Port Jefferson's James Burke was running last. No matter the place, no matter the race, that is never part of the plan.
"I was a little nervous," Burke said. "It's never good to be in last."
Here he was, running the mile on the third and final day of the New Balance Nationals and he was staring at the backs of everyone else in the field. But Burke took solace in the fact that, with so many runners packed all together, last was almost a technicality.
"There were about nine kids within 10 meters of each other," he said.
Burke was able to fight forward and place fifth in the event Sunday at the Armory in Manhattan. He crossed the line in 4 minutes, 14.29 seconds, good for All-American status.
"I was stuck in the back for a while," Burke said. "The field was packed wide. I would have had to run in at least the fourth or fifth lane to get around everybody. I was just waiting for a spot. With about 600 to go, I saw Tappan Zee's Luke Gavigan make a move from the inside. The field widened up for him once he made his move. I saw it closing back in and knew I needed to shoot that gap before it closed."
Burke wasted no time, chasing the bit of light between those ahead of him before it disappeared.
"I busted through," he said. "I used my arms and my body and found that little room."
Michigan's Grant Fisher won in 4:09.46
St. Anthony's, after winning a national title in the sprint medley relay Saturday, placed fourth in the 4 x 200-meter relay Sunday. The team, composed of Brad Monegro, Marlon Montague, Sebastian Pierre and Mozai Nelson, finished in 1:30.16, good for All-American status.