Sachem East and Sachem North were both well represented at the New Balance National Indoor Track and Field Championships held this past weekend with the action highlighted by both teams celebrating All-American performances at the Armory Track and Field Center.
Katie Michta of Sachem North finished fifth in the 1-Mile Racewalk, Rachel Paul of Sachem East placed second in the 2-Mile Run, and Sachem East's Distance Medley Relay of Laurie Semetsis, Ally Figalora, Melanie Notarstefano, and Rachel Paul finished sixth in this annual gathering of the nations top track and field talent.
Sachem East brought it's largest contingent ever with the goal to finish the season in style, with personal bests and medal winning performances certainly in mind, “but also the goal of gaining crucial national caliber meet experience, which is so important for future high school or collegiate seasons,” said East coach Pete McNeill. “Just about all goals were met, albeit not without a few curveballs.”
Friday's action began with the Emerging Elite competition, and the 4 x 800 relay squad of Nicole Silvestre, Jackie Wasilco, Casey Gelderman, and Katie Hempfling was first up for Sachem East, with Geldermans terrific third leg helping East to a 29th place finish (9:58.43).
An hour later the throws tandem of Gabby Trejo and Brittany Sepe stepped into the circle to toss the 20-pound weight, with both throwing personal bests, Trejo placing 13th (39' 9.5"), and Sepe 19th (36'). Then it was back to the track where Gelderman, Wasilko, and Silvestre again put it on the line, this time combining with speedster Ashley "Bean" Mercado to place 19th in the Sprint Medley Relay in 4:27.06.
Next up was the first of the meet's championship races, the Distance Medley Relay. The quartet of Semetsis, Figalora, Notarstefano, and Paul ran brilliantly, their 11:57.06 final time crushing the old school record to become the first Sachem relay team (North or East) ever to earn All-American status- placing sixth overall- the top New York team and just seconds behind the winners from Gross Point Michigan.
Paul's 4:49 split for the anchor mile clearly setting the stage for her highly anticipated 2-Mile Championship final two days later. The last race of the day was the 5,000-Meter Run, where Shannon O'Hehir's 18:55.67 earned her 32nd overall and moved her up to No. 11 in the New York State rankings.
On Saturday, Sachem East returned to the Armory with a quartet of hurdlers and an equal number of Racewalkers. In the shuttle hurdle relay, senior Sam Eng led the squad of Shannon Haberkorn, Paige Picascio, and Katie Sullivan to a 28th place finish- again breaking a school record- finishing with a time of 38.38.
Four hours later East's nationally recognized racewalking program would validate it's status as the deepest squad in the nation.
Kelly Maranchuck, boxed in and forced out into lane three for much of the race, just missed All-American status, placing seventh in the mile racewalk clocking 7:47.65. Not far behind her were Alyssa Furlani (11th in 7:58.53), Holly Lindoe (16th in 8:08.82), and Sarah LaPorta (36th in 8:48.37). Even without Amanda Catherall competing due to a strained hamstring, Sachem East placed an unprecedented three athletes in the top 20 in the nation in this one event.
And with Katie Michta of North placing fifth, the questions about the water will only continue.
Sunday, the final day of the meet, would give Paul a chance to improve on her seventh place finish in the 800 meters at last year’s Indoor Nationals. Only this time she would be moving up in distance, and as she was ranked No. 4 in the U.S. in the 3,000, and had just run a three second personal best in the 1,000 while placing second at the state meet, she looked like a lock for a podium finish.
“As it turned out, it was a lot more exciting than that as early on a pack of six broke away from the field with Paul sitting in the middle of that pack for most of the race,” McNeill said.
With three laps to go, Carmen Carlos of Alabama surged to the front as the top three opened a five-meter gap on Paul. With two laps to go she responded and closed the gap, pulling up on to the shoulder of 3,200-meter star Dana Giordano, ranked No. 1, and getting ready to pounce. Turning on the jets with 180 meters to go Paul took the lead going in to the backstretch and opened a three-meter lead into the final turn. But despite Paul's spectacular closing speed, 32 seconds for the last 200 meters, the ace from Mobile saw an opening on the inside and drew up inside Rachel just before the finish line.
Contact ensued and Paul went down, falling on the finish line as Carlos squeezed by. Meet referees ruled the contact incidental, allowing the results to stand: Carlos first, 10:25.30 and Paul second, 10:25.82. It was not the only nail-biting finish of the meet, but certainly one of the most exciting as Paul was able to end her season as a double All-American, setting a school record and a Suffolk County record in the process.
North’s SMR breaks school record
Sachem North’s sprint medley relay (SMR) broke a school record and placed fifth in the 1,600-meter at nationals.
Leadoff leg Alyssa Leto (26.7) and second leg Melissa Michels (26.5) ran outstanding 200-meter splits. Third leg Becca Duffy (62.3) ran a career-best 400-meter split and anchor Kelly Lavan (2:21.7) ran a career-best 800 meter as the relay squad broke the school record of 4:17.64 set at Nationals in 2011.
A celebration began as the relay saw the relay time of 4:17.56 flash on the Armory’s scoreboard.
“We didn’t come here to break the record,” explained team co-captain Duffy.
As the only senior on the relay squad, Duffy understood that her younger teammates were gaining valuable experience for future national-class meets. And Duffy, like teammates Lavan (junior) and Leto (frosh), was in her first-ever national championship meet.
Only Michels, a sophomore part of last year’s record setting SMR squad, had Nationals experience.
“We just wanted to run our best race,” Duffy said.
“Commitment to team, determination to train hard each day in a season that began 15 weeks ago and big meet experience throughout a very competitive indoor season put the relay in a position to make their best Sachem’s best ever,” said North coach Alex Young.
Sachem had the second fastest time before the final and fastest heat of the SMR took to the track. At the conclusion of the heat, Sachem learned that they were fifth overall – icing on the cake and a memorable way for Duffy, in her last indoor meet for Sachem, and the rest of the relay to end their relay season.
Michels opened her competition day in the Emerging Elite 60-meter dash. She ran a time of 8.10 in her race – a mark that will stand as a Sachem record. The extra five meters over the traditional high school distance means a lot for Michels as she has outstanding closing speed to go along with her improved race start. Leto returned to the Armory on Saturday to run in the Frosh 60 meter dash. She placed 10th overall in a time of 8.12. Michels and Leto – No. 3 and No. 4 all-time 55 meter sprinters for Sachem North – lead a talented group of sprinters and look to return to Nationals and other elite meets for many seasons.
Mile racewalkers Katie Michta and Natalie DeQuarto closed out North’s Nationals weekend on Saturday afternoon. Michta is Sachem’s #2 all-time racewalker. Competing in her third national championship meet in her sophomore season, she looked to go with the lead pack in a talented seeded section.
DeQuarto, at her first Nationals, had a chance to have a breakout performance based on her workout sessions with Michta during DeQuarto’s breakout winter season. DeQuarto finished her race in 9:06.50 – a time that matches well with her 1,500-meter racewalk times. She did show outstanding speed in her last and fastest lap (63.4 seconds) as she past several rivals over the final 200 meters of her race
Michta, joined by Sachem East racewalkers Maranchuck, Alyssa Furlani and Holly Lindoe in the seeded mile racewalk section, had to deal with a crowded start line in her race.
Michta maintained good poise as the race began and moved into the lead pack by the 100-meter mark where she would remain for the rest of her race. The race pace was well suited to Michta’s workout sessions as she was in eighth place at the halfway point of the race. She began a surge at the half-mile mark and began moving up on race rivals.
“I felt that I could go faster,” said Michta following her race.
Michta and her coaches spoke about complacency during races.
“If you are wondering if you should go faster during a race,” said Young to his distance squad, “it is already time to go faster.”
Michta picked up her pace in the moment thoughts about pace went through her mind. Her second half-mile was faster than her first mile. She was fifth across the finish line in 7:38.68 and she took her place with the rest of the All-American racewalk team at her medal ceremony.