Lateisha Philson was so nervous she was shaking. The Benjamin Cardozo sophomore had never beaten Saratoga’s Madalayne Smith in the 55 meter hurdles and was about to race her again for a state title. But before the start she took a deep breath and remembered something her mother Lori was constantly telling her.
“I go out with faith and go out with the heart of a lion instead the heart of a mustard seed,” Philson said. “My mom always tells me that. …Your mind matters over the race. If you’re nervous and you’re thinking of too much stuff, you are going to mess up.”
Instead she excelled.
Philson came over the final hurdle with a slight lead on Smith and Williamsville South’s Kailyn Arcury. She stayed focused and remembered to dip her head at the finish to finish first at the New York State indoor track and field championships by the slimmest of margins at Cornell University Saturday, March 6. Philson won the 55 in a personal best time of 7.947 and Smith was second in 7.950. She looked up at her mom above the finish line sure she had earned the top spot. Smith beat her out for the title last season.
“The first reaction was like ‘Yes,’” Philson said. “I looked at my mom. She was like ‘Yes, you got it.’”
She wasn’t the only city athlete with her best day. Midwood’s Imani Oliver took first in a tight triple jump field with a leap for 39 feet 1 inches. The senior had been approaching the 39 mark recently having worked on her landing phase and felt with a field of four girls separated by five inches it would be a safe bet for a state championship.
“I knew if I got my landing better and got my hands up I could get to the 39,” Oliver said.
She hit the winning jump on her final of the preliminaries and hoped she could jump 40 feet. Oliver believes the extra inches will come from actually hitting the jumping board correctly, instead of behind it. Still the medal was a special accomplishment with her 17th birthday the next day.
“Every one is like you have to get this,” Oliver said…. “This is going to be a good birthday present.”
There wasn’t a happy look on the face of Medgar Evers’ Kedecia Baird who nipped Mount Vernon’s Deajah Stevens at the finish line to win the 4 x 200 relay with teammates Nyanka Moise, Kimberly Campbell and Shakele Seaton, in a time of 1:43.80. The freshman, along with her teammates, is nursing an injury and she had to kick hard at the end to secure the crown.
“I had to run fast,” Baird said. “I had to put pressure on my knee. I was very bad.”
The Cougars, though, had Moise, the third leg, to thank for putting them in position to win. They were in third at the time by a half turn margin, when she took the baton, but she exploded. She put Medgar Evers, which had to drop Rachel Leeke from the team because of an ankle injury suffered during the meet, in the lead as she handed the baton to Baird. It’s something her teammates said she has done often. Leek placed fourth in the 300 with a time of 41.10 and fellow Cougar Camille Edwards was fourth in the long jump (17-08.75).
“I was thinking we are going to come here and medal,” Moise said.
Bishop Loughlin sophomore shot putter Adrienne Alexander felt should could beat out North Babylon’s Vanessa Stewart for the second place, but the sophomore didn’t have her best day. She placed third behind Stewart (45-02) and Lancaster’s Melissa Kurzdorfer (48-10.25), the defending champion, with a toss of 41-05.
Cardozo’s 4 x 400 relay of Alexis Mapson, Alexis Panisse, Sabrina Southerland and Ugonna Okpala was third with a mark for 4:04.06. Teammate Ahtyana Johnson (7.18) was fourth in the 55 dash. Bayside’s Alaine Tate placed fourth in the 1000 in 2.56.61 and Mariah Claudio of St. John Villa was fourth in the 600 in a time of 1:37.22.