Matt Ronan glanced up at the jumbotron and saw what every track athlete dreams of.
“I looked up with two laps to go and didn’t even see the second-place guy behind me,” the Massapequa senior said.
Ronan cruised to a dominant victory in the 1,600-meter steeplechase in 4 minutes, 52.96 seconds at the 2017 U.S. Army Hispanic Games at the Armory in Manhattan on Saturday. He crossed the finish line 8.22 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.
Ronan said he was reminded of a few valuable lessons after the huge win: “Always trust your coach and you never know how fast you can be until you discover that spark within yourself that makes you want to run even faster.”
Ronan continued to praise Massapequa coach Richard Degnan for his role in the dazzling steeplechase display.
“My coach kept telling me that I could win this race,” Ronan said. “I just wasn’t sure of it myself. Without his confidence I don’t think I would’ve been able to win.”
Sachem East’s Lauren Harris, who set a national race-walk record last winter, won the 1,500 race-walk in 6:30.30 seconds.
Payton Capes and Amanda Dwyer of Shoreham-Wading River finished first and second, respectively, in the mile early in the day. Capes finished in 5:15.15 to edge Dwyer at 5:15.65. Bay Shore’s Bridget Kanaley was third in 5:16.80.
Hempstead’s Courtashia Felton narrowly missed winning the 400. She went neck-and-neck with Cardozo’s Tatianna Martinez and finished second, 58.28 to 58.40.
Despite a disappointing result, Felton focused on the positive aspects of the race.
“This was definitely a good learning experience,” she said. “Anything can happen at any given moment.”
Hempstead received another second-place effort in the second heat of the 400 from Tyrese Halls (50.13). He closed on Taft’s Carlon Hosten in the stretch, but Hosten hung on in 48.99.
“I thought I had him, but my arms gave out,” Halls said.
Elmont’s Damahya Coeur finished third in the first heat of the boys 400 and seventh overall in 50.66 seconds.
Coeur also noted the significance arms make in a close contest.
“One thing my coach taught me was to just use my arms, put them through and finish strong,” he said.
Shelbi Wuss placed sixth for Whitman in the 3,000 in 10:37.37.
Wuss, a senior who joined the Whitman as an eighth grader, understands the unique opportunity the Armory provides.
“Obviously, the girls who finished in front of me are very elite,” she said. “My goal is to make nationals in March, and going against elite competition like this will help me get there.”
And if Ronan continues to look up at the jumbotron and see only himself, he might be in attendance as well.