Malik Brooks, the anchor of Lockport’s 4x400 relay team, was trailing by one runner with 100 meters left in his fourth and final race on Saturday at the Section VI state qualifier meet at Williamsville South High School.
Then in a blink of an eye, he was out in front with a smile that glistened from ear-to-ear as he pointed in the direction of his coach, Dan Langendorfer.
After blazing ahead of West Seneca East’s Vinny Pagliaccio in the homestretch, Brooks won the relay race for the Lions by 2.22 seconds and giving the senior his fourth victory of the day.
"My game plan is usually take it easy, let the person behind me try to catch up," Brooks said of his strategy. "I know if it comes down to the final 100 – I won the 100-meter already – I shouldn’t lose."
The victory for Brooks and Lockport was extra special since the Lions have come in second place the last three years at the meet.
"I pointed to my coach because [he’s] like another father-figure to me, I love him a lot," Brooks said. "The last three years we came in second place in the 4x400 and all I wanted to do was to come in first for him today."
Other victories for Brooks included the 100-meter, as he mentioned, the 4x100 relay and the 400-meter.
In the 400, Hutch-Tech’s Alhagie Sesay led the field going into the final 100 meters before Brooks, who was in second at the time, powered ahead to get the win.
Both athletes complemented each other in the infield afterwards.
"That was the first time anybody has pushed me this year," Brooks, who finished with a time of 48.38 seconds, said of Sesay in the race. "I wanted to get my time down to 47 [seconds]. I didn’t get it today but I’ll get it at states. I thanked him for giving me a good race."
Four wins for Brooks is impressive, but a fellow Niagara Frontier League athlete also had a memorable performance that included the number ‘four.’
Lew-Port’s Andrew Perreault garnered his fourth sectional title this scholastic year.
After his win in the 3200-meter on Friday, one of three victories at the two-day sectional meet, Perreault won the steeplechase for a third consecutive year. He completed the 3000-meter race in a personal-best nine minutes, 37.27 seconds.
Perreault also anchored the 4x800 relay team to a 10-second victory later in the day.
The sectional titles he has this year have come from the cross country and soccer teams in the fall, the Lancers basketball team in the winter, and now track and field in the spring.
Prior to the steeplechase, Perreault, a five-year member of the varsity program, had one goal: Try and beat the Division I finisher.
He did so by 13.17 seconds.
"I wanted to try it," Perreault laughed. "Last year, I had the best time in Section VI."
Pagliaccio, who won Saturday’s Division I race, broke Perreault’s previous personal-best earlier this year with a time of nine minutes, 41.73 seconds.
With Saturday’s performance, Perreault re-took the throne of best time in Section VI.
"He was scaring me a little bit, but I wanted to keep that title," Perreault said. "There’s still another week. I think I’m going to race this again at states and beat him again there," Perreault said.
Other notable performances included Cleveland Hill’s Javon Thomas, who claimed three Division II victories. Thomas won the 100- and 200-meter races before helping the reigning state champion 4x100 relay team to another triumph.
A close battle in the high jump went in favor of Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s Cam Barmore as he outdueled Cheektowaga’s Jake Kaminski. Both athletes successfully completed jumps at six feet, six inches, but Barmore edged out Kaminski by having one less fault.
"It’s nice because all year it’s been me winning with a low-six. It’s always good to have competition," Barmore said of competing against Kaminski.
It will be the third consecutive year that the Panama student will be participating in the high jump at states.
Lancaster’s Armani Merlino (1600 and 3200), Sweet Home’s Kaleb Luton (triple jump, 110 hurdles) and Cheektowaga’s Jayden DuBard (shot put, discus) were the other individual double-winners on the boys side who will join the other Section VI winners at Middletown High School for the state meet that begins Friday.