By Joseph Staszewski
Alexis Panisse’s historic cross-country season didn’t have the finish she was looking for.
The Benjamin Cardozo senior became the first New York City girls’ runner to qualify for the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship in San Diego. But a badly strained ankle limited her and she placed 30th out of 40 runners Dec. 10. It left her hungry to get her indoor season off in a big way and left little doubt she was going to try to earn a spot in the Millrose Games right away.
“I wanted to do it really bad after my cross-country season,” the Tennessee-bound Panisse said. “I decided to go from cross-country to indoor right away to get it over with.”
She led the mile race at the Bishop Loughlin Games most of the way and made a late push past Maria Seykora of Notre Dame around the final turn and into the straightaway at the Armory Saturday afternoon. Panisse won in a time of 5:00.87, Seykora was second in 5:01.70 and Catherine Molloy of Holy Names placed third with a mark of 5:03.44. Panisse is the first PSAL girls miler to earn a spot in the Millrose Games, held Feb. 11 at the Armory, in 10 years.
“I didn’t get a break at all,” Panisse said. “I just went right into training. Sunday I got off the plane. Monday was practice.”
She will now shut down from racing for a few weeks to allow her body to recover after the cross-country season, according to Cardozo assistant Coach Ray James. She felt she didn’t have the same strength in her legs at cross-country nationals. Panisse had plenty of kick at the Armory, though. She led most of the race until Seykora charged in front to start the final lap. Panisse retook the lead around the final turn and held her off down the straight away.
“I don’t give up,” she said. “When it comes to the last turn, I have to do it.”
Unlike Panisse, teammate Akayla Anderson had plenty of time to prepare for her race. She had been training all summer for her first crack at the hurdles this season and it was worth the wait. The junior had run just sprint races in early meets this season. In her first time hurdling this season she won the 55 in a personal best time of 8:02 in a run that looked smooth and effortless at times.
“I’m trying to work to break eight seconds,” Anderson said. “So running an 8:02 is really good.”
Cardozo senior Lateisha Philson, who is looking to add more variety to her events as a senior, did not participate in the hurdles, but won the 55 dash with a time of 7:06. She edged Elmont’s Valencia Hannon (7.19). It was her second straight day running the event as she placed first with a mark of 6.9 at the Colgate Women’s Games. Judges junior Sabrina Southerland placed first in the 1,000 with a time of 2:57.50.
“I’m looking to go faster throughout the year,” Philson said. “I want to finish 6.8 or 6.9.”