Melissa Cunningham has gotten up to speed in the 55. Two months ago, the shortest sprint on the track wasn’t on the St. Anthony’s sophomore’s radar. Now, she’s the best in the CHSAA. Not bad for a quick learning curve.
A 300 meter runner by trade, Cunningham started running the 55 meters earlier this season at the urging of St. Anthony’s coach Oliver St. Aude. St. Aude, Cunningham said, thought the shorter event would help her run faster in her main event.
“I was a little nervous the first time,” Cunningham said. “Well, extremely nervous. But, I pushed through my nerves. I’ve been running since eighth grade, so I really know how to deal with them now. I’m a little more experienced with that. I tried it out and it worked.”
The addition of the 55 has made Cunningham one of the more dynamic sprinters on Long Island. She won three events at the CHSAA League Championships on Jan. 27 — clocking a 7.39 in the 55, a 41.07 in the 300, and lent her legs to the 4X400 meter relay team that won in 4:12.75.
Cunningham ran a 7.27 in the 55 in early January, tied for the fourth-fastest time on Long Island, and ran a 40.88 in the 300 in mid-January, the fourth fastest time on Long Island, as of Tuesday, according to milesplit.com.
The fast times in both events go hand-in-hand. Cunningham said she sees a direct link between her newfound 55 prowess and quicker 300 finishes. It appears that St. Aude’s grand plan is working quite well.
“I like that it’s short,” Cunningham said of the 55. “It really opens me up for my 300. It’s like a stride for me…I went from a 42 to a 40 (in the 300) within a week.”
Despite the quick success, Cunningham said she’s still looking to work on her start and drive phase before this weekend’s CHSAA Intersectional Championships on Staten Island. Her goal is to run at both the state championships and New Balance Indoor Nationals in March.
“I’m looking at championships if I could run a 39 for the 300, and, for the 55, I’m hoping to break seven (seconds), maybe a 6.9,” she said.