Fitting close for Rhody at NBNO meet

Rhode Island athletes capped off an amazing weekend of competition at the New Balance National Outdoor (NBNO) Championships with five All-American performances and four state records on Sunday.

Classical High junior Maddy Berkson matched her placement at the indoor nationals by finishing third in the 800-meter run. Berkson crossed the line with a new outdoor mark of 2 minutes, 8.4 seconds, eclipsing the old record of 2:09.72 set by former Westerly standout Samantha Gawrych at the 2005 NBNO.

About an hour later, the La Salle Academy girls’ distance medley relay etched their names in the book by placing fourth overall with a time of 11:58.61, besting the 2007 mark of 12:02.15 by La Salle at the Penn Relays.

Earlier in the day, Barrington manufactured a fourth-place finish in the 4x1 mile relay. The Eagles combined for a time of 20:46.96, breaking the record of 21:04.19 by Westerly at the 2008 nationals.

The fourth state mark of the day for Rhode Islanders was set in the 200 where Hope sophomore Quashira McIntosh broke her own record with a time of 24.21. She took seventh overall.

For Barrington and La Salle, it was their second All-American (top six) finish of the three-day meet. The Eagles were also second in the 4x800.

“It’s pretty cool,” Barrington assistant/distance coach Jon Barnes said. “The kids are all on Cloud Nine and I think I am above them.”

The same Rams’ foursome of freshman Eliza Rego, junior Alicia Decastro, junior Caroline Falvey and sophomore Sheridan Wilbur also took third in the 4x800.

“I am extremely happy,” La Salle assistant coach Kelly Martin said. “We came here hoping for one All-American team and got two and a state record.”

West Springfield (Va.) captured the DMR by combining for a winning effort of 11:51.46. Warwick Valley (N.Y.) and Staples (Conn.) took second and third, respectively, with times of 11:53.33 and 11:53.61.

With a strong leg from Rego, La Salle held the lead after the first 1,200. The gifted frosh was timed in 3:35.876.

“Was I surprised, not really?” said Martin, about Rego’s split, a 4:45 mile pace. “I was hoping she was going to do it. She is an extremely talented freshman. I told her if she gets in position near the front to just go for it.”

Decastro, who generally runs the middle- and long-distance events, was clocked in 1:02.30 for her 400 leg.

“She ran close to her personal best,” Martin pointed out.

Falvey was timed in 2:19 for the 800 and Wilbur anchored with a mile time of 5:00.89.

The 800 was won by NBNI champion Sabrina Southerland of Benjamin Cardozo (N.Y.) in 2:06.26. Finishing second was Camas (Wash.) sophomore Alexa Efraimson with a time of 2:07.04.

Berkson, who set the indoor record of 2:06.67 at the NBNI meet, used a different strategy than she has done in the past.  In most big-time races, the gutsy junior takes the pace out hard from the gun.

“I had a completely different strategy,” she said. “I was planning on not going too fast and running even splits. I visualized before the race to run easy the first 200, pick it up the second 200, start picking off runners the third 200 and kind of maintain the move and go as fast as I could the last 200.”

Berkson followed that plan to near perfection. She went through the 400 at 65 seconds and moved into her third-place position just before she hit the 600 mark.

She was actually in last place after the first lap.

“I was hoping to pass the 400 in 63-64 seconds,” Berkson said. “I was a little disturbed it was 1:05, but I felt really good. It wasn’t too bad.”

The national meet capped off an outdoor campaign that saw the Classical star overcome some health issues due to an iron deficiency at the beginning of the season to win a state title in the 1,500, a sub-2:10 effort in the 800 at the New England meet and an All-American finish at the nationals.

She is now focusing on a sport that she will take part in for the first time this fall. She’s going to ditch the soccer cleats for a pair of racing shoes.

“I think I am going to go with cross country,” she said. “I’ll miss (soccer). I’ll miss it a lot. I might still do it for fun, but I think the best decision is to run cross country.”

Also in the 800, Barrington junior Abby Livingston won the first heat with a school-record time of 2:11.28. Erica Johnson, a senior from Bay View, was second in Heat 3 with a personal-best clocking of 2:09.66. She was eighth overall.

Junior Mary Kate Coogan, freshman Emma McMillan, junior Julianna Portelli and junior Megan Verner-Crist comprised Barrington’s 4x1 mile quartet. The Eagles captured the unseeded section with Verner-Crist taking the lead just before the 800 mark and holding on to finish with a personal best of 5:04.72.

“She is such a good chaser and closer,” Barnes said. “She just ran a perfectly-tactical race. We had three of our four girls run their best miles ever. I was just hoping that they would run under 20:55 because that was sixth place and they run 20:47 and a state record.”

Coogan opened with a 5:14.68 split. She was followed by McMillian (5:17.73), Portelli (5:09.81) and Verner-Crist. McMillian, Portelli and Verner-Crist also ran legs on the Eagles’ runner-up 4x800 team.

Along with a second-place effort from senior Charlie Ionata in the hammer throw on Saturday, Barrington had one individual and two relays that earned All-American.

“Barrington has never accomplished anything like this before,” Barnes said. “It was just one of those special weekends.”

The girls’ hammer throw produced a top-six effort from Narragansett junior Leia Mistowski, who achieved All- American status with a heave of 158-9. Classical senior Marthaline Cooper, ranked No. 1 in the country, placed ninth in the event with a distance of 154-9.

In the boys’ 4x1 mile relay, Bishop Hendricken finished fourth in its heat and 17th overall with a solid time of 18:12.82. The Hawks’ relay consisted of senior Connor Doyle (4:32.39), junior Colin Tierney (4:43.48), senior Tyler Henseler (4:32.66) and senior Alex Doherty (4:35.27).

North Kingstown junior Zachery Emrich was tenth overall in the Emerging Elite 800, running a season best of 1:55.41.