It would be understandable if Meg Tuthill felt a tad overwhelmed at the start of the 800-meter race Monday in the Division III Championships. The McGann-Mercy sophomore stood at the starting line surrounded by some of the top runners on Long Island: the Guevara sisters of Miller Place and Sarah Hardle of John Glenn, who last spring finished sixth in the 800 at the state championship.
“It was so frightening,” Tuthill said. “Being on the line next to them I was like, ‘Wow, I made it this far.’ It just felt so good.”
While only a sophomore, Tuthill is no stranger to a big stage herself. She’s been running on varsity since seventh grade and last winter qualified for the state championship, winning a medal as part of the Section XI distance-medley relay team.
The stiff competition in Monday’s race helped propel Tuthill to a personal best time of 2 minutes 18.11 seconds, good enough for third place. She finished behind Tiana Guevara, who led coast-to-coast, and Hardle. Guevara ran 2:14.76 and Hardle ran 2:16.76. Talia Guevara took fourth in 2:21.95.
The 800 was one of two events on the track that were finals on the first day of the division championships. The finals for all the remaining events are Wednesday back at Connetquot High School. The other final was the 3,000. Impressively enough, the Guevara sisters bounced back to run that as well and went one-two. Tiana was again the winner in 10:31.62. Shoreham-Wading River freshman Alexandra Hays ran a personal best time to take fourth in the 3,000 in 10:37.77.
Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said Hays had been running around 11:25 in the 3,000 before running 10:50 at last week’s freshman/sophomore championship.
Tuthill said she felt like she had a good chance at running a personal record in the 800.
“I did,” she said. “I was very nervous, but my coach told me he thought I could really do it.”
Mercy coach Collin Zeffer said the gameplan was for Tuthill to not go out too hard at the start of the race. The Guevara sisters, he said, are known to go out quick and they can drag other runners out to faster paces than they can handle.
As it turned out, Tuthill got boxed in at the start, putting her in last place once the runners all made it into the first lane.
“I think it worked out better,” she said. “My coach didn’t want me to go out with Guevara because he thought she would just tire me out.”
Tuthill gradually made up ground over the first lap and surged into third by the start of the final 400 meters. She briefly passed Hardle for second place.
“When I passed her I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?'” Tuthill said.
Tuthill has spent most of the spring running longer distances. Her top event is the 1,500, which she’ll run Wednesday.
“We didn’t really bring her down to the 800 until Wednesday at the freshman/sophomore meet,” Zeffer said. “She ran real well there and I think that boosted her confidence coming into this race.”
The Monarchs have plenty to look forward to Wednesday. In addition to Tuthill running the 1,500, senior Danisha Carter will run in the 200-meter finals. In the preliminaries, Carter ran 26.49 to win her heat. That puts her third going into the finals. Mattituck senior Desirae Hubbard was fourth (26.99) and Shoreham-Wading River Alex Kuhnle was fifth (27.58). Hubbard was also fourth in the 100 (13.4) and will run the finals Wednesday.
Mercy’s 4 x 100 relay team posted the second-fasted time in the preliminaries. The team of Carter, Juilanna Cintron, Delaney Macchirole and Adafih Blackburn ran 51.92.
In Division II, Riverhead senior Maddie Blom took third place in the discus with a personal best mark. On her final throw, Blom tossed the discus 113 feet 7 inches.
“My first goal is to always do my best,” Blom said. “Seeing how it’s my senior year I kind of wanted to come in first, but I’m going against some of the best girls in the state. So I can’t complain with third place.”
Hauppauge senior Danielle Valenza took first with an impressive throw of 128-01 that puts her among the top discus throwers in the state. Hills West senior Oyinkansola Adewale edged out Blom for second with a throw of 114-01.
Blom overcame a stomach bug that left her feeling under the weather to still toss a personal best.
“The whole spinning idea was not really appealing,” she said. “But I’m here to compete.”
On Wednesday, Blom will compete in her main event, the shot put. She’s hoping for another personal best.
“Lately I’ve been throwing PR’s every meet,” she said. “I’m looking to break the school record.”
Blom’s top throw is 40-07. The school record is 42-02.
“I’m going to come back Wednesday and rock the shot,” she said.
Riverhead junior Ashley-Ann Courts qualified for the finals in the 400-dash by running 1:01.46.
Photo Caption: Riverhead senior Maddie Blom. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)