Mt Sinai’s Kate Del Gandio wins the 100-meter hurdles during...

Mt Sinai’s Kate Del Gandio wins the 100-meter hurdles during the Suffolk Coaches Track and Field Invitational on Monday at Bay Shore. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Kate Del Gandio, Mount Sinai, 100 Hurdles

The decision to end her high school running story at the state championships was a hard one for Del Gandio. The Albany-bound senior could have gone to one of the multiple national championships that officially end the American high school season, but she chose another one of her passions instead – dance.

“Honestly, I wish I could have gone to nationals,” Del Gandio said. “But, I also have a dance team that I can’t let down. It’s my senior year there too. I’ve been dancing for 15 years, so I have to finish it out.”

Del Gandio, who dances and teaches at Port Jefferson Dance Academy, had a recital on national’s weekend that she simply couldn’t miss. That made Cicero – North Syracuse the final stop of Del Gandio’s roaring tour of success and, it really wasn’t much different from her previous ones. Del Gandio, who is the top hurdler in the state, closed up shop by winning the 100-meter hurdle Federation championship in 14.81 seconds. It was her second hurdles state Federation championship of the school year. She won the 55-meter indoor hurdles championship in March.  Del Gandio also won the Division I outdoor championship in 14.74 seconds.

Ashley Fulton, Elmont, 100 and 200 Meters

The future is blindingly bright for Fulton, who made waves during her sophomore season – first, as a key part of Elmont’s indoor state champion 4x200 relay team and then as one of the top outdoor sprinters in the state. Fulton won the outdoor Federation 200 in 24.68 seconds, the Division I,200 in 24.23 seconds, and the Division I 100 in 12.14 seconds.

Fulton surely wanted to win for the feeling of state supremacy, a touch of pure joy. But, there was another reason.

“You get these boards and a shirt,” she said, donning her new championship T-shirt and holding on to a large poster board that said ‘CHAMPION.’

For all the success Fulton had with her relay team in the winter, she took a step forward in individual events this spring.

“I definitely felt like I ran better in the spring,” she said. “I felt like winter was just preparation for how spring would go. My form is definitely better. I’ve gotten faster and I’ve gotten better block starts. Those were the things that really pushed me to win the majority of my races.”

Gloria Guerrier, West Hempstead, 400 Hurdles

Slowly but surely, Guerrier’s hesitancy around the hurdles evaporated. And, slowly by surely, she morphed into a champion.  The junior won the Division II 400 meter hurdles championship in 1:03.79, nearly two seconds clear of her closest competition for the title.

“When I first started (hurdling), I was making more mistakes over the hurdles,” Guerrier said. “I would stutter more. But, as the season came to a close, I started working on my technique and started not to stutter as much…It was getting more comfortable and finding more confidence. I felt that, if I stuttered (near the hurdle), I was not sure or confident going at it. I just tried to be more confident, know that I’m going to jump over the hurdle, and try not to think about it too much. ”

Despite the gap in the final times, Guerrier knew the competition behind her was of high quality and she wasn’t taking any chances.

“I knew that the girl behind me (Alexander’s Jadyn Mullen) was fast and that, if I felt her behind me, I should just go,” Guerrier said.

Alexandra Kelly, Rocky Point, Triple Jump

Kelly was the happiest person in Cicero, Syracuse, or any of the surrounding areas late on the second and final day of the state championships. The Princeton-bound senior had left her mark on, not only the prestigious end-of-season meet, but the entire state track scene by breaking the state triple jump record. Kelly jumped 42 feet, 5 inches, besting the old record of 42-4, set by Westbury’s Marlene Ricketts in 2010, according to milesplit.com

“I was just so excited,” said Kelly. “My coaches have always said, ‘just wait ‘till the end of the season for it all to pay off. The progression all led to here, and I couldn’t be happier with how my last meet went.”

Kelly needed to wait until her final jumping event of the championships to secure a win and the record. She had come in second place in her two long jump competitions and the Division I triple jump, but none of that mattered once she hit 42-5.

Gianna Marquez, Deer Park, 400 Hurdles

It took some time to find it, but Marquez’ niche is now pretty clear. She’s a hurdler, and has the hardware to prove it. The senior has been all over the track in her high school track years, but says the longer hurdles event is where she feels most comfortable.

“(In past years), I didn’t know what event I liked the most, because I do so many,” Marquez said. “I didn’t really have a favorite yet, so I tried equally in each event. But, this year, I realized that I have a passion for 400 hurdles, so I put in more work.”

The work led to a title. Marquez won the Division I 400 meter hurdles in 1:04.78.

“The first hurdle determines the rest of the race,” said Marquez, who will run at North Carolina Central next school year. “If I don’t get to the first hurdle good, I’ll do bad the whole race.”

In Cicero, she got over the first hurdle cleanly and it carried her home.

Desiree Pagan, Islip, Discus

It took a bit to get going, but when it finally got there – boy, did Pagan let the discus fly.

The senior tossed it 132 feet, 10 inches on her third throw to win the Division I championship – a competition the featured some of the best seniors in the state, and three of the top throwers on Long Island.

“My first two throws were all right, but it wasn’t until the last throw of the preliminary round where I got in the right head space, I had a good release, and a good push to the end,” Pagan said. “I got a few in and that was really it.”

Pagan followed her third throw with a solid 132 foot, 6 inch toss, her second-best of the competition.

“I was really happy with them,” Pagan said. “They weren’t (personal bests), but they were very close to it. I pushed through all the way until the end. I put everything I had into those throws.”

Pagan’s personal best is 134-1, thrown at the Suffolk State Qualifier, according to milesplit.com.

Leeann Redlo, Bayport-Blue Point, 100 Hurdles

A championship seemed far away for Redlo after she the last month of her season trying, for sure.

“I actually kept racing throughout counties and state qualifiers,” Redlo said. “I was doing (physical therapy) instead of practice the entire time, so my races weren’t as good….I was definitely really worried about it. I’m used to practicing every day and keeping up a regimen. Breaking that was a lot. But, it also helped me out a lot. I’ve had a really hard season on my body, so it did help to take that time off.”  

Not to be denied, the senior made it back to full strength in time to win the Division II 100 hurdles state championship in 14.61 seconds, outstepping Bishop Loughlin’s Brinesha Derrick-Bain on her way to the title. Derrick-Bain was second in 14.72 seconds.

“I was very focused on snapping my lead leg down,” Redlo said. “I really wanted to get back on the ground as fast as possible to get my turnover speed up. Once I got over that last hurdle, I just wanted to go all out.”

Shannel Sibblies, North Babylon, 400 Meters

There’s nothing quite like a plan. Sibblies knows this now, and is better for it. The senior didn’t used to have one. She would just go all-out all the time and see if that worked. It often didn’t. She knew she needed a change.

“I usually would go out and give it my all in one spot and try to sprint the whole thing,” Sibblies said. “As I matured in track and field, I learned how to somewhat conserve energy and try to go all-out in the end.”

This time, Sibblies could not have planned it any better. She won the Division I 400 meters in 56.48 seconds.

“I just kept (running) the race in my head beforehand,” Sibblies said. “I went in with a plan. My plan was to get out fast in the first 100, hold on to my stride until I got to the last 150, and push through and give it my all that last 150.”

In addition to her individual accolade, Sibblies ran on the 4x100 relay that won the Division I championship and the 4x400 relay that placed third in Division I.

North Babylon’s 4x100 meter relay team (Shannel and Shyanne Sibblies, Djoonicka Buissereth, Samara Lawrence)

There’s a kind of twin-telepathy that happens when a North Babylon 4x100 meter relay starts. The Sibblies twins don’t need much practice handing off to one another between the leadoff and secondary leg. They’ve been doing it all their lives.

“We never have to worry about the baton passes because we have some type of twin connection on the track,” said Shannel Sibblies, who leads off the relay and will run at the University of Rhode Island next school year. “Whenever I give the baton to Shyanne, I just know she’s going to catch everyone. We have a joke that she’s Pac-Man. She just eats everyone up on the back straightway.”

The twins helped North Babylon to a 48.52 second victory in the Division I 4x100 relay championship. After the Sibblies portion of the race, it was time for Buissereth and Lawrence to take over

“(Buissereth) has one of the fastest 100 times on our team,” Shannel Sibblies said. “That’s her race, the open 100. Samara Lawrence was second (at State Qualifiers) in the 100 meters and has a great 200 time, as well. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. They’re really dependable.”

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