NEW YORK - Maurice Easterling still doesn't fully understand the long jump.
He just gets up on the runway, sprints down and jumps. He has gotten better in the event since he started competing in it last spring.
That was evident last night at the New Balance Armory as the senior from Stepinac took first in the Eastern States Championship with a leap of 23 feet, 1 inch. The distance is good for second best in the state this season.
"I've learned a lot from my mistakes," Easterling said. "I feel much more comfortable in it this season."
Last spring was the first Easterling attempted the event. He had been a sprinter.
"Jumping comes kind of naturally to me," Easterling said. "It's a little different to run full speed. Sometimes I need to slow down so I don't go over the board."
Each time Easterling steps on the runway it's a learning experience. He probably never learned as much as the first time he practiced the event. His coach - Nick Mitchell - told him to do a run-through. Instead of running straight down the runway without jumping, allowing Mitchell to count the number of steps before he hit the board, Easterling just ran down and jumped. He went 20 feet.
"I didn't know what I was doing," Easterling said. "I didn't know what a run-through was. Everyone just kind of looked at me and was shocked. They couldn't believe how far I jumped. After that I just kept at it."
Not to be outdone, Iona Prep senior Sean Halpin continues to get better each race. And considering he's become one of the top runners in the state, that's hard to do.
Halpin again showed off his ability, taking first in the 800-meter run yesterday in 1 minute, 54.46 seconds. The time is a Westchester County record. Alex Bean of Somers had the original record of 1:54.50.
"Everybody was going so slow that third lap, and I wasn't going as fast as I wanted to," Halpin said. "I wanted to set up my kick. But I just sat back and watched the front pack elbow and bump each other around. I just stayed back and figured I could kick it in."
That's exactly what Halpin did, but he's not quite satisfied with his accomplishments so far this season.
"I definitely can run faster," Halpin said. "But this wasn't about time. I run a lot of relays, and I just wanted to prove to myself that I can run a good open (800)."
The Mount Vernon girl's relay team of Kenina Bonner, Breanda Crump, Myla Allen and Tanaya Yard took third in the 800 relay in 1:42.65. Yarde - a freshman - will be attempting to win her first state title in the 55 dash March 7 at Cornell University.
But last night Yarde just wanted to use the experience to help her prepare for the competition on the state level.
"Competing against some of the teams (last night) they're real good," Yarde said. "As a freshman I think I came in with a little bit of a cocky attitude. Now I can get back to focusing on running."
Suffern's Jen Clayton looks to be locked in for the state meet as the junior won the long jump in 19-5 1/2 and took second in the 200 in 24.74.
The Lakeland/Panas 3,200 relay of Brie Roller, Sarah Biggers, Carissa Leonardi and Safiya Linley took third in 9:31.21.
Reach Dan Marra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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