Like a quote by R.S. Grey, Kayleigh Robinson believed she could, so she did.
The Mount Sinai junior sprinter’s go-getter attitude motivated her to a first-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the state track and field championships last weekend.
“Most people get nervous going into a race, but when I go into a race, I think about it as my race,” the five-year varsity standout said. “As you think about what you want, what your goals are — I’ve been training so hard throughout the season for that race, and I was coming down the last 100, 50 meters and I saw the finish line was right there and I was confident. I knew I had to push myself as hard as I could. Visualizing what you want for yourself helps you reach that result.”
She was ranked No. 2 in the state, just half a second behind first, and finished the June 9 race in 1 minute, 3.03 seconds just in front of Bishop Loughlin’s Adia Palmer (1:03.32). She said she would have been happy with any result, laughing that clocking in first though was a nice bonus. Robinson was also on the 4×400 relay that placed eighth in Division II. Even running after individual races, the quartet finished well above its 9:27 time from the previous round with a 4:07.84.
“I wanted to be a state champion, I had my mind set, and I executed,” Robinson said. “But as long as I know I tried my best, I’m happy with whatever time I finish in, whether I win or lose.”
Sophomore Sarah Connelly approached the meet with a similar attitude. The four-year varsity runner placed third in the 3,000 in 9:52.24 and ninth in the 1,500 in 4:36.52.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Connelly said after crossing the finish line. “I was satisfied and amazed. We all push each other to make ourselves better and our success is all because we work together. This team is so supportive.”
Senior Noreen Guilfoyle is a big part of Connelly’s support system, even referring to her as “Mother Noreen.” Guilfoyle said she remembers running side by side with the then seventh-grader‚ recalling Connelly couldn’t take her eyes off her, not looking forward for even a second.
“I might take a little bit of credit for it,” Guilfoyle said of Connelly’s success, laughing. “I’m so proud of her. She’s done everything she’s told to do and I think she has a great career ahead of her.”
Connelly said her teammate, a nine-time state medalist, has helped her excel.
“I’m where I am today because of her,” Connelly said. “She’s unbelievable; I marvel at her. I look up to her. Whenever I had a negative attitude she tells me to shut up and put a smile on my face.”
The sophomore has now taken her own teammate under her wing, freshman Kaitlyn Chandrika, who won the 2,000 steeplechase at the division championships last month and state qualifiers just over a week ago. She finished ninth in the steeplechase and 22nd in the 800 at the state meet.
“I’ve tried to build her up,” Connelly said. “Hopefully I will be the next Noreen.”
Guilfoyle hadn’t had a personal best in quite some time, she said, and using her own encouragement, preaching pace and positivity, scored personal records in the same events Chandrika competed in, placing 15th in the steeplechase.
“They’re the only team that if someone beats someone else, they turn around and say, ‘Thank you, you made me run faster,’” head coach Bill Dwyer said. “The younger kids wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t have good role models like they do in Noreen and the other seniors. But even I couldn’t have imagined them running that fast. People see all this talent, but it’s basically hard work that gets them there.”
Guilfoyle, Connelly, Chandrika and sophomore Isabella DiPalermo finished 10th in the 4×800. Senior Ebelyn Harriman finished 23rd overall among Division II schools in the pentathlon, and Miller Place senior Jillian Patterson finished eighth among all schools. She finished the 800 portion first in 2:21.29 and racked up 3,150 points overall. For the boys, Mount Sinai junior Kenneth Wei finished second in the 110 hurdles for Division II runners in 14.51 and sixth overall. His younger brother Justin, a sophomore, came in 14th in the pentathlon, crossing the finish line fourth in the high jump, seventh in the 110 hurdles and 10th in the 1,500.
Guilfoyle said her motto has been “one bad race doesn’t define an entire career,” adding going against the best-of-the-best in the state has only helped. She said being on the top team on Long Island during the winter and cross country track seasons and going undefeated for the second year in a row in the spring and winning the county championship has its added benefits.
“It helps you push yourself harder than you would before,” Guilfoyle said of competing on the big stage. “I’ve always aimed to be the best example I can be. For them to look up to me and instill the things I’ve taught them is really rewarding. I feel like I’ve made an impact on their lives, and they’ve made an impact on mine.”