Guess Who's Back?
Edward Cheserek made his first run of the indoor season a memorable one as he anchored his St. Benedict's Prep team to a Marine Corps Holiday Classic record in the sprint medley relay, winning in 3:28.91.
It was something of a surprise late-day appearance for Cheserek, who took the stick with a lead after teammates Aziz Smith, Tyler Cooper and Naija Omari stayed in front of a dangerous Pleasantville team from New Jersey. Cheserek went out hard in his 800m leg, running the first 400 in 52 seconds. He split 1:51.7.
Of course, Cheserek and his mates weren't the only ones making history. Ronaldo Bell of Staten Island's Curtis High opened the morning with victory in the mile steeplechase in 4:50.04, more than seven seconds ahead of the field.
That was faster than anyone had ever done it at The Armory, primarily because no one had ever done it. It is not the first time it has ever been contested indoors though, but it is an ever-so-rare event.
"It was great to try something new," said Ball. "The only thing I'd ever jumped before was the 400m hurdles."
Making history as the first winner? "That feels great," said Ball, who has run a range of events and run 4:27 for the mile. He'd hoped to run 4:40 in the steeple, but the newness of the event was a challenge.
Kalleigh Forrester, a junior from Newburgh Free Academy, went to lead right away for a wire-to-wire victory in the girls race.
Forrester was 12th in the 2,000m steeplecase at the New York state meet last spring.
"I thought they might have barriers on the curves, so that made me a little nervous," she said. "But it really felt the same as outdoors."
Forrester had little time to worry about her race. The NFA bus pulled up to the front of the Armory less than 20 minutes before her race, giving her little time to think about it.
"I loved crossing the finish line knowing it was the first time (for steeplechase at the Armory)," she said. "It was amazing."
Forrester worked with hurdles during the week to prepare for the event, focusing on her technique over the barriers.
"I thought it would be different (indoors), but it was actually a little easier without the water pit," she said. "I'm just getting back into (steeplechasing). The first time indoors was fun."
While Ball and Forrester were breaking into new record territory, another team was peeling an old mark off the books as Swensen Arts of Philadelphia blasted the meet mark in the girls' shuttle hurdles, running 32.73 and besting the old mark was 33.90 set by New Rochelle in 2005. The hurdles lineup for Swenson — which also claimed the 4x200m title in 1:40.62 — was Markeeta Thomas, Tichina Rhodes, Amani Nesmith and Amy Hicks.
The boys' of Union Catholic picked up two early relay victories, claiming both the shuttle hurdles (30.10) and the 4x200m relays (1:30.76).
Another impressive showing came from the girls' of Hillhouse High in New Haven, Conn. That squad won the 4x800m title in 9:46.34 and then returned with All-American Precious Holmes to win the sprint medley over Port Richmond, 4:04.02 to 4:05.08.
The winners of the invitational 800m runs — the only individual running events other than the steeple — were Isaac Clark of Pleasantville (N.J.) in 1:54.23 and Emma Gallagher of Garden City in 2:16.36.