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VSS’s DeAnna Martin overcomes challenging heat to finish third in state 800

Valley Strem South's DeAnna Martin takes first place

Valley Strem South's DeAnna Martin takes first place in the Girls 800 meter at the state Track and Field Championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School on Friday. Credit: Heather Ainsworth / Heather Ainsworth

CICERO, N.Y. — Discouraged and worried, Valley Stream South’s DeAnna Martin sat in her hotel room Thursday night unsure of what was to come the next afternoon. When the seeds for the state girls championship in the 800 meters were released, Martin was not in the final heat but instead the second-to-last one.

Typically, the fastest runners are placed in the final heat and Martin wanted to be in that lot — not just because she wanted to win, but because she thought she had a better shot at clocking a fast time if she was with the quickest group.

“I was really nervous about being in the [third] heat, because I didn’t think I would be able to do it on my own,” Martin said. “I always run better when I have fast girls with me . . . I thought I’d be [in the top heat]. At state qualifiers, I thought I got a good seed time. Then, last night, I found out I wasn’t in the top heat. I kind of felt defeated at first, but my coach talked to me and told me that I could break through.”

And she did. No matter what heat she is in, Matin is fast — and she proved that Friday afternoon. She placed third in 2 minutes, 10.67 seconds on the first day of the state championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, with a time that bettered many in the final heat. In fact, the winner of the race — Haley Riorden of Rush-Henrietta — ran a 2:09.86 out of the second of the four heats, perhaps proving that seeding isn’t always everything.

Martin was put in the unusual and rare position of watching the final heat with her eye on the awards podium. She knew that she had a shot at a top-six finish, but never dreamed that she’d be fast enough to get the third-place medal.

“I was watching that final heat and just hoping for that clock to keep running,” Martin said with a laugh.

Elsewhere on the track, Mount Sinai’s Kayleigh Robinson won the Division II 400-meter hurdles in 1:03.03, a personal best, she said.

“It’s one of the hardest races in track,” Robinson said. “You just have to keep pushing because there is always going to be someone there. I’ve worked really hard for this. You have to want it to win, and that’s what I did.”

As much as Robinson wanted the championship, she was careful not to let the moment swallow her — something that is not easy to do at the pressure-packed state meet.

“When I got onto the track, I thought, ‘This is what I’ve been working for,’ ” Robinson said. “I sprinted, worked my form over the hurdle, and I did it.”

Martin’s Valley Stream South teammate Chibugo Obichere ran the second-fastest time in the Division I 100-meter hurdles trials (14.33). She’ll try to defend her Division I state championship Saturday morning.

“I was happy that I focused on my own race and not everything going on around me,” Obichere said. “When I finished, two people near me fell. But, I was focused on my race, so it didn’t really affect me. I was proud of that.”

In the field, Bay Shore’s Imoniri Aghomon won the Division I discus with a toss of 128 foot, 8 inches.

Floyd’s Kaylah Britt finished second in the Division I triple jump, flying 38-11 1⁄2 inches. Shenendehowa’s Alexandra Tudor won in 39-6 1⁄2.

“I practiced a lot this week,” Britt said. “I needed to work on my extension into the pit and that’s what I’ve been focusing on . . . My last two jumps were my best. I just had to focus more on reaching for my feet.”

Britt dominated Long Island this season, entering states weekend with a nearly 2-feet lead on the best-of-season list, according to

The trip upstate allowed Britt a chance to see some really intense competition.

“There were a lot more girls for me to see how they do their form and how they jump,” Britt said. “A lot of girls have better [personal bests] than me, but they’re not from Long Island.”

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