Whether he likes it or not, Boys & Girls track star Robert Rhodes' favorite event probably isn't his best. He proved as much Monday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Relays.
With a memorable anchor leg performance in the sprint medley relay, Rhodes, a top 400 meter runner on last year's championship relay teams, ran 1:54 in the 800 meters to help lead the Kangaroos to a second place finish in one of the meet's most competitive events.
"My favorite event is the 400," Rhodes said after the race. "But coach (James Jackson) thinks I'm better at the 800."
It was Rhodes' third 800 meter run this season and by far his fastest. He's only raced the distance a handful of times because, he says, he prefers shorter events.
But this performance was an undeniable peak at his potential, which even Rhodes acknowledged.
“My times just keep going down,” he said.
"He's a very strong runner, and with his speed, it makes him a very good 800 runner," said assistant coach Will Thomas.
Boys & Girls tied for fifth out of 24 teams at the meet, which was held at the Armory Track and Field Center in Washington Heights and included about 1100 athletes. The team performance was helped in large part by Rhodes' sprint medley relay team. The Kangaroos ran 3:36.18, beating 73 other teams in the event. Only Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx was faster, running 3:33.31.
Rhodes' teammates on the relay were Curtly Renwick, Donniel Nelson and Darryl Williams, Jr.
Boys & Girls also earned points from its 4x800 meter relay, which finished fourth with a time of 8:31.79, and its "Sophomore Varsity" Sprint Medley Relay, which won in a time of 4:02.38.
Boys & Girls entered the meet lacking considerable fire power, coach Jackson acknowledged. Three members of the team’s 4x400 meter relay team, which is traditionally the school’s best event, are missing because of hamstring injuries to Daniel Simon and Javuan Grant and an academic suspension for Earl Lucas.
“Our team is hurt,” Jackson said. “We’re not at our full strength.”
It likely won’t be back at full strength for the New Balance Invitational, one of the biggest meets of the season. Jackson said he’s also unsure if they will be back in time for the prestigious Millrose Games at the Madison Square Garden, which Boys & Girls won in 2010.
In the girls meet, taking place during the afternoon, Boys & Girls got its top performance from its 4x800 meter relay team, which finished third in a time of 9:55.88. The team consisted of Jhanee Sterrett, Jewell Jaccobs, Seanelle Weaver and Johanna Jimenez.