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Louis Santelli leads Friars to sprint medley relay crown

St. Anthony's Sebastian Pierre, Louis Santelli, Marlon Montague

St. Anthony's Sebastian Pierre, Louis Santelli, Marlon Montague and Mozai Nelson celebrate winning the boys 1600 sprint medley at the New Balance Nationals at the Armory on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

St. Anthony's Louis Santelli bent down to look at a photo of the 1,600 meter sprint medley relay finish and could only think of one thing to say. "Wow."

He knew it was close, but he didn't know how close.

Santelli, running anchor for the Friars, was able to edge Warwick Valley, giving St. Anthony's the SMR national title in three minutes, 25.95 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, held yesterday at The Armory in Manhattan.

The time was the second fastest in state history, behind only Brooklyn's Transit Tech, which ran a 3:25.51 in 2003, according to the 2014 official high school track record book.

As Santelli strode down the final straightaway, he had to hold off Warwick Valley's Jordan Burton, who was hot on his tail. The two practically knocked elbows as they barreled toward the finish line ribbon. Warwick Valley finished in 3:26.09

"I knew how close he was until 10 meters were left," Santelli said. "Then my eyes focused in on the finish line."

When Santelli broke the tape, he was flooded with emotions.

"It was probably the most exciting moment of my life, to be completely honest," he said. "Seeing the nationals tape stretch across, knowing we're about to be national champions if I just push the last couple meters, it's the most amazing feeling I've ever felt."

And the teammates that set up Santelli's anchor leg, Sebastian Pierre, Mozai Nelson and Marlon Montague, shared in that glory.

"This time of year, we're supposed to be running at our peak," Nelson said. "We could not have been more prepared for this race. The adrenaline I had was crazy. Last night, I was sitting in bed and had sweaty palms thinking about the race. Now that we've done it, I couldn't be happier."

Nelson said he tossed and turned all night, but the euphoria of standing on the top step of the awards podium was enough to erase any fatigue.

It was a banner day for St. Anthony's. The girls SMR team, comprised of Melissa June, Jessica Penna, and Katie and Emily O'Neill, placed third in 4:02.90, good for All-American status.

It was the final race together for sisters Katie, a senior and Emily, a sophomore. They both play lacrosse in the spring.

"It's been four years running together," Emily said of the sisterly finale. "She's always handed off to me. So, it was really exciting to be able to finish that off with an All-American finish."

Smithtown West's Ben Bonhurst continued his outstanding season by winning the shot put national championship, throwing 64 73/4. Bonhurst achieved that distance on his very first throw, daring the rest of the field to catch him. They never did.

"I had a lot of adrenaline pumping," Bonhurst said of his first toss. "It just came off my hand well."

Earlier in the day, actually before 9 a.m., Sachem North's Katie Michta finished second in the one-mile race walk in 7:22.67, good for All-American status.

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