The time has come for Hauppauge’s Nick Crociata to start prepping for his state championship run. Of course, the goal is nothing new. As the fastest returner from last season’s state championship 600-meter race, taking home the title has been on his mind for almost a year. But, after officially qualifying for the state championship with a 1 minute, 22.39 second victory at the Suffolk state qualifier Monday night at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, Crociata’s dream is one step closer to reality.
He’s in. It’s real. The official countdown is on.
The state championships are scheduled for March 3 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island, and as the fastest 600 runner in the state, Crociata is the favorite to take home the gold. This doesn’t scare him off — not one bit. He relishes it.
“There’s definitely a target on my back and that’s what pushes me every meet,” said Crociata, who ran a 1:21.11 on Jan. 27, currently the top time in the state this season, according to milesplit.com. “I want to make sure no one gets that [top] time before me and no one gets to that line before me.”
Crociata has never won an individual state title and with only a few weeks until his next opportunity, he cannot stop thinking about the possibility.
“Nothing would make me happier,” he said. “To bring it home for the county and the community, nothing would bring me more joy.”
Elsewhere, Longwood’s Jaheim Dotson went toe-to-toe with Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei in the 55 hurdles and edged him by .02 seconds. Dotson pushed after the final hurdle to win in 7.56 seconds. Wei ran 7.58.
“After the final hurdle, I just had to reach and keep my stride going,” Dotson said.
The Longwood junior has been fairly dominant in Suffolk competition this year. As the large school champion, Dotson needed Wei, the small school champion, to give him his best race in weeks.
“I don’t really pay attention to my competition while I’m running,” Dotson said. “I just focus on me, my lane and race against time.”
Dotson also qualified for the state championships in the 300, running a 35.86 and placing second to Half Hollow Hills West’s Nicholas Duchatel, who won in 35.85.
On the girls side, Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee won the 1,000 in 2:52.58, the fastest time on Long Island this season, according to milesplit.com. The meet marked the final time Lee would run on the Suffolk County Community College track during competition, a place that has hosted her numerous county championships and fast times galore.
“It’s so sad,” the Georgetown-bound distance star said of her final trip to the flat, blue track. “I really enjoyed racing here, seeing everyone and always having that common ground of having a love-hate relationship with [the track].”
Lee, who has won three state public school cross country championships, has never won a state track championship. While a state track win would cap an impressive high school career, it’s not everything, Lee said.
“State titles are great, but I’m looking for [personal bests),” Lee said. “I just want to try and better myself. If a state title comes with that, that’s great and would be very exciting. But, I’m just trying to get myself ready for [Georgetown], stay in good shape, and whatever wins come will come.”
In the field, Longwood’s Kelsey Shapiro won the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 5 inches, a personal best.
“I was really aggressive,” she said. “I definitely drove up on the plant foot a lot and I ran my curve really well.”
Copiague’s Akajia Atkins won the 55 in 7.21 seconds and the long jump in 19-2.