VSS earns first county championship

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It is odd to bring up weather when speaking of indoor track and field, but a kind of perfect storm swept through Valley Stream South this winter, lifting the Lady Falcons to their first-ever county title, while positioning top-ranked performers for runs at state and national championships.

Capitalizing on a rare surge of resources, the VSS girls’ winter track and field team won the Nassau County Class B Championships on Feb. 7 at St. Anthony’s, getting title-defending, first-place efforts from senior mainstays Chibugo Obichere (55-meter dash and 55-meter hurdles), DeAnna Martin (600- and 1,000-meter run) and Lindsey Smith (triple jump), as well as a clutch win by an ad hoc, underclassmen-led crew in the 4x400-meter relay.

“I was surprised by our relay,” said VSS coach Nicole Bertrami, who spelled Obichere, Martin and Smith in relays at the Nassau championships – with freshmen Nia Anjou and Lauren Perkins, and junior Allyson Camacho stepping in to join relay regular Kaitlyn Ross (sophomore) to deliver a county title-winning time of 4:19.80 in the 4x400-meters. “Those girls stepping up sealed the deal for us.”

South’s first Nassau-winning campaign coincided with another team precedent, as Obichere and Martin jointly decided to forego their senior seasons playing VSS girls’ basketball – each shedding a two-year custom of pulling double-duty in winter – in order to focus exclusively on track. But equally important to South’s finest-yet season, Bertrami said, has been the timely emergence of its youngsters.

“Our underclassmen have performed amazingly,” Bertrami said. “Our senior captains instilled belief in the younger girls, who rose to the challenge. So we’ve had a lot of support from below.”

South’s first-string 4x400-meters unit (Martin, Obichere, Ross and Smith) will compete at the Indoor State Championships March 2 in Staten Island, having posted a second-place 4:04.74 at the Section 8 State Qualifier Feb. 12 at St. Anthony’s. Obichere will also make her second state-title defense in the 55-meter hurdles, after clocking a first-place 8.09 at the state qualifier, at which she also won entry to state placing second in the 55-meter dash (7.32).

“Chibugo knows what needs to be done, and does it,” Bertrami said of the state’s top-ranked 55- and 60-meter hurdler. “When she and DeAnna comitted to track this winter, I knew they’d excel.”

Martin will defend her own two-year title in the 600-meters at state after winning the state qualifier (1:33.56), where her third-place finish in the 1,000-meters also got her on the slate at Staten Island, along with Smith who posted a second-place 38-01.00 in the triple jump at the qualifier.

“DeAnna’s insanely talented,” Bertrami said. “But she’s worked hard for everything. Lindsey just gets to work and when she’s done she’s county champion.”

Obichere, Martin and Smith will wrap South’s indoor season at the New Balance Nationals Indoor tournament March 8 in Manhattan – competing in the 60-meter hurdles, 600-meters, and triple jump respectively – while Ross will join the trio on South’s top-ranked 4x1600-meters sprint medley.

“It’s been a great season,” Bertrami said. “I’m lucky to work with amazing young women.”