Ryan Cooney grabbed the baton and stared straight ahead. Cooney, a senior at Massapequa and the second leg of the Long Island Alliance 4x800 meter relay team, was dead last. He needed to pick up ground -- and fast.
"I got the handoff and, instinctively, I was running scared," Cooney said. "I just tried to catch as many people as I could."
The "running scared" approach worked. The Massapequa foursome, comprised of Cooney, Mike Puleio, Dan DeLuna and Lawrence Vedilago, won the Emerging Elite 4 x 800 relay in seven minutes, 56.45 seconds on the first day of the New Balance Indoor Nationals Friday at The Armory in Manhattan.
Despite receiving the handoff in last place, Cooney didn't see the position as a dooming one.
"I definitely like chasing," he said.
When Cooney handed off to DeLuna, the group was in the middle of the pack. After DeLuna ran a 1:55.30 leg, the Alliance was in the lead. Vedilago, the anchor, received the baton from DeLuna. His job was to protect the lead. Even though the situations were different, the mind-set was identical to Cooney's.
"I was running scared," Vedilago said. "Somewhere between the first and second lap, [my opponent] was right on my heels. That's not a figure of speech, he actually stepped on my heels two or three times. But I just kept going and picking up my legs, so he couldn't step on me.."
Two Riverhead pole vaulters placed in the top five in the Emerging Elite competition. Daniel Normoyle placed second, jumping 15-31/2, and Jonah Spaeth cleared 14-31/2, good for fourth.
Garden City Track Club's Andrew Morra placed fourth in the Emerging Elite 800, running a 1:56.32.
North Babylon's Teena Mobley finished fourth in the Emerging Elite long jump at 18-11/2.
"I kept my speed up," Mobley said. "I visualize myself going into the pit."