Smithtown East's Jaclyn Gallery was surprised. It's always a good idea to expect the unexpected, and what she saw at the beginning of the 3,000 meters at the Suffolk State Qualifier Saturday afternoon at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood certainly qualified as unexpected.
With a trip to the state meet, scheduled for March 1 at Cornell University, on the line, logic would dictate that runners might be eager to jump out and take an early lead, as jitters rushed through their veins. But as the race got underway, Gallery saw that this wasn't the case.
"The beginning of the race was really slow," Gallery said. "No one wanted to take the lead. We all wanted to set a good pace and stay behind each other. I didn't know that it was going to be that slow in the beginning. I expected someone to go and then no one did!"
With two laps down and no one showing any inclination to take control, Gallery and Northport's Brigid Brennan decided to take things into their own hands. When the duo pulled away, it became a two-person race, with Gallery and Brennan running side by side, joined at the hip.
"I started to pick it up on the second to last lap," Gallery said. "I knew she was dying. I just kept going and going, I sprinted the last 55 meters because I didn't know where she was."
Gallery had nothing to worry about. She crossed the finish line a winner in 10 minutes, 24.78 seconds. Brennan was second in 10:26.15. They both qualified for the state meet.
The victory was extra sweet for Gallery, who narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet last season. When she crossed the finish line and looked up at her time, she was again surprised.
"When I saw my time, I thought, 'oh my gosh,' " she said. "I didn't realize how fast I was going because we started out so slow. I only missed the school record by three seconds and my personal best by two seconds."
Other winners at the meet included: Glenn's Sarah Hardie, who won the 1,000 in 2:57.82, Bayport-Blue Point's Kathleen Cibuls in the 600 in 1:38.25, and Miller Place's Tiana Guevara in the 1,500 in 4:41.69. Bay Shore's Anisa Toppin won the long jump, flying 18 feet, 4 inches, and the triple jump at 38-3 1/2.