It all started with a question, and a relatively simple one at that.
"What am I running on Saturday?" Patchogue-Medford's Brian Michels asked his coach, Steve Cole, on Tuesday.
What followed was a two-part answer. The first part -- "you're doing the mile" -- was expected. The second part -- "and the one-mile steeplechase," was not.
"What?" Michels replied. "That's an event?"
Of course, being a 3,000-meter steeplechase runner during the spring, Michels was aware of the event, but he was unaware that it was run indoors.
"Yeah. I think you'll do well in it," Cole said to the senior. "They only have it at certain meets, so I think it will be good to try it out to get you ready for the spring."
Michels didn't just "do well," he won, crossing the finish line first in 4 minutes, 49.90 seconds at the Hispanic Games Saturday at the Armory in Manhattan.
"When I was going into my fifth lap, I looked down and saw shadows," he said. "I thought it was two other kids next to me but because they're multiple lights, it was just a few shadows on the ground. I looked up at the screen and saw I was in the lead by a decent amount. I thought, 'this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm confident.' When I step on the track, that's my sanctuary."
Michels said that the biggest difference between the indoor and outdoor event, other than the obvious discrepancy in distance, is the air quality of an enclosed facility. To combat this, Michels sticks a small piece of gum in the back of his mouth.
"It keeps the moisture going," Michels said. "That's how I combat the dryness."
Michels continued: "They're different competitors. Indoors, they're competitors from [multiple] states. It was nice to compete with other people, see their strengths and weaknesses, play off of them."
Michels didn't do so well in the boys varsity mile, running 4:44.31 for 60th place.
Northport's Mike Brannigan finished third in the Invitational mile in 4:13.20. The time was an indoor personal best.
"I felt good," Brannigan said. "I felt smooth."
The senior said his only regret was not making a move on the final lap in an effort to win the race. "I just have to be patient and wait," he said.
However, despite not winning, such a fast time this early in the season was encouraging.
"I did what my coaches said and stayed loose and relax," Brannigan said.
Syosset's Tyler Italiano finished fourth in the Invitational two-mile in 9:30.20. Holy Trinity's Shaka Shomari was fifth in the 55 meters in 6.53 seconds.
In field events, Sachem East's Andrew Alfano won the long jump, leaping 22 feet, 1/2 inch. Brentwood's Malik Sainnoval finished fourth, going 21-7. Smithtown East's Dominik Orames was second in the shot put, tossing 53-71/4. Syosset's Eric Sheng was fifth, tossing 49-31/4.