James Washburn had a hamstring issue, but he wasn’t hamstrung.
The Shoreham-Wading River senior demonstrated that Friday in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association track and field championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Despite running with his ailing right hamstring tightly wrapped, Washburn still managed a fourth-place finish in the Division II 400-meter hurdles, earning him a medal in his final high school track meet.
“Well, with my hamstring, I tried my best,” he said. “I just really wished I could get a PR [personal record], but I’m happy with the result.”
Washburn turned in a time of 58.01 seconds. Taconic Hills’ Neil Howard (55.76), Cheektowaga’s C.J. Krzanowicz (56.17) and New Paltz’s Alexander Peyser (57.10) finished ahead of him.
In his previous two meets, Washburn had clocked a personal-record 56.89 in the Section XI Class C Championships and 58.88 in the Section XI state qualifier. It was on the first day of the state qualifier, June 2, when he pulled the hamstring while running a heat in the 100. After sitting for a while, Washburn tried to jog around. “I felt it,” he said. “It really hurt.”
The bad news for him was the 400 hurdles competition was scheduled to begin later that day. But Washburn was saved when rain clouds arrived and rain forced a postponement to the following day. The extra day to recover “really saved me,” he said.
“We wanted the send-off to be that he competed in the state meet and did the best that he could,” SWR coach Joe Mordarski said. “It was definitely pretty amazing that he medaled.”
“There’s no question about it that James is a tough kid,” Mordarski continued. “I think that a lot of kids James’ age, they may have a lot of talent, but they don’t know how to compete. That’s not James. James is a competitor. He hates to lose, but he’s also a super-friendly person off the track, too.”
Washburn’s training for the state meet was a tricky thing.
“He did this not with his lead leg, but with his trail leg,” Mordarski said. “So his trail leg was injured, which is still not optimal because his trail leg he is using to push off, but he persevered. He and I worked together. He was always telling me on a scale of one to 10 what it was like. We were talking about what kind of workouts are appropriate based on his injury and, you know, unfortunately he wasn’t able to get a lot of running workouts in since the state qualifier because we were so concerned about what his hamstring would do.”
What may have helped, at least psychologically, was a text message Washburn received after practice in Cicero last Thursday from a Kutztown University (Pa.) assistant coach, letting him know that the team had a roster spot for him. “It kind of relieved all the stress,” said Washburn.
Mordarski said, “The look in his eye when he showed it to me, it’s pretty cool.”
The state meet, run for the first time since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, also saw SWR’s Patrick Shea better his best time in the 3,000 steeplechase by 10 seconds, posting 10:30.53. That left him 10th in Division II.
“And he’s only a freshman, so the sky’s the limit,” said Mordarski.
Mordarski said Shea’s “focus event” is the 1,600.
“Neither of us really thought that he had a shot at states with the steeplechase,” Mordarski said. “The steeplechase, he just thought it was fun. He did it for fun and it turned out to be his event for states.”
In the girls meet, SWR junior Madison Zelin was seventh in the 400 hurdles in 1:07.52. She finished in sixth place among the Division II runners. The winner of the race, Brinesha Derrick, was from the Catholic school Bishop Loughlin.