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‘Practice’ makes perfect for Bethpage boys in 4 x 400 victory

Bethpage's Justin Cano hands off the baton to

Bethpage's Justin Cano hands off the baton to teammate Dan Midgette for the final leg of their 4 x 400 relay victory at St. Anthony's on Tuesday night. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It was supposed to be a practice — nothing special, just an early-season speed workout designed to get the legs moving and the blood flowing. But the Bethpage boys 4 x 400-meter relay team turned it into so much more at a Nassau crossover indoor track meet at St. Anthony’s High School last night.

The team, composed of Justin Cano, Aidan Pech, Clayton Santiago and Dan Midgette won in 3 minutes, 40.27 seconds, topping Westbury (3:44.04), Bellmore JFK (3:44.47) and Uniondale (3:45.23) in a come-from-behind, masquerading type of victory.

Why masquerading? Well, because the Bethpage unit normally runs as a 4 x 800 relay.

The dramatic drop in distance made the race all the more challenging. Though 400 meters doesn’t seem like a major change, the two fewer laps can affect both pace and race strategy.

“It was tough for me,” said Cano, Bethpage’s third leg. “I didn’t expect to catch up with the people that I caught up with during the race.”

But it was Cano’s move halfway through his leg that made the difference — using nifty footwork to step in front of the field and take what would become the final lead of the race.

“When they were ahead of me, all that was running through my ind was ‘They’re right there! They’re right there!’ ” Cano said. “I wanted to get ahead of them and just run as fast as I could . . . I wasn’t thinking that much when I was running. All that was on my mind was running.”

By the time Cano handed off to Midgette, the lead was lengthy and the race was, baring a giant comeback or major slip-up, completely in Bethpage’s hands.

“My strategy was to get out hard and then hold on,” Midgette said. “I ended up looking behind me at the end and they weren’t up close.”

Cano, who ended up being a large reason why Bethpage won, said that he had never run a 400-meter race in a competitive setting before.

“I didn’t know how to pace myself during each lap,” he said. “I was definitely thinking more than when I run an 800. I just try to pace with the person that is ahead and just try to take off with the person from there.”

“It’s a faster pace,” said Pech, the second leg. “I was caught off-guard by it. I was just saying in my head, ‘Stay with the jersey in front of me’ and try to stay with them. I saw the clock on the other side of the track and was just trying to get my splits.”

Pech ran his leg in 56 seconds. Cano ran his in 55, Midgette ran a 53 leg, and Santiago opened up with a 54 leg, they said.

Despite the win, the four seemed hesitant about continuing to run the 4 x 400 as the season deepens.

“We are definitely a 4 x 800 team,” Midgette said.

Massapequa’s Matt Ronan won the 3,200 in 10:15.99. Ronan held the lead for virtually the whole race, but constantly had to battle Garden City’s Daniel Clark, who was second in 10:21.22.

“I tried to take him out fast and gap as many people as I could,” Ronan said. “I heard [Clark] behind me and didn’t want to let him pass me. I came through that first mile and kept telling myself, ‘Get to that next lap.’ ”

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