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New Haven - Ben Ostrowski would have been fine if the race ended 10 meters before.
Well, he was fine anyway, winning the State Open 600 meters Tuesday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in 1 minute, 22.73 seconds.
But Ostrowski, a senior from East Lyme High School, only got the win after diving head first across the finish line to beat Danbury's Austin Winter (1:23.00). Ostrowski said he broke stride with 5 meters to go and couldn't regain his momentum, with Winter closing in fast.
"I was trying to grab it," said Ostrowski, the Eastern Connecticut Conference record-holder in that event, whose arms flailed as he reached the finish. "I ended up on the ground and I landed a little funny. … I got the bruises (where he scraped his legs), but it's all worth it.
"All I could think was, 'Oh, my God. I better get this.'"
Ledyard's Joe Carter (300 meters, 35.22 seconds) and Chenoa Sebastian (55 hurdles, 8.50) also won events, as did Norwich Free Academy's boys' sprint medley relay team of Martin Lewerk, Joe Trahan, Kobe Amos and Kyle Liang (3:41.52), replicating the Class LL title they won just Saturday.
Bloomfield won the boys' team title with 61 points. NFA was seventh with 16. Darien won the girls' title with 66.33, while NFA was fourth with 25.
Ostrowski, who was part of three state championships at the Class M meet on Feb. 7, leading East Lyme to a second place finish, had a rough start to the day as well, as coach Steve Hargis had him run the first leg of the 4x800 relay instead of his usual anchor leg.
"I ended up 12th (at the start)," Ostrowski said with a laugh, although the team fought back to finish sixth. "I ran it so bad. I had no idea what to do. That wasn't great for my confidence."
Then, at the finish line for the 600, Ostrowski was slow to get up. Liang, who competes against Ostrowski in track and cross country, went back to try to help him up, but Ostrowski needed a minute to compose himself before rising and walking off the track.
Meanwhile, Carter won what he considers his best event, having set the 300 record at the ECC meet.
"I started out pretty strong," said Carter, also a running back for the football team. "Coach tells us to run it like you're running a 200: sprint it and then stay tall for the rest."
Sebastian, who is 5-foot-10, continued the successful hurdles career she began as a freshman when a friend, Stephanie Perry, talked her into going out for track.
And all Liang could think with the lanky anchor runner from Danbury chasing him during the final four laps of the sprint medley relay was, "Yo, these guys (his teammates) are freaking out right now."
Lewerk got his relay the early lead by running the first 200, followed by another 200 from Trahan. Amos ran 400 meters, followed by Liang's 800 leg. Liang was previously fourth in the 600, making him even more eager to wrap up a State Open victory.
"I knew I had to get out so we could have the strong position," said Lewerk, also fifth in the 55 dash. "Joe extended that; we knew Kyle was going to fight the whole way with that guy. … We had our sights set on that sprint medley relay."
NFA's Brianna Lenehan, the top seed in the 1,000 and the 1,600 had a tougher day, partly due to the difficult double and partly because of the situation she found herself facing when meet officials ran just one heat of the 1,000 with all 12 competitors.
Lenehan got trapped at the start in the 1,000 and expended a great deal of energy to get to the front before finishing second to RHAM's Chrissy Bendzinski. Bendzinski finished in 2:56.68 to Lenehan's 2:58.83.
The NFA senior then came back to finish fourth in the 1,600 in 5:00.71, an event won by Northwest Catholic's Sarah Gillespie in a time (4:56.80) that was just off the meet record of 4:56.66.
"It was mad chaos (with 12 runners). It was a trip-fest," said NFA coach Chad Johnson, who believes the 1,000 should have been split into two heats. "(Lenehan) needs to learn how to handle that; if you've got to, throw an elbow to get ahead. But you don't get clean races that way and that's what we're here for, clean races."
New London's Mercedes Santos was fourth in the girls' high jump (5-2) and NFA's Dyshelle Pemberton was third in the 300 (41.06), as well as leading the Wildcats' 4x400 relay team to a third-place finish. Waterford's Chris Jones was fourth in the boys' 300 (36.16) and Ledyard's Alex Paterson was sixth (36.61).