Historically speaking, there was no other place that West Babylon should have ended their epically successful relay run than on the top of an awards podium. The group, which has featured occasional cameos from others but has mainly consisted of Nadja Ashley, Paige Keefer, Dana Beggins, and Brittany Korsah, won three consecutive 4 x 400-meter relay state championships, encompassing both indoor and outdoor track.
With three of the four champions off to college in the fall, the group will now disband — leaving behind them a legacy of success and a bucket full of medals. But before they ran into the high school track sunset, the quartet captured a national championship, winning the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay in three minutes, 52.33 seconds at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, held June 16-18 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“It was very special . . . We weren’t expecting it at all,” Korsah said. “We only ran [the SMR] once this season. We just wanted to go in there, run our best, and see how we could do. It came out great.”
The group got final bonding time together on the trip down south, a long haul that made them even hungrier for a championship.
“We wanted to make this trip worth it,” Keefer said. “We drove 13 hours and it was our last race together. We wanted to go out, do our best, and hopefully get titles.”
Ashley, only a sophomore, will be the lone relay returner to next season’s team. She enters her junior year with a resume that many athletes don’t write in four years.
“It’s sad because it’s been such a successful two years,” Ashley said. “We’ve grown together as a team and a family. But, it was a great way to end our careers together.”
West Babylon was part of Long Island’s relay blitz at the national meet. Shoreham-Wading River won both the 4 x 800-meter relay and the 4 x 1-mile national championships. Alexandra Hays, Payton Capes-Davis, Maria Smith, and Katherine Lee took the 4 x 1-mile in 20:00.59 and Hays, Capes-Davis, Lee, and Amanda Dwyer won the 4 x 800 in 8:51.43.
Capes-Davis was also second in the 2,000-meter steeplechase in 6:50.30. Connetquot’s Kelly Iocca was third in 6:51.60. Stony Point’s Alexandra Harris won in 6:45.32.
Long Island swept the 4 x 800’s, with Northport boys’ contingent of Elijah and Isaiah Claiborne, Dan O’Connor and Tyler Dollhausen winning in 7:37.42.
Although Northport had won the 4 x 800 state championship a week earlier, the team did not see national supremacy in the cards.
“I thought we had a chance to place in the top four, but no way did I think we’d win the whole thing,” Elijah Claiborne said. “When I saw my brother [Isaiah] on the final straightaway, coming down and crossing the finish line, I turned to [O’Connor], hugged him, and smiled. We were national champions. I was ecstatic.”
Northport’s time broke the Suffolk record of 7:43.5 set by Commack North in 1982, according to suffolkxctf.com. The Tigers also finished second in the distance medley relay in 10:19.55. Philiadelphia’s Germantown Friends School won in 10:14.85.
Smithtown East’s Daniel Claxton capped his decorated high school career by clearing 7 feet, one quarter of an inch to win the high jump. Claxton dominated the Long Island High School high jump scene for the last two years, winning three of the four high jump state championships, encompassing indoor and outdoor track.
Stony Brook’s Jyles Etienne, who challenged Claxton for high jump supremacy on Long Island the last two spring seasons, was fourth (6-101⁄4).
Half Hollow Hills West’s Jovahn Williamson placed second in the 400 in 46.53 seconds. Huntington’s Kyree Johnson was fourth in 47.02. Miami’s Tyrese Cooper won in 45.81.