The powers that be at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association winter track championships did not have great expectations for Olivia Schumannn and her Suffolk County girls medley relay teammates on Saturday. After all, they seeded the quartet sixth.
Schumannn and her teammates stunned many observers as Suffolk won the event at Barton Hall on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca.
“I was really surprised,” the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School senior said. “I thought we were going to just get a medal. I didn’t think we were going to win.”
The Suffolk quartet was timed in 10 minutes 28.63 seconds.
As it turned out, Schumannn, who ran the 200-meter leg, brought home not one, but two gold medals. One was awarded by New York State, which included the Catholic High School Athletic Association team that finished second in the competition. The other was from NYSPHSAA, an organization that does not have parochial or New York City schools as members.
Schumann said finishing first “was a big deal because it was my senior season and I wanted to go to states.”
It was not known whether Schumannn was the first McGann-Mercy athlete to win an individual state title, but it certainly made Gregg Cantwell one “really proud” coach.
“It really hit me [Saturday] night,” he said. “I told her [Schumannn] that the rest of your life you’re going to be a state champion. It’s pretty cool.”
If there was one problem entering the race, it might have been the handoffs because the runners had not met each other until Friday.
“We went to the track the night before and we practiced handoffs,” Schumann said. “It wasn’t a problem.”
Cantwell called the handoffs “real smooth.”
When Catherine Sandkuhl of North Babylon completed the 600 meters in the opening leg, she passed the baton to Schumann, and Suffolk was in the first place. When Schumann handed off to Christine Hagen of Kings Park for the 1,000 phase of the race, Section XI still was in the lead.
Schumann was clocked in 26.6 in the 200 leg, tying her personal best.
“I was confident because I had run the time before,” she said. “I felt good going into the race.”
“On a flat track, that’s pretty good,” Cantwell said. “She ran really well.”
By the time Melanie Notarstefano of Sachem East took the anchor leg in the 1,600 portion, Suffolk had fallen to second place, barely behind the leader. She made up the lost ground as team beat out the CHSAA team.
“Our anchor stayed right behind her for four laps,” Cantwell said. “Another girl almost caught her, but she held on really well for the win.”
When Notarstefano crossed the finish line, Schumannn was yelling and screaming. “The other girls were very excited,” she added.
There will be little time to rest. This weekend, Schumann and McGann-Mercy teammates will run in the 4×400 relay in the Emerging Elite section at the nationals in the Armory in the Bronx Friday through Sunday.
“I think we’ll do very well,” she said. “Everyone there will be very fast. They make us push harder.”