Clayton Santiago was on the brink of summer and, unlike thousands of other kids on Long Island, he wasn’t ready for spring to end . . . well, not yet anyway.
The Bethpage senior was running about 30 meters off the pace on the back straightaway of the boys 800 meters on the first day of the Nassau State Qualifier Wednesday afternoon at North Shore in Glen Head when reality set in. He was as far back as he could be, and he needed to act quickly to save his state championship hopes.
“With 250 [meters] left, I had to go,” Santiago said. “If I left any later, I wouldn’t have gotten it . . . I’ll never let the leader be more than 10 meters in front of me, and he was [at least] 20, so I had some ground to make up.”
The all-out sprint around the final half of the track saved his season, with Santiago outpacing North Shore’s Collin O’Sullivan and Manhasset’s Ryan Watson in one minute, 57.90 seconds.
The victory qualified Santiago for the outdoor state championships, scheduled for June 8-9 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. It marked the state championship triple crown for Santiago, who ran in both the cross country and indoor track state championships this school year.
After the kick at 250, Santiago needed a second kick at 120 to finish the job.
“People don’t usually kick until 150, so I thought I could slowly catch up to him, cruise it, and then kick again,” he said. “And that’s how I took the win.”
The girls 800 also came down to the wire, with Syosset’s Reilly Siebert needing a lean at the finish line to outpace Valley Stream South’s DeAnna Martin. Siebert won in 2:13.82 and Martin was second in 2:13.84. The two spent the final 300 meters fighting for position.
“The goal was to go with 300 [meters left], make both of us work for it, and make the race really honest,” Siebert said. “She responded really quickly to that.”
Siebert, who is one of the best distance runners on Long Island, doesn’t have a ton of experience in down-to-the-last-10-meters type races, in fact, few distance runners do. But, after sizing up the field, the Villanova-bound senior said she expected a close one.
“I was looking forward to a tight race, just to get experience for next week and next year,” Siebert said. “It was cool because I had never been in a race like that where it was down to the wire and I had to fight for the finish. The last 50 I just said ‘this is it. This is one of your last races. You have to go.’ ”
Elsewhere, North Shore’s Jack Rosencrans (9:36.62) barely outpaced Manhasset’s Aidan Caggiano (9:37.60) to win the boys 3,200. North Shore’s Caroline Reiner won the girls Division I 400 hurdles in 61.80 and Farmingdale’s Lorvens Hyppolite won the boys Division I 400 hurdles in 54.69 seconds.