Nobody can be positive about when the lady bug showed up on Amir Cambridge’s shorts, but one things certain: it was along for the ride in the hurdles final at the Bob Pratt Invitationals on Saturday, and he didn’t want to let that good luck charm go.
As it flew away after the 110-meter race, the Farmingdale runner sprinted after it and even jumped one more hurdle — the sideline fence — in his quest. He came up empty-handed, but had another race victory under his belt and showed the endless energy that has made him such a presence in the event as a freshman. He won in 15.79 at Smithtown High School East.
“I had the feeling I was going to win,” Cambridge said. “I ran with a lady bug on me, but I didn’t know.”
Cambridge’s long frame and smooth leaps allowed him to inch ahead of the field, and he came in front of Kings Park’s Kyle Meyer (15.87) and Harborfields’ David Maitre. He was in unfamiliar territory, starting his semifinal in the second heat, but once he got to the final, he said he felt comfortable.
“I was thinking that I can do it, I can win,” Cambridge said. “Even though it’s not my best, I knew that I could win this. I gave my all and I won.”
And after the race, when most would be trying to catch their breath, Cambridge was busy trying to hold onto his luck.
“I tried to take a picture but he ran from me,” his mother Kawan Clinton said. “That’s what he does.”
And it doesn’t look like he’ll slow down any time soon.
While many athletes will focus their attention on either the clock or the competition depending on the race, Harborfields’ Elizabeth Larkin made sure to use each part to formulate a winning race in the 800-meter run.
The senior ran a close first lap with the pack, breaking away from Smithtown East’s Catherine Farrell (2:21.91), Massapequa’s Brianna Deluna (2:27.12) and West Babylon’s Nadine Keefer (2:27.28) after the bell to secure first in 2:21.14.
“I kind of wanted to stay comfortable and I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable when I’m with someone, but I knew it’s natural for people to slow down the third 200,” Larkin said. “To avoid being with someone who might slow down, I just wanted to take it.”
When Farrell started to close the gap, Larkin heard yells from the sideline about her time. She managed to power down the straightaway and came in just over her 70-70 lap split goal.
“I felt myself slowing down, so I thought she may be close,” Larkin said. “I just tried to keep my form and keep her off.”
Another Harborfields runner, Jimmy DeSantis, took the boys 800 with a similar strategy. He made his way to the front during the first lap and pushed it after crossing the line, focusing on the clock as he put space between him and the competition. He finished in 2:00.38.
“I was really looking to get under 2 minutes, which I barely missed,” DeSantis said.
Commack’s Amanda McNelis won the 100-meter hurdles in 16.10. The senior, who has become a top presence in county hurdling and pole vaulting competitions, said her practice made a difference despite having tired legs.
“I was really trying to concentrate on my trail leg because that’s what I’ve been working on in practice,” McNelis said.
Her goal time for her final season is in the low 15 and 14-second range, and Saturday’s performance put her in place to reach that as the next month progresses.
Later in the day, she won the pole vault with a 12-foot, 6-inch height. She already qualified for the spring national meet with a 12-4 vault last weekend at the Joe Brandi Relays and has been leading the way as pole vaulting has gained more traction in Suffolk.
“We have a whole bunch of girls that are at 10, even 11 now, which is like unheard of a couple years ago,” McNelis said. “I think it’s great that so many people are coming and trying the sport.”
Paige Keefer of West Babylon won the 400 in 57.11. Her performance came two days after competing on a 4x800 team at the Penn Relays, but the quick turnaround didn’t cause any problems.
“It was like a nice speed workout,” Keefer said.
But when dealing with a heavy race schedule, it can be advantageous to give yourself fewer options.
“I like to go out fast because then I have to finish the race fast either way,” Keefer said.
Westbury’s Xavier Allen won the boys 100 in 11.12. West Babylon’s Brittany Korsah took the girls 100 in 12.44.