While the fans focus on individual events, they usually don't get excited about relays during any given track and field meet. However, the relays still provide excitement, especially in a close finish, whether for high school, college or open athletes.
One race drew a great deal of attention during the 99th Millrose Games. That was the 4 x 400 meter relay for members of the Public School Athletic League at Madison Square Garden.
In a field of six schools, including four from this borough, South Shore High School, with Sean Troop anchoring for Rodney Campbell, Nicholas Graham and Kemar Clarke, captured the 1600-meter relay in 3:29.32.
Campbell had the lead at the 400-meter mark on the 11 lap-to-the-mile track. After Graham took the baton, South Shore never fell behind, thus avenging a sixth and last-place finish of 2005.
The competitors were elated after the race was over that they came out victorious. The make-up of the squad wasn't even determined until after Coach Phil Zodda saw the runners in action during warm-ups as he has a very balanced squad.
Zodda told the boys after the race: "You ran according to plan."
"They held up their end," Zodda said. "And it's very difficult for youngsters to do that in this facility. They didn't melt under pressure. They achieved! When you have a goal and you work your plan toward a goal and you can reach it, that's success. It gave us first place and a good win."
"When I got the baton, I knew my teammates had the lead and we kept it together," Troop, a resident of Canarsie, said. "Teamwork enabled us to come out as a winner."
Brownsville resident Campbell started out behind the leaders and caught up to them in the last 10 meters of the first 400 meters. From then on South Shore led the rest of the way.
"It was great running in the Garden," Campbell said. "Hopefully, next year we'll be back and win again. Coming into the Garden I was nervous."
"Campbell actually waited a little too long in going down the last straight-a-way," Zodda explained. "He got out in third place, stayed (there) and coming down the last straight-a-way prior to the handoff looped the field and handed off first. From that point on we were not challenged."
When Graham got the baton from Campbell all he thought about was maintaining the lead.
"We were hungry to win and we did it," Graham offered. "It meant a lot to run in the Garden."
"Our coach has been coming here for 15 years, and winning this race meant a lot," offered Clarke, who resides in Flatbush, and is top ranked in the state in the hurdles.
"During the week we practiced real hard and looked forward to this Millrose Meet. We take it one step at a time. Before I went on the track I was scared and my arm was pumping. Once I went on it and started to run I felt good but tight."
"Clarke handled the pressure very well considering he has been running more 55s than 400s in recent weeks," added Zodda, who prepared his runners very well for the Millrose.
"Most important, they didn't melt under pressure. Each runner did his job thus making it a complete team effort. We had a nice win in the World's Most Famous Arena."
In the same race, Grady, with Richard Benjamin, Travis Salesman, Andre Wilkinson, and Kahriel Marshall finished fourth in 3:38.72, two places ahead of Sheepshead Bay's Kabari Earle, Brian Furr, Marc Hemlee and Andre Pinnock.
Transit Tech, anchored by Clemore Henry, placed second in 3:31.65 in the same 1600 meter relay. Stephen McLean, Nathan Armstrong, and Deshaun Kirkland also ran on this team.
In an individual race, Ayo Isijola, a freshman at Sheepshead Bay High School, ran a 7.15 for third place in a field of six starters. His time is a freshman state record.
"He keeps improving day by day," Coach John Padula said. "He joined the indoor track team two months ago. As a team, we have a great group of kids."
In the girls' 60-meter dash, South Shore's Janique James finished in fifth place with a time of 8.12.
With Jhona Jones anchoring, South Shore placed third in the girls l600 meter relay in a total time of 4:12.74.
The athletes were elated to run at Madison Square Garden.
The underclassmen hope to return next year, while the seniors will continue on in college and step it up to the next level.
©2006 Community News Group
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