By JOSEPH STASZEWSKI
PHILADELPHIA — Despite heading to college on a basketball scholarship, Lashonda Hathorne will enter and leave St. John’s Prep as a track runner.
As a freshman she was a star distance runner at the Astoria school, but tried to play basketball and run indoor track at the same time before sustaining multiple sprained ankles. She gave up track after the cross country season of her sophomore year, but with her high school basketball career done and a scholarship to play at Dominican College secured, Hathorne is back on the track for the outdoor campaign.
“I wanted to see if I still had it,” the 5-foot-9 senior said.
Hathorne ran for the second time in her career at the Penn Relays last Thursday morning at Franklin Field. She ran the second leg for the Red Storm in the 4×100 relay with teammates Amira Richards, Patricia Cruz and Kelsey Papanicolaou in a time of 54.63. Despite being more comfortable running the 800 and 1600, she was added to the relay because of her speed.
“This felt like what I felt freshman year,” said Hathorne, a lightning quick guard. “It’s an honor to actually be able to run on this track. Not every team can get here.”
Her return has been frustrating, fun and necessary in her eyes. She said she missed running, but has not been able to post the times she did in the past after not training properly despite the workouts she did for varsity and AAU basketball season. Her track and distance background prepared her for being in top condition in the fourth quarter. The Red Storm won two CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II tournament titles and a regular-season championship during her tenure. This year they took home the CHSAA Class B city title.
Basketball conditioning is one of the other reasons the All-Queens second team selection by the New York Post returned to the track. She recently got a chance to play pick-up with her future Dominican teammates following her commitment. Hathorne, who admitted to being tired afterward, realized the level she will need to get to in order to compete
“The speed of the game is like 10 times faster,” Hathorne said. “The girls are way stronger. That’s the reason I came back to track because I knew I would have to be in the top shape if I want to be a dynamic player for them.”
She wasn’t the only star New York City basketball player at UPenn. Cardinal Spellman’s Troi Melton, the Post’s All-Bronx Player of the Year, ran the third leg for her team in the 4×400 relay in her first-ever Penn Relays. Nikiya Harris, Angelique Witley-Allan and Amanda McKenna and Melton posted a time of 4:23.31.
“To me, it was like any other track meet,” said Melton, a middle-distance runner. “But this is my first time running in spikes so my legs are killing me.”
Her track background differs greatly from that of Hathorne, who she said she talked to on Facebook about the meet. But their reasons for running now are the same as Melton readies to play at Boston University after her first full track season. In past years she would only run and compete for three weeks during the outdoor season, before playing with her New Heights travel basketball team. As a sophomore she started out doing the long jump and the triple jump, but Coach Simone Brown asked her to run the 400 one day. Now she was running the race at the prestigious Penn Relays.
“I wanted to play softball, but I was scared I was going to get hit in the face with the ball,” Melton said. “So I figured this was probably the next best thing.”