The track inside St. Anthony's High School is five lanes wide, but no one seemed to inform the boys running in the 3,200 meter at Thursday's Nassau Class B Championships. The field ran bunched together in the first two lanes, looking for any bit of breathing room.
Running in the front of the pack for most of the 16-lap race was Manhasset's Stephen Bourguet, at least a finger length from the rest of the group. Bourguet had no interest in jockeying for position late in the race.
"I wasn't too bunched up," he said. "Everyone else was trying to get some personal space and not get too roughed up. I wanted to get in front and stay away from all that."
As the race progressed, Bourguet's lead became more pronounced. An accomplished cross-country runner, the Brown-bound senior used his endurance and experience to take the title, winning in nine minutes, 59.44 seconds.
Bourguet's strategy for avoiding a bottle neck at the finish line was a specific one.
"I tried to take it slow the first mile," he said. "Then, once everyone got a little fatigued, I would go. That's what I did."
Once he senses his competition slowing down, Bourguet knows just what to do to create space.
"I try to get up on my toes, so every step is a bit quicker" he said.
Having won the Class B 3,200 title each of the last two seasons, the championship is becoming, if not old hat, certainly part of his winter season routine. This makes visualizing the race easier.
"I was a little more confident," he said. "I knew everyone else would defer to me. I knew I was the guy who was looking to win the race. It let me do what I want to do out there. I don't have to run other people's races."
Fellow Manhasset runner Kathryn Hallett's confidence came from her second place finish at last year's county championships.
"It motivated me to go faster this year," the sophomore said. The motivation paid dividends. Hallett won the county title in the 55 dash in 7.60 seconds.
"The whole race is the start," she said. "I tried to focus on getting off the blocks as fast as I could. [The blocks] give you something to push off of, so you can start a lot faster,"
In Nassau Class B, you can't get much faster than Hallett and Bourguet.