Part of the beauty of running the entire school year is the quick turnarounds. With three seasons packed into about ten months, there’s always a chance at redemption right around the corner.
And redemption is exactly what RJ Pleasants wants.
The Half Hollow Hills East distance runner had the best pre-states cross-country postseason of any boy in Suffolk. With wins at both the county division championships and the Class A county state qualifier, Pleasants was looking toward a fine showing at the state public school cross-country championships at Sunken Meadow State Park in November.
But, as can happen in this sport, it just wasn’t his day — with Pleasants finishing outside the top 40.
Pleasants will get another chance at state glory. The senior qualified for the indoor state championships in the 3,200 meters after a 9 minute, 32.74 second victory at the Suffolk state qualifiers at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Monday night. The state championships are scheduled for March 2 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.
“I’m excited to redeem myself and show what I truly am made of,” he said.
Pleasants led for the first half of the race, something he doesn’t like to do but needed to because of the unusually slow pace.
“It went out in 4:57 [the first mile]. I prefer to go out in, like 4:40,” he said. “. . . It was really slow and a hard negative split. I hate leading races, [but] that was just brutal . . . It makes me lose the most energy. I like to look at someone’s back. That just makes the race a whole lot easier.”
Pleasants fell off the lead in the second mile, kicked past Smithtown East’s Kevin Cawley with 100 meters to go, and held off Commack’s Daniel Czop on the final straightaway. Czop was second in 9:33.04 and Cawley third in 9:34.85.
“I knew that in a footrace, I probably wouldn’t win against [Cawley],” said Pleasants of the decision to go when he did. “If I gave him a few meters to go ahead, he might think that no one was there.”
Elsewhere, Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei won the 55 hurdles in 7.34, topping Longwood’s Jaheim Dotson in a battle of large and small school county champions. Dotson was second in 7.47.
“You see him accelerate out of the corner of your eye and you start accelerating,” Wei said of racing Dotson. “If he passes me a little bit, I try to rush ahead of him and he tries to rush ahead of me. We just keep pushing each other.”
Dotson later won the 300 in 35.97.