Lucas Beyer had about three minutes to celebrate a rare trifecta before his feeling of accomplishment deflated into dejection.
The Canisius sophomore was trying to become the first runner since 2000 to sweep the 800 meters, one-mile and two-mile races at the All-Catholic Track and Field Championships, and the only underclassman in Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association history to triumph at all three distances.
Beyer had already won the two-mile race in the rain Friday night and sprinted ahead of St. Francis’ Bo Sireika to claim the 800 title by 29-hundredths of a second Saturday at the Red Raiders’ Polian Family Field.
Last up was the mile, Beyer’s best event. Keeping pace with teammate Frano Rados for much of the race, Beyer pulled in front on the final straightaway and crossed the finish line in 4:37.72.
As Beyer and Franos rejoiced in their 1-2 finish, Beyer’s third victory vanished. An official entered the scoring tent to disqualify Beyer for stepping on the inside lane line four times on the first turn of the final 400-meter lap.
Canisius coach Mitchell Ford approached the tent a few seconds later, proudly declaring “that’s three” for Beyer. “No,” one of the scorekeepers regrettably replied, “it’s two.” Ford asked if he could protest the disqualification, but lacking photographic or video evidence, the official’s ruling would stand.
Ford then had to break the bad news to Beyer.
“That was the last conversation I wanted to have with an athlete,” Ford said. “To tell him that after a year of hard work, that it was all for nothing.”
Beyer described the feeling of those fleeting few minutes as “the best I’ve ever had,” like being “on top of the world.” Learning of the DQ “was probably some of the hardest news I’ve ever heard,” he said.
“When you lose a race to a good, seasoned runner, you can take that and go home and learn from it,” Beyer continued. “But when you lose a race to a technicality, it’s really frustrating. When you beat some good runners but lose it to a few steps on a line, there’s nothing that can describe the feeling of frustration and letting yourself down and all the people who supported me to get here.”
Few runners even attempt this particular triple, Beyer said, because of how depleting the two-mile can be in advance of the other two races.
“Doing what he did today was a lot and I’m very proud of him for it,” Ford said. “I’ve been around the sport for almost a decade now and it’s really rare to see the type of motivation that Lucas has at his age.”
Beyer plans to run the two-mile at the state Catholic championship meet this weekend on Randall’s Island in New York City. Rados qualified to compete in the mile with his personal-best time of 4:37.72.
“I’m incredibly happy with my time and how I raced. It’s exactly how I wanted to start and finish,” said Rados, a junior. “But I felt terrible for Lucas. I probably don’t really belong in the Catholic state meet, but I’ll take it. It’s definitely a dark cloud on the day.”
Still gritting his teeth over Beyer’s disqualification, Ford said he was proud of the way his two runners brought out the best in each other during the race.
“To me, that was what this is really about,” the Crusaders’ first-year coach said. “That race was all teamwork and that’s why they got first and second.”
While Beyer was denied in his quest to be a triple-winner, the runner he beat in the 800, Sireika, won his other three events (long jump, high jump, 400) and set a meet record for individual points (38) to lead St. Francis to its first All-Catholic team championship since 2012.
“For a couple years now we’ve been finishing second in the league and we talked about trying to get back to where we were regularly competing at a high level,” Red Raiders coach Steve Otremba said. “We couldn’t have done it without our seniors and their leadership. They were the backbone of our squad the entire year and they really wanted to finish.”
Nardin Academy’s lone senior, Colonie Chaney, won the 200, placed second in the 100 and contributed to second-place runs in 400 and 1,600 relays to lead the Gators to their second straight All-Catholic team championship.
“This was supposed to be a reload season and the kids really reloaded,” Nardin coach Rich Skrabucha said. “We had 10 seniors last year. We only had one this year. She was a stalwart for us this weekend. But our depth was key. It wasn’t just the top kid. I’ve been trying to preach to the kids all year that it’s about the team, and they really bought into that this weekend.”