was already trailing Elmont and Brentwood.
“I felt a little weak,” Smithson said, “but it felt good knowing that even though I’m a little down they were able to bring this back together.”
But Jones began to trim the gap — “We had to give [Felton] that closure so it wouldn’t be as much work to finish,” she said — and Higgins cut it even deeper.
That set the stage for Felton to go to work.
“I was very confident that she was going to catch her,” Higgins said. “I was screaming my head off, like go Tay, go Tay!”
Elmont’s Brianna Harris took home another exciting finish in the 200, using a late burst to defeat New Rochelle’s Kiana Stallworth by 0.08 seconds. Harris, who finished in 25.92 seconds, said she needed to overcome an “OK” start.
She bounced back and drew even on the final straightaway.
“Halfway down the straightaway I felt I had it,” she said.
Brentwood’s Nataly Ramirez led the entire 400 intermediate hurdles, winning in 1:08.18. “Sometimes you can hear if they hit a hurdle or something, just footsteps,” she said. “I just heard myself.”
Deer Park’s 4 x 800 team of Heather Dillon, Ariel McDermott, Giselle Aparicio and Alexarae Clark won in 10:50.82, 40 seconds ahead of second-place New Rochelle.
“We’re dedicated runners and we’ll run through anything,” Aparicio said. “Even through the cold. We’ve done it through the rain. Through anything, we’ll do it.”