When Gabby Andrade heard that a last-minute entry was needed to fill Thursday's last-man-standing Cougar 3,000, she figured she had nothing to lose and decided to give it a go.
Little did the Valley Stream North eighth-grader know that she would be the last one standing.
Andrade used a late move to win the inaugural Cougar 3,000 in 11:03.2 yesterday in the Cougar Invitational at Bellmore JFK. Sean Grady of East Meadow took the Cougar 3,200 in 9:47.3.
Both races featured a unique survival component where the last-place runner after each lap would be taken off the track. It was the first time in Long Island history that such a twist had been added to a race.
"I was up for it, mainly because I've run a lot of 3,000s," said Andrade, who entered herself in the race only a few hours before it started. "And I like to try new things, so I was like, 'OK, why not?' "
Andrade and Wantagh's Liz Stirling (11:07.2) went back-and-forth for the lead over the first 2,500 meters as they distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Andrade opened up her stride with 500 to go, outkicking Stirling through the last lap to win.
"When I sprinted, I knew that was the end of it," Andrade said. "I just wanted to sprint it inasmuch as I could."
The Cougar 3,200 was nearly the exact opposite, as Grady coasted in on the last lap to earn the victory. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for the East Meadow senior, as he was almost eliminated on the first lap.
After starting the race as the top seed, Grady was shuffled back to last place after 300 meters as the tightly-packed field was on pace for a 64-second quarter-mile split. As he came off the turn, Grady fanned out into lane three, kicked down the straightaway, and edged out Massapequa's Kyle Smith at the line to stay in the race.
"I had to fight my way in," he said. "After that first lap, I told myself I wouldn't let that happen again."
Grady rode that kick to the lead on the next lap and stayed there for the rest of the race, opening up as much as a 40-meter lead on second place Danny Reilly of Wantagh (10:07.8).
"I decided to just go," Grady said. "I just gave it a run for my money, and it worked out."