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Austin Gabay knew he had to do something different.
After finishing fourth in the South Jersey, Group 2 1,600 last week, the junior at Cinnaminson needed to change his race place game plan if he wanted a different outcome in Friday's State Group 2 1,600 at Central Regional in Bayville,
So he made the race faster early by pushing the pace.
"Those guys outkicked me last week, so I needed the race to be faster early so they couldn't get me at the end again,'' said Gabay, a junior.
The strategy worked to perfection for Gabay, who shocked himself and the rest of the field when he had a lot more left than anyone thought as he blasted a 58.7 final 400 to edge Derek Gess of Haddonfield to win with a big PR of 4:16.02. Gess was second in 4:16.60. Colin Flood of Manasquan, who won the SJ Group 2 1,600, was third in 4:17.49.
Gabay also came back later to split 1:55.4 on Cinnaminson's runner-up 4x800 that ran a achool record 7:59.96.
Gabay was surprised when he heard his split for the last 400 in the 1,600.
"I had no idea I ran that fast for the last 400,'' said Gabay. "I had come that far and saw the opportunity to get the win and just went with everything I had. It's an incredible feeling to win my first state title.''
Gabay said that despite his loss at sectionals, he was optimistic that he could reverse that outcome on Friday.
Gabay said becoming a state champion has been on his mind for a frew years.
"Ever since I saw Mike Ungvarsky win a state title for Cinnaminson when I was in eighth grade I've had the goal to become a state champion,'' said Gabay. "It's a dream come true.''