By Joseph Staszewski
All Denise Branch heard was Benjamin Cardozo Assistant Coach Ray James telling her she was on pace and to keep going.
The Judges’ star distance runner was trying to break the league record in the PSAL 3,000 meters in her third try this season. The Illinois-bound senior had just missed the mark at the Yale Invitational in early January, but wasn’t going to be denied Saturday.
“I honestly didn’t know I was running that fast,” Branch said. “At 2K I kind of just blurred out.”
Her performance was good enough to break the record with a time of 9:47.25 at the PSAL Indoor city championship at The Armory Saturday. Branch, who also won the 1500 meters with a time of 4:40.20, broke the mark of 9:52.01 set by former Judges teammate Alexis Panisse in 2012. Branch had to push herself over the weekend, unlike at Yale where she ran against a better field.
“This time I was like, ‘I have to do it all by myself so I will just have to go in there, know what pace I have to go and just do it,’” Branch said.
Branch was also a member of the winning 4×800 relay team along with Alana Williams, Nia Lundy and Elizabeth Perez Bossut with a time of 9:43.66.
But her three wins weren’t enough for Cardozo to capture a seventh straight PSAL Indoor title. The Judges placed second with 66 points behind rival Medgar Evers. The Cougars now own both of the league’s track and field crowns after ending the Judges’ five-year reign in the outdoor championship last season.
Shaniqua Kirkpatrick also had a strong day for Cardozo. The junior won the 1000 meters with a time of 3:01.83. She executed her race plan to perfection. Kirkpatrick sat in third for most of the race, moved into second heading into the final turn and pushed past Health Professions’ Ariela Sutherland over the final 50 meters for the win. She was also second in the 600 meters with a time of 1:35.03.
“The last 100 meters I knew for a fact that I had to make my move because I have foot speed, so I was able to maintain all the way through to the finish line,” Kirkpatrick said of the 1000-meter race.
Cardozo’s Sandreka Bancroft was third in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 8.42. Sophia Mahin of Townsend Harris won the city title in the 1500-meter race walk with a mark of 7:41.9.
On the boys’ side UConn-bound shot putter Oghenakpob Efekoro placed first in the event with a toss of 56 feet 11.5 inches for Forest Hills. Cambria Height’s Dejean Rose was second in the long jump with a leap of 21-08.50. Fredis Baires of Francis Lewis placed third in the 1600 meters with 4:35.48.