The only muscle that wasn't sore when Shoreham-Wading River's Ryan Udvadia crossed the finish line of the Suffolk State Qualifying 3,200 was his thumb. Perhaps that's why he raised it -- a fitting salute to a race that was filled with drama.
Riding a late kick, Udvadia won in nine minutes, 17.27 seconds this past Friday at Port Jefferson High School. He edged the rest of the field by three seconds. The win qualified Udvadia for the New York State Championships, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Middletown.
For a long time, it looked like the field would pass him by. Udvadia, however, knew better.
"[Northport's Mike Brannigan] pulled away with half a mile to go," Udvadia said. "I didn't want to follow him because I knew that I couldn't hold that pace. I would have gotten tired. With 400 meters to go, I picked it up."
With 200 meters left, Udvadia saw an opportunity. Whether the runners in front of him were slowing up or he was getting faster almost didn't matter. All he saw was the finish line getting clearer. Suddenly, the runners who were ahead of him in the middle of the race were right by his side.
"I saw the look on their faces and they were spent," Udvadia said. "They didn't even make an effort to try and catch me."
As Udvadia was kicking his way toward victory, Port Jefferson's James Burke sat watching. Burke was set to face Udvadia in Saturday's 1,600 and he wanted to make sure he was in the best position to beat the Shoreham star. Burke determined that playing the late-kick game was the way to go.
"Usually, I like to run in the front and Udvadia does the opposite. He likes to kick," Burke said. "I decided that I'd run his kind of race. I sat and kicked with him."
It worked. Burke won the 1,600 in 4:13.72. Throughout the opening laps of the race, the sophomore had to work hard to conserve energy.
"It was annoying. I was getting anxious and wanted to run in the front," Burke said. "I just kept telling myself 'Wait for the last lap.'"
Burke also won the 800 on Friday, finishing in 1:53.73.