Graham blasts a smokin' 400 as one of 3 golds on the day. (Photo by Don Rich)
Wakefield’s Ariah Graham took home three titles on the final day of the New Balance National Championships on Sunday while Boys & Girls High School capped off the meet with its second dominating relay title in as many days.
Graham, a senior helped Wakefield – which was running as the Junior Striders – set a meet record in the 4x200 meter record of 1:36.35, then came back to win the open 400 meters in 53.95 and anchor the girls 4 x 400 meters. And a day after they ended Saturday night with a gutsy come-from-behind win in the 4x800 relay, Boys & Girls had an easier job winning today’s 4x400 event, winning in 3:16.78 by more than two seconds.
Dior looks like a veteran sailing over the hurdles to become US#3 All-Time. (Photo by Tim O'Dowd)
Only a Sophomore, Dior Hall of Colorado set a Sophomore National Record in the semis of the 60 hurdles with a great time of 8.25. But Dior wasn't done, torching the track in the final to a US#3 All-Time mark of 8.19, just 3 hundredths of a second off the national record of 8.16 by Jacquelyn Coward in 2008.
The fastest race of the day was the boys 800 meters, producing two of the top three all-time high school times. Pascack Valley’s Ben Malone broke the meet record winning in 1:49.94, also good for the second best time ever. Defending champ Zavon Watkins, who held the meet record before Malone broke it, ran a personal best 1:50.11, the third best time ever. Even race favorite Ned Willig, who faded after he set a blistering pace, ran the 7th best time ever 1:51.59, en route to finishing third.
Malone holds of Watkins in a great 800 duel. (Photo by Don Rich)
“I knew he’d be there,” Malone said of Watkins’ tendency to outkick opponents on the final straightaway. “I couldn’t let up until I was at the finish line.”
The girls mile also saw a meet record fall. Hannah Meier ran at the front of a bunched-up pack for the entire race, the broke away in the final 400 meters to finish in 4:42.60. That bested Emily Lipari’s record by four hundredths of a second.
With her wire-to-wire win, Meier cemented her status as the country’s fastest miler. With 400 meters to go, Angel Piccirillo and North Shore’s Brianna Nerud looked poised to make a move, but before they could, Meier surged to put the race to bed and won by more than two seconds.
St. Benedict Prep’s Edward Cheseret joined Ariah Graham as the only other athlete or team to collect three titles, but he was hoping for more.
Cheserek entered the day with a couple of opportunities to make history. He already had won two titles from wins in the Distance and Sprint Medley Relays and a double win in the mile and 2 mile would have given him an unprecedented four total. The other attainable mark was in the 2-mile, where he was hoping to break the record.
Neither panned out. Cheseret ran 8:50.53 in a race all by himself, falling more than 10 seconds shy of Gerry Lindgren’s fabled mark.
About an hour later, he was back on the line in the mile. Cheseret set a slow pace early on, leading the pack through 2:07.9. But in an unexpected upset, Utah’s Brad Nye ran his second half in 2:00 and snatched away Cheserek’s fourth PR, a great performance for the BUY-bound senior.
“I came here to the run the mile alone,” Nye said. “I knew Cheserek was going to fight every step of the way. He’s such a beast.”
In another epic 400 meter battle, the country’s fastest in the event, Najee Glass and Aldrich Bailey, again dueled to a photo finish. Glass won in what looked like a virtual tie, 46.57 to 45.59. Bailey tried to pass on the final back straightaway, but lost the angle and couldn’t recover in time.
Bailey lost by the exact same margin two weeks ago at the Brooks PR Invitational, when Glass ran a U.S. No 1 46.06.
Bailey redeemed himself in the 200 meters later on in the meet, however, coming back winning in 21.07.
Ajee Wilson prior to making her trademark move. (Photo by Don Rich)
Neptune’s Ajee’ Wilson defended her 800 meter crown, besting Bronxville’s Mary Cain, 2:06.58 to 2:07.26.
In the girls two mile, it looked like Alabama’s Carmen Carlos made her move too soon when Rachel Paul came from third and put more than two seconds on the field heading into the last quarter mile. But Carlos wasn’t done and caught Paul about 10 feet from the finish line. Carlos ran 10:25.30.