Chris Belcher wasn't going to let nerves -- or trash talk -- get to him.
As the junior was getting ready in his blocks Wednesday night at the Millrose Trials, he found himself lined up next to one of Long Island's top sprinters -- Mark Jackson of Longwood, who was fresh off a close win in the Hispanic Games last week.
"I was a little intimidated," Belcher said. "Every time I see him, he's always like, 'I'm going to beat you this time.' And he always does beat me."
On this night, though, Belcher had bragging rights. The Sayville junior came from behind to win the 55-meter trial at the Armory and advance to next month's Millrose Games.
Belcher won with a time of 6.53, .06 seconds faster than Jackson, edging him for a spot.
From the opening gun, it appeared that Jackson would make it two Armory wins in a row. The Longwood senior, who ran a 6.56 at the Hispanic Games on Saturday, got a strong start off the blocks and was able to get out in front for the early part of the race.
But Belcher kept his cool and was able to overtake Jackson at about the 30-meter mark.
"[Jackson's] really good," he said. "I saw him in front of me, and I just kept telling myself that I had to catch him."
Sayville coach Reade Sands was impressed with how Belcher was able to handle the pressure of competing in a big race. "He told me he was a little nervous beforehand, but he was able to stay relaxed during the race," Sands said. "He did everything right today."
With the win, Belcher will compete in the Millrose Games on Feb. 11. This is the first year that the Millrose Games will feature the 55.
"I'm just excited to be representing home," Belcher said. "Hopefully I'll be able to win the whole thing next month."
Meanwhile, Kelsey Margey of Friends Academy and Rachel Paul of Sachem East qualified for the Games with their 1-2 finish in the invitational mile. Margey ran a 4:49.03 and Paul clocked 4:52.95.
"I wanted to stay with Kelsey as long as I could," said Paul, who will make her second straight Millrose appearance. "Once she made a move on the pack, I lost her. But I still qualified, which is exactly what I came here to do."
St. Anthony's took first in the CHSAA girls sprint medley relay in 4:06.08. Elmont's Valencia Hannon qualified by winning the girls 55 in 7.19.
The Long Island 4 x 400-meter relay fields also were set. Uniondale (3:23.99), Freeport (3:28.68), Port Jefferson (3:29.28), Ward Melville (3:29.68), Brentwood (3:29.98) and Massapequa (3:30.87) will make up the boys race.
Uniondale (3:58.84), Garden City (3:59.74), Bay Shore (3:59.97), Massapequa (4:00.78), Northport (4:03.41), and Brentwood (4:04.94) advanced in the girls 4 x 400.