Kabongo Barry has turned what has been a crippling fear of spiders into an advantage when it comes to track and field.
During races, the Spackenkill High School senior pretends all of his opponents are “massive spiders out to get me.” The finish line is a sanctuary and in order to escape, he must run for his life. Figuratively, of course.
Should he capture a gold medal in the state indoor track and field championships this weekend, perhaps he can deliver an acceptance speech in which he thanks the bugs.
Barry ran to safety — err, victory — on Friday, winning the 55-meter dash in a school-record 6.46 seconds during the Section 9 state qualifier at West Point. He also qualified for the 300 with a second-place finish (35.68).
He was among 13 local athletes from Sections 1 and 9 to earn a berth to the state meet on March 4 at Ocean Breeze Track and Field Facility on Staten Island. Our Lady of Lourdes’ stars Jaheim Jones and Caroline Timm and Arlington’s Joe Morrison are among the familiar names continuing on.
Jones won the 55 meters in a time identical to Barry’s during the Section 1 qualifier at the Armory in Manhattan on Friday. The two, both of whom are also football standouts, will be among the favorites in that event in the state tournament.
“I always try to make my opponents into something scary and there’s nothing I’m more afraid of than spiders,” said Barry, who won a state championship in the 200 meters last June. “It probably doesn’t help me run any faster, but I think it’s a good mindset to have.”
New Paltz’s Dagi Tadesse, the favorite entering the competition, took first in the boys pole vault at 14 feet, 6 inches. Fellow Huguenot Kaela Santos also qualified, placing second in the girls shot put (33 feet, 8 3/4 inches).
Franklin D. Roosevelt freshman Sarah Trainor took second in the girls 1,500 (4:48.54) and teammate Wyatt Matyas was selected as an alternate for the boys inter-sectional relay team.
“It’s the first time we’ve had multiple athletes qualify for states during indoor season,” Roosevelt coach Brian Halling said. “Our kids set three school records and we’ve got two making states. I’m extremely proud.”
Timm took second in the girls 1,500 meters (4:38.61). She also took second in the qualifier last year, then went on to capture a bronze medal at the state meet. The junior was named the Journal’s girls Runner of the Year in all three scholastic running seasons last year.
Dovers’ Crystal Hughes took third in the girls 55 (7.57) in Section 9, and Taylor Young of Roy C. Ketcham placed third in the girls 55 (7.34) in Section 1. Beacon’s Jummie Akinwunmi took second in the girls high jump (5 feet, 4 inches).
Morrison won the boys 1,000 (2:30.57) and Arlington’s 3,200 relay team of Morrison, Matt Dillon, Michael Asselmeyer and Mark Scanlon took first (7:56.57). Lourdes’ Will Whelan took fourth in the boys 1,000 (2:32.35) and qualified for the inter-sectional relay.
“Going to states is a business trip,” Barry said. “You make it this far and you definitely want win for yourself and your school. That pressure comes during the week, in preparation. But once you get there, you try to enjoy it.”
Well, except for those few seconds with the imaginary spiders.
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4