Awad, Paul win decisively at Stanner Games
At 5-5 and 116 pounds, Chaminade's Thomas Awad, doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd.
But he sure knows how to get in front of one.
Awad's move with three laps to go was the deciding factor in winning the invitational mile in 4 minutes, 15.67 seconds at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory in Manhattan Saturday.
"I'm not the strongest guy out there," he said. "I knew I had to win it with my endurance and not let it come down to a sprint."
Awad was in second place from the opening gun, but he dropped back as the field set the pace. The tightly bunched pack came through the first 400 meters in 65.2 seconds and hit the midway point in 2:10.
"I just tried to stay out of trouble and not get tripped up," Awad said.
Awad worked his way back up to second and began his kick with 600 meters to go on the 200-meter track. He jumped into the lead and opened his stride just enough to stave off surges by the other runners.
"I didn't want it to come down to the last 400 meters," he said. "That's when everybody else is booking."
The win qualified Awad for the boys mile at the Millrose Games on Feb. 11, but he and Chaminade coach Pat Slevin both said after the race that they would decline the invitation.
Instead of the Millrose Games, Awad will focus on running the U.S. Open mile at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28 and the mile at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston on Feb. 4.
"I don't want to overrace myself," Awad said. "That was a little bit of an issue last year, so I want to do what's best for the team and for myself."
In the girls events, Sachem East's Rachel Paul capped off a strong week by winning the 3,000 meters in dominant fashion.
Paul's time of 9:49.62 was a tick off the Suffolk record, set in last year's Stanner Games by Mary Kate Anselmini of Ward Melville (9:48.5).
"I just felt strong throughout the entire race," Paul said. "I felt like everything was under control."
On Wednesday, Paul qualified for her second straight Millrose Games with a second-place finish in the mile at the Millrose trials. With her Millrose ticket already punched, Paul came into the 3,000 Saturday with the sole intent of breaking Anselmini's county record.
The senior kept pace at the front of the field with Sara Sargent of Pennsbury (Fairless Hills, Pa.) for the first 1,000 meters and took the lead as they reached the backstretch on the sixth lap.
From then on, the race was never in question. Paul won by more than 100 meters -- half the length of the track -- as she exploded for a 4:50 split in the final 1,500 meters.
"I was pretty antsy," Paul said. "As soon as I felt [Sargent] start to break down, I told myself it was time to take control and run my own race instead of the field's race."