Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the origin of OJ Singletary's name. We apologize to the Singletary family and our readers for the error.
BATAVIA – OJ Singletary never blinked an eyelash when asked.
The UPrep senior’s coach, Brian Smith, a Greece Athena superstar sprinter himself 10 years ago, figured he needed all the points he could get at Section V’s high school track and field B1 sectionals a week ago to beat Batavia.
So he posed a question to the Rochester area’s fastest runner the week before.
"Want to try the 400 hurdles?" Smith said to him. "You can do it. You can get us points. You just need to work on some technique."
Friday night at Van Detta Stadium in Batavia, after racing the event just twice in his life, Singletary came within a second and change of breaking the Section V record to win the Division II event of the Meet of Champions, the qualifier for states next weekend. He ran 54.32 seconds, No. 2 best time in the state and 43rd best in the nation, according to MileSplit.com.
It was a highlight among several in a sweltering hot late afternoon start with a tailwind that settled into a calm, cloudy but rain-free evening. The last relay ended close to midnight.
A strong starter
Singletary was a three-time winner – 400 hurdles, 400 relay and 1,600 relay – with an asterisk.
"I came out really hard (in the hurdles)," said Singletary. "I've been working on a strong start. That helped today. But my steps get messed up sometimes. I took kind of a stutter step over the first hurdle and I kind of hopped over the second one.
"This week I'm going to try to straighten that out." Oh, and the outcome of sectionals? Singletary won the hurdles, earned 10 points for his team, and UPrep edged Batavia 145-142.5.
His coach has high hopes for his University of Connecticut-bound honors student for next weekend at Middletown High School in Rockland County.
"He has a legitimate shot at four state titles," said Smith, who's coached track for five years with the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men. "He’s ranked in the top five in the state in all his events.
"He'll be busy, but he can handle it. We figure he'll have about two hours rest between the 400 and 400 hurdles, then about 45 minutes between the four by one and the four by four in the public school competition on Friday."
That asterisk came with a contentious finish in the DII 1,600 relay, which Singletary anchored to first place. But one official reported that a UPrep runner on the second leg cut to the inside lanes too soon (UPrep started in lane five) and another official reported interference on the backstretch.
Smith vigorously objected to both and appealed, saying he saw both and neither were violations. The appeal was denied and UPrep was disqualified.
However, because the UPrep relay team had run what is called the state super standard at the His and Her Invitational April 29, a 3:26.64, and an individual or team is only required to start an event in which they hold an SS to qualify, it may be a moot point.
A final decision may be made by Section V executive director Kathy Hoyt before Sunday’s deadline to declare state entries.
New steeple technique?
Is Gates Chili senior Kyra Pellegrino on to something new in steeplechase strategy?
Trying to clear the four 30-inch-high barriers and a water pit in a 2,000-meter race can be nasty. She needed to win the event to qualify for states, since she didn’t have a state standard time of 6:54.59.
So she surprised many by slowing down slightly, not speeding up, when preparing to jump some of the barriers.
"I don’t know," she said, "I've never seen anyone else do it. I kind of do a stutter side step about five strides before I jump. I think it gives me some momentum."
She won in 7:15.16. She was second in the 3,000 in 10:28.54, but not nearly fast enough to meet the 9:45.25 qualifying time. Second-place finishers go only if they have met the state standard.
Like daughter, like dad
Ava Bagley, the Honeoye Falls-Lima senior whose family name goes way back with her dad, Scott’s, domination of Rochester distance running in the 1980s, ’90s and ’00s, doesn’t really know why she's not into the longer races like he was, and her sister is.
"Sophie's the distance runner," Ava said. "Me, I like the short stuff."
That’s evident in the 1:06.38 she ran to win the DII 400 hurdles. This outdoor season she's enjoyed running with teammates from her own school.
"Indoor I was the only HF-L girl on the Mendon team," she said. "The hurdles went pretty well, though I clipped one. I was really focusing on the four by four."
It all worked out. HF-L’s 1,600 relay qualified by edging Batavia by a little over a second.
The win's the thing
Mekhi Christensen wasn't worried about fast times and personal records. Like many who had already earned a state super standard, the Irondequoit senior still wanted to compete, not just go through the motions.
"Win it," he said, when asked what his objectives were. He did, with a 10.80 time in the DI 100. His super standard personal best time is 10.62, set at Eastridge’s Lancer Invitational May 12.
It led the way for no fewer than eight to qualify: Junior Ricardo Lagares of Churchville-Chili, senior Kevin Brown of Webster Schroeder, senior Josiah Lane of Gates Chili, sophomore John Becoats of Monroe/School Without Walls, freshman Will Vitale of Brighton, junior Nasir Patton of Rush-Henrietta, freshman Rhoan Kaulder of McQuaid and World of Inquiry junior Perrion Williams (Franklin team).
Almost a record
— NYSPHSAA (@NYSPHSAA) March 4, 2023
Webster Schroeder junior Corintia Griffith is within a half inch of a Section V record that dates back 26 years.
She won her signature event, the triple jump, in a personal best 41-4.75, and anchored the state-bound 400 relay, with sophomore Jordan Smith, junior Lauren Curry-Wilburn and senior Alyssa Fici.
Griffith’s jump crowds the record of Marlena Robinson of Brighton, set at 41-5.25 at the state qualifier in Hornell in 1997.
The jump moves Griffith to No. 1 in the state and 13th in the nation.
Schroeder senior Camryn Cole maintained her steady pursuit of more state titles by winning her signature events in DI 100 hurdles (15.00), high jump (5-8) and long jump (18-7.25). None were personal bests, but all were sufficient to earn her state spots. She’ll compete in all three at Middletown.
Eighth-grader Emma Goodell of Victor was second in the 100 hurdles, but her 15.54 wasn’t quite enough to meet the state standard of 15.1.
Two of Cole’s teammates were second to her – senior Angela Teoharev with a 5-0 high jump and junior Lauren Curry-Wilburn, who qualified with an 18-2.5 long jump.
Disqualified on baton toss
Rush-Henrietta’s anticipated trip to states for its boys 3,200 relay ended on a disqualification as a team member tossed the baton to the ground after winning in 7:54.76, a 24-second improvement over their previous best time. Officials said it's a strict no-no, no matter the intent, if a baton is thrown.
Coach Mike DeMay filed a protest but it was disallowed.
Webster Thomas’ team was right behind, in 7:55.17, and will make the trip instead.
Jake keeps rolling
Fairport junior Jake Passalugo figures he's set himself up for a personal best at states after winning the DI 3,200 in 9:19.31. It's four seconds off his personal best, but next week is what he's really aiming for.
"Today we went out in about a 4:45 first mile," he said. "That's not even close to making it next week. I'm expecting a 4:25 or so. I can do that. It's the last lap I have to push for. I'm hoping to break 9:05 and earn a medal."
No event was more closely contested than the boys DI 1,600. Neither Webster Thomas senior Evan Lacey nor Pittsford Mendon senior Colin Burke held a state standard, so they had to race hard start to finish and hope they’d both beat the 4:17.24 mark.
Burke led for the first three laps, a move his coach, Chris Compson, said was “bold to go that route.”
"He has a good kick," Burke said, "so I felt I had to try and get the win."
Lacey caught him on the last lap as they finished in 4:15.43 and 4:16.23. A win-win for both.
Hornell freshman Selena Maldonado was involved in a third protest of the day, in DII long jump. Fifth on the Section V leaderboard with a 17-11 jump that exceeds the state super standard, she was late to the event and fouled on her two attempts. Confusion over the public address call for the event led to a decision to disqualify her from all her events, but allow her to compete at states.
School of the Arts sophomore Anais Martinez finished with a first in the DI 200, edging Churchville-Chili junior Ay’rianna Moore, and second in the 100 to Pittsford Mendon junior Tamara Dorval. Moore’s 58.28 won the DI 400.
Fairport senior Zoe Marcus handled the DI 800 in 2:13.77, dropping her PR by .09.
Warsaw senior Matthew Auble led all throwers again by a wide margin in DII.
Sophomore Hannah Devine of Brighton dropped her PR by four seconds to win the DI 1,500 in 4:43.58.
McQuaid senior Collin Brown had what he called “my best race” in winning the DI 3,000 steeplechase. His nine-second PR of 9:40.57 puts him within reach of Donny Glavin’s school record 9:36.
More results are at the links below:
Jim Castor, retired assistant sports editor of the Democrat and Chronicle, has covered high school sports in the Rochester area for more than five decades. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Section V track state meet qualifier