Alyssa Leto, Sunja Joseph, Emily Rathmann and Melissa Michels already had busy afternoons before checking in for the 4x100 m. relay semi-finals at Friday’s Day 1 session of the State Qualifier Meet held at Port Jefferson High School.
Sunja placed sixth in long jump (17’ 4 ½”) with an outstanding series of jumps in preliminaries and finals. Alyssa (200 m.), Emily (100 m. Hurdles) and Melissa (100 m.) and advanced from preliminary rounds in open events for finals to be run today (Saturday). The sprint quartet prepared for one more race together with two goals – first to advance to finals in the 4x100 and to make a run for the record books by chasing down a 1998 record in the relay.
The girls had been chasing history all spring as Melissa broke Crystal Jones’ 1985 (12.44) record in the 100 m. dash in May with a 12.40 sprint at the Loucks Games. The 1998 relay record held by Denise Raab, Stephanie Cotsifas, Pam Lettieri and Kristin Eckert had survived many efforts to break the 49.87 time by talented Sachem sprinters over the past 14 years.
Alyssa began the assault on the record by exploding out of the starting blocks as the race began. Handoffs were solid – with an outstanding exchange between Sunja and Emily – and, after Melissa dashed to the finish, the quartet looked at the scoreboard to see that they had shattered the record with a 49.28 time – the second fastest time in three heats of semi-final races.
After celebrating with hugs, the team learned that it missed the State Championship Meet qualifying time of 49.24 by .04 seconds. Finishing second in finals would not be enough if the relay did not run faster. And two teams in finals – North Babylon and Copiague – already hit the time standard. After pondering Coach Young’s words for a brief moment, relay anchor Melissa Michels stated, “We’ll get the time.” Sachem coaches wondered if the new relay record would last only 24 hours.
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Sachem’s second day at State Qualifiers began where Day 1 left off. Distance runners followed the strong effort of Oriana Howell from Friday with outstanding races. Oriana ran a career-best 3000 m. run in 10:06.03 on Friday. Her mile time (5:46.7) on the way to the 3000 was also her fastest-ever mile. Kelly Lavan placed fourth in the 1500 on Saturday in a career-best 4:44.82. Elise Ramirez nearly matched her season-best set a week ago at Division Championships with a 5:00.70.
The 4x800 ran 25 seconds faster than its previous season-best with a 9:51.15 as all four relay legs – Becca Duffy, Elise Ramirez, Brooke Foltmann and Kelly Lavan – ran season best relay splits. Katie Michta placed second in the 1500 m. race walk in a career-best time 6:48.97. Natalie DeQuarto had another outstanding race (7:22.13) in her breakout race walk season.
The sprint squad had strong efforts in their respective finals. Melissa missed matching her school record in the 100 m. Dash by .03 seconds as she placed fourth (12.43). Emily (16.48) and Alyssa (26.18) had outstanding races in finals each nearly matched career-best times.
The relay stepped onto the track as Sachem coaches, teammates and family members were still buzzing about the 4x800. All eyes were on the relay as the starter raised his pistol. Alyssa, as she has done in every relay race she has started, shot out of the blocks. Her handoff to Sunja was perfect. The baton continued to move at full speed as Sunja handed off to Emily. Melissa timed her start at anchor perfectly as Emily passed the baton to an at full-speed Melissa and the race for States was on.
North Babylon’s anchor was in the lead at the final exchange and Melissa was dead even with Bay Shore’s anchor. Melissa gained a step on Bay Shore as she raced down the home stretch. A look of determination on Melissa’s face as she neared the finish line made it clear that Melissa would not relinquish the lead she held over Bay Shore senior Brianah Allen. Sachem took second in the relay. Leadoff leg Alyssa was already at the scoreboard as Melissa crossed the finish line to see if Sachem’s time was fast enough to earn a trip to States. The time flashed 48.92. Sachem placed second, shattered a record of just under 24 hours old and qualified for next weekend’s NYS Championship Meet at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Congratulatory hugs, cheers and celebrating began as the four sprinters found each other on the infield. After pictures were taken, the group gathered around coaches to talk about the next round or workouts that begin after a well-deserved Sunday break.
Article/photos courtesy of Alex Young, head coach Sachem North girls track
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