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Holmes, Johnson strike gold Western runners sprint to victory Western athletes enjoy bountiful day in track and field

MOUNT VERNON -- Anna Holmes had just finished blasting away the field in the 400 meters at the Empire State Games when a man approached her in the infield, asking, "What college are you going to? What would you think about Fordham University?"

"I'm still a junior," she said with a sheepish smile.

The way Holmes is running, she's going to get a lot more people asking about her future. Holmes' striking performance in the scholastic 400 highlighted her three-medal day at Mount Vernon High School, part of a standout Saturday for local athletes and the Western Region.

"I was hoping for at least bronze -- the gold is awesome," said the native of Freedom who will be a junior at Pioneer. "It's pretty cool [to have people asking about college]. Now more people are coming up as I'm getting older and asking about colleges, but I'm like, I don't know yet."

The staggered start of the 400 had Holmes in the second lane, and she appeared to be in the back as the field moved down the backstretch. But then she picked off runners one by one, posting a 57.18 after blasting past New York City's Juliena McIntosh (58.86) and Sherril McFarlane (59.24) in the final turn.

"I knew I was one of the last people coming around the [starting] turn and then I started like pulling up," said Holmes, who also won two relay medals. "I like that because I can catch them."

Holmes also won silver after running the first leg of Western's 4x400 relay and she joined West Seneca West's Jillian O'Brien (fifth in the 100) in helping Western to a bronze in the 4x100.

Another local athlete who has plenty of people asking about his future is Anthony Johnson, who is headed into his senior year at Kenmore East. Johnson, an All-Western New York soccer player who won the state title in the 100 meters this past spring, successfully defended his gold in the 100 after a scary finish.

Johnson's muscular frame was bursting to the front when, with about 10 meters left, he shouted as he suffered an apparent left hamstring injury. Despite holding the hamstring for the last few strides, he won the race in 11.17, edging Long Island's Jaquand Halland (11.20) and Hudson Valley's Tiere Spruill (11.33).

"I had about four steps left and my hamstring just got in a knot I guess," said Johnson, who is presently sifting through college letters. "I was a little nervous it was going to be more serious -- it was much milder than it looked and sounded."

Johnson was healthy enough to join Holland's Taylor Kensy in a fourth-place run in the 400 relay.

Newfane's Brianna Steele, who won gold the last two years in the scholastic heptathlon, had a great first experience in the open division by taking silver. Steele used a winning javelin throw to jump from fourth to second place, then surged to the line to take second in the final event, the 800.

"I'm ecstatic," said Steele, who will head to the University of Tulsa healthy after battling a recent hamstring injury. "I really didn't think I was going to win anything. I was injured for about a month and a half. I've been working with Orchard Park coach Paul Maconaghy and he gets a lot of credit."

Steele's 4,197 points were far behind Ashley Huffman of Long Island's South Setauket, but for good reason: Huffman is a Monmouth University graduate and an Olympic hopeful who was fifth at the U.S. national pentathlon this year.

The women's 1,500 wasn't just a Western sweep, it was an East Aurora sweep. Jenna Hulton took the scholastic race and former Blue Devil teammate Sarah Mosser won the open race.

Returning all-state cross country runner Hulton, who had finished fourth in the 800 earlier, broke away on the final lap to win by a full second at 4:54.03. While Hulton was being honored at the medal stand, her good friend Mosser ran right by in front of her as the Boston University sophomore finished off a dominant, 15-second victory in 4:41.07.

"I heard her name [while I was running by]," said Mosser, who won the scholastic 800 and 1,500 two years ago at the Games.

Teri Wilson of Lockport had a lonely run to gold, beating a field of just four runners to win the women's open 800 in 2:18.21. Wilson, who will begin teaching fifth grade at Anna Merritt School in her hometown in a few weeks, graduated this spring from Brockport State, where she earned trips to the NCAA Division III outdoor meet in the steeplechase as a junior and the cross country nationals as a senior.

Roy Richards and Reggie Rucker, who were teammates at Edison Tech in Rochester and just completed standout careers at the University at Buffalo, made it six straight Games in which at least half of the duo has won a medal. Richards won gold in the long jump (7.16 meters) while Rucker took silver in the 400 hurdles (54.14 seconds).

Saratoga Springs native Tina Villa, who is headed to her junior season at UB, took gold in the shot put (13.12 meters) competing for Adirondack.

Kim Williams, a junior at Binghamton University, took bronze in the women's open 400 and teamed with fellow daVinci grad Lakeisha Perez of RIT to take bronze in the 4x100 relay. Lauren Lewis of West Seneca took third in the 800 and javelin to help her to bronze in the scholastic heptathlon.

The Games saw a record in the men's open pole vault as Rory Quiller cleared 17 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Quiller, the son of Army track coach Jerry Quiller, is a recent Binghamton grad who was fourth at the NCAAs this spring.

At Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island, Lockport native and Roberts Wesleyan senior Brandi Naish took silver in the women's open hammer throw at 42.52 meters. At the State University of New York at Purchase, Mel McGinnis of Frewsburg took silver in the 20-kilometer racewalk.

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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