To dance or run?
It didn't take long for Syosset's Henna Rustami to make her decision. Very early in the season, the senior determined that if she qualified for the state championships, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Middletown, she would skip Friday night's senior prom.
"I thought about it. Prom is a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity," Rustami said. "But track, and this team, is so much more important to me. I've grown up with this team. I started as a freshman and was one of the worst on the team. I've grown as a person with these coaches and these teammates. It would just mean a lot to me to go to the state meet."
Rustami's dancing shoes will have to wait for another occasion. She won the 3,000 at the Nassau state qualifier Tuesday at Freeport in 10 minutes, 16.12 seconds.
"The first four laps was a nice, comfortable pace," she said. "Once girls made a move with four laps to go, and I just gradually moved up. With two laps to go, I made my move. I took the lead and just kept going."
Rustami ran the 1,500 at last year's state championships, an experience she hopes to draw on in her quest for a title.
"I did not run a good race," she said. "It was my first state meet and I was so nervous. It was not a good mentality to have. This year, I'm really excited. Now I know what to expect."
Rustami will hardly be the lone Brave making the trip to Middletown. The senior was part of the 4 x 800 relay team, along with Lauren Gruber, Carolan Frisina and Alex Bruefach, that qualified by running a 9:24.98 Wednesday.
Jade Knaster, who is considering attending both the prom and the state meet, won the pole vault competition, clearing 11 feet, 6 inches.
The height broke her own Nassau record, previously 11-3.
"I keep working toward the top, hoping to get higher and higher each time," Knaster said. "Today, I worked on getting my arms up during my jump and swinging all the way to the top of the pole. This way, I was able to pop right over 11 feet, 6 inches."
The senior, who also runs for the Braves, practices pole vaulting only once a week.
"It's hard to get it in," she said. "When I have practice, I try to focus on the things that I didn't do so well during my other performances. I try to put that together and fix it for the next time."
Knaster's goal is to clear 12 feet by the end of the season.
Garden City's Emma Gallagher qualified in two individual events. She ran 2:12.37 in the 800 and 61.88 in the 400 hurdles. Gallagher, who is already an accomplished middle-distance runner, began hurdling at the beginning of the season. "It's different from plain running," she said of the 400 hurdles. "It's kind of hard to pick up a rhythm because you have to time your jump right or you'll hit the hurdle. But it gives you something to concentrate on, other than just a lap."