WEST SENECA — Getting a good start determined how Zion Cheatham would finish in the 400-meter dashes all season, even as the competition got tougher and the stakes only went higher each time.
The Lockport senior once again had a good start. But it was his final turn in the Section VI Division I 400-meter dash that separated him from the rest of the pack.
With a time of 50.13 seconds, Cheatham won the 400, defeating Hamburg’s Brycen Coleman (50.80) and became the first of four total winners from the Lions in the second and final day of the Section VI outdoor track and field state qualifiers Saturday at West Seneca West High School.
Cheatham said after the victory he was blessed and credited people like teammate Kyrie Jones, who finished third in the event (51.02), for pushing him to reach his goal of qualifying for states.
“It means a lot,” Cheatham said. “… I just became a 400 runner this year and it feels great.”
Cheatham then found more success in the relays. In what was their debut appearance, Lockport’s team of Kyree Jones, Sam Marquez, Tanner Gurnett and Cheatham won the Division I Boys 4×400 relay with a time of 3:26.86, qualifying for states but also the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia later this month.
Like his teammates, Gurnett, a sophomore, didn’t know he would move from an alternate to the third spot and made the most of his opportunity.
“I saw Sam coming down neck and neck (and) I knew he was going to take him,” Gurnett said. “I knew I had to get out and give our guys a chance to get to Nationals. Coming down the pack, man, I was on fire, but it feels good.”
Lockport sprints coach Dan Langendorfer knew all season that a 4×400 team on the boys side was coming up and said this will be the group next weekend in Middletown.
“Tanner’s been kind of not so much the guy waiting but he’s the guy that wants it,” said Langendorfer on the last-minute addition. “Obviously, we saw today… He took it to the house.”
Langendorfer had even more to be pleased with as the team’s 4×400’s girls relay team of freshman Arden Anterline, eighth grader Leah Gaskill, sophomore Amari Gardner and junior Melia Towns won the event to conclude the entire two-day event with a time of 4:05:47, edging Orchard Park by a 2 seconds (4:07.45).
Anterline was “super excited” to reach states and also noted the responsibility that comes with being in the lead-off spot.
“Really, it’s just get the lead, like, push it out for the team,” said Anterline. “So, when the second leg gets the handoff, then they feel like they’re in a good position to keep us in first. … It just feels like all of us work so well as a team has a relay and we really push each other and support each other to the greatest extent. It’s amazing.”
Not only is Towns heading to states as parts of the relay, she will also compete in the long jump, which she hit the super standard mark with a personal record of 18 feet, 5 ½ inches Saturday. Towns said winning the relay with her teammates “feels like a dream” and, with a laugh, said she was only focused on running down the final stretch. She didn’t know of the gap between her and the rest of the anchors until after the fact.
“Honestly, I thought they were right behind me,” Towns said. “Because I kept hearing people say, ‘She’s right behind you. So, I thought she was like five inches away so I just ran for my life.”
The NYSPHSAA track and field state championships will take place June 9-10 at Middletown High School.