NEW YORK – The week hadn’t gone well for Mamaroneck.
Shari Rauls had had the flu. Still has, actually.
On Thursday, Katie DeVore fell hard while on a training run. Having hurt her ankle and knee, she screamed so loudly that teammate Lauren Chapey sprinted for help as fast as she could to the closest home where she knew someone.
She might have logged a personal-best 800 meters in the process, Chapey jokingly said.
But she had more left for Saturday when she, her fellow ill or banged-up senior teammates, and sophomore Lauren Shpiz combined to put their names in the record books for 2016 – again.
The four, led by DeVore, whose incredible kick overtook North Rockland phenom Alex Harris on the last lap, captured the girls 4×800 relay at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory.
In the process, Mamaroneck, which held the top 2016 time in the U.S., broke that, clocking 8 minutes, 58.86 seconds.
“We’ve run together since eighth grade. We’re basking in every race together. After every race, it’s one less race we have together,” said DeVore.
True. But Saturday’s will likely stay years in memory.
Three of North Rockland’s runners, after all, were coming off setting an all-time national record in the distance medley relay Friday. They (Sydney March, Katelyn Tuohy and Harris, along with Claire Tantillo) led Mamaroneck going into the last leg, in part due to Tuohy’s very strong 800.
But then DeVore, who noted she’d been going back and forth with the “powerhouse” Harris all year, “pulled something out of me I didn’t know I had,” pulling away at the end with Harris crossing just behind in 8:59.63.
“We have a lot of confidence in our coach. There was a lot of crazy stuff happening this week and he kept us on our game,” Chapey said of coach Bob Morrissey.
“They’ve worked so very hard. I’m so happy for them. They’ve been unbelievable,” said Morrissey, who said his three seniors first ran the 4×800 as eighth-graders with current college All-American Anima Banks.
Mamaroneck’s nail-biting win was one of multiple exclamation points during the second day of the three-day nationals.
Ursuline coach Jan Mitchell had tears in his eyes. Ones he tried to wipe away as soon as they formed.
It was a losing battle.
Sports comebacks make for great stories. Usually they involve a pro who has been written off but proves the world wrong.
It wasn’t quite that dramatic Saturday but it was nonetheless a comeback, complete with smiles, tears, relief.
Ursuline ran to third place in the girls 4×1-mile championship relay at the New Balance Indoor Nationals and Anna Flynn played a huge role.
That was a far cry from what has been a frustrating, confidence-sapping year for the senior, who was last spring’s top Westchester/Putnam female track and field athlete and the third-best 1,500 runner in the state.
Flynn, who ran on a stress fracture in her femur before being shut down in late October during cross-country season, had a terrible Friday night during the distance medley relay.
Running the opening leg, she was last when she handed off the baton after 1,200 meters.
But running second Saturday, Flynn looked like Flynn, taking her team from third to first during her mile leg.
“She needed something like that,” said Mitchell, whose team clocked 20:47.87.
“It’s nice to finally be back, especially after last night,” said Flynn, whose 4×1-mile team was otherwise all freshmen, Flynn’s twin sisters, Sarah and Lily, and Lily Sheahan.
Noting she’d wanted to run for the past three years with her sisters, she said Friday night she’d gotten in her “own head” about doing so when returning to the “big stage.”
“This is the first time I’ve felt like myself,” she said, pausing before adding, “in a really, really long time. Probably since States last year.”
While Flynn was rebounding, North Rockland was just continuing its strong winter showing, which included setting a national record in the girls DMR Friday night.
Shortly after 9 on Saturday morning, senior Maria Garcia, who has decided to forgo college track to concentrate on nursing studies, was wearing a medal and a highly valued, although cardboard crown.
Garcia, who was ninth in the championship mile race walk at indoor nationals last year, didn’t just gain bronze Saturday but also the Rockland County record. Her 7:15.38 clocking broke the 12-year-old county record and also obliterated her own previous best mark of 7:41.
“She got better,” coach Brian Diglio said, smiling at his understatement.
“I definitely feel I have a better mindset (from last year),” Garcia said, adding, “all the effort every day gets you through it.”
Brewster’s Amelia Cuomo clocked 7:17.39 to join Garcia on the podium in fourth place.
While she didn’t medal, Garcia’s teammate Nicole Dodrill had every reason to be almost as happy as Garcia.
Dodrill ran a “huge personal best” of 7.82 in the girls 60-meter dash. Her old mark was 8.03, set when she finished ninth at New Balance last year.
Both North Rockland’s boys and girls four-person shuttle hurdle relay teams (Phil Louise Juste, Chima Ezeillo, Kevin Diaz and Wyatt Brooks and Akemi Dwyer, Emma Laurdent, Arianna Marino and Ivana Lopez) took the podium with fifth-place finishes.
The boys ran 30.59, a record among Section 1 high school teams. North Rockland held the previous record at 31.13.
Brooks’ 7.2 anchor leg was also a personal best.
The event is rarely run, although it will be added to North Rockland’s Red Raider Relays this spring.
“Mostly we worked on hurdling this week (in preparation),” Louis Juste said. “We did what we have to do.”
The time was especially nice with Ezeillo coming off a joint problem and Diaz off a bad hamstring. Diaz speculated had everyone been fully healthy North Rockland would have vied for the top spot.
The girls finished in 33.38.
Just like the shuttle hurdles, the boys race walk is not a regular event for high school students. After Nanuet senior AJ Lowther took up the race walk just last year, he had to compete where he could find them.
But Saturday Lowther looked like he was in his element, grabbing the final podium spot with a sixth-place finish in a personal-best 7:29.38. Teammate Brian Bacciaglini, a junior, was 10th, in 8:11.85, also a personal best.
How much have they improved?
“Our first race I did 8:48 and he was ahead at about 8:40,” said Lowther, who noted he and Bacciaglini first learned the sport from now-graduated Nanuet girl walkers but this year tutored freshman girls.
“We’re pros, kind of,” he jokingly said.
Fordham Prep, with Westchester residents Conor Hughes of Bronxville, Matt Dougherty of Yorktown and Conor Lundy of Yonkers, as well as Conor Miller, finished sixth in the boys 4-x-mile relay in 17:34.25.
Pearl River senior Patrick Bateman, who’ll play baseball this spring, ended his track career just the way he wanted.
Bateman, fellow senior Sean Sorohan, who’ll compete for SUNY-Oneonta or Cortland next year, and sophomores Tom Wilson and Matt Politis combined to run a 14th-place, school-record 3:36.50 in the boys sprint medley relay.
“That’s the way we wanted it to be,” Bateman said.
In other events, North Rockland’s Camille Cameron failed to make the finals but ran a personal-best 25.48 in the girls 200 dash.