NEW YORK – The announcer at Saturday’s New Balance Games gave Rai Benjamin quite the build-up before his 300-meter race, concluding by calling him a “very special athlete.”
Three hundred meters later, the Mount Vernon senior elicited a very deserved, “Wow!” over the PA.
Benjamin, who entered the race with the top 300 boys time in the country this season, improved on that as he ran a personal-best and meet-record 33.40 to win the New Balance 300.
His time was only .13 off the state mark, .35 behind the national record and the sixth fastest U.S. boys 300 mark ever.
Starting in the outside lane, Benjamin led start to finish, pushed only by teammate Cody Housen (34.74).
“It’s my personal best but I want to go a little faster,” said Benjamin, who’ll run on full scholarship for UCLA next year.
“I know what I have to do — get better each meet, get better each race,” he said, adding he wants to break 33 seconds this season.
“It’s inspiring (to race against him) because I see him up there and I just want to be there with him,” said Housen.
Luke Gavigan, who recently committed to run for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was on a mission.
Last year’s Millrose boys mile winner (4:08.96), who described this season as somewhat “rocky,” had yet to qualify for Millrose and considered New Balance basically his last shot.
Gavigan got off to a less than sterling start and midway through the race, found himself trapped in the second pack.
But Gavigan found an opening, turned on the jets and passed four runners in the last 100 meters to finish second in 4:17.25 to Wilton’s Spencer Brown (4:15.94).
Brown’s finish automatically qualified him for Millrose but at the end of the race, Tim Fulton, the Armory’s director of high school track and field, invited the defending champ to Millrose.
“I just wanted to make sure he was in shape,” Fulton explained of waiting to see how Gavigan finished.
Multiple teams stayed away from the Armory Saturday, turned off by snow and freezing rain.
Mount Vernon’s Rai Benjamin won the 300 meter race and set a meet record with a time of 33.40 at the New Balance Games at the New Balance Armory in Manhattan Jan. 24, 2015. At far right, finishing in second place, was Mount Vernon’s Cody Housen.
Mamaroneck almost didn’t attend after its bus canceled. But junior Katie DeVore noted she and her teammates convinced coach Bob Morrissey to let them come by train and subway.
That proved a good decision.
DeVore, who ran 1,200 meters, freshman Lauren Shpiz, who ran 400, junior Shari Rauls, who ran 800 and junior Lauren Chapey, who ran the closing mile, combined to win the girls distance medley relay in a team best 12:13.92.
DeVore, Rauls and Chapey were part of last year’s team that also won the event.
“We three juniors have been running together since seventh grade,” noted DeVore.
“We’re like best friends,” she said. “We’re kind of like a family, we’re all so close.”
Chapey, who opted to run the relay rather than the individual mile that could have qualified her for Millrose, pulled away from the rest of the field in the last two laps.
Ursuline finished second in the race.
Earlier in the meet, New Rochelle’s Olivia Morgan, Rachel Darius, Diana Diaz and Victoria Jones-Alleyne teamed to win the 4X55 hurdle shuttle in 34.55. Scarsdale was fourth.
Eastchester’s Martin O’Connell was fifth out of 183 boys in the 1,000 meters (2:32.77).