UNION-ENDICOTT, N.Y. — The 3000 steeplechase was the race Waverly’s Collin Wright wanted.

It is his favorite event and one he’s worked for a state berth in since he started running track.

At the Section IV State Qualifier Wright’s dream came true as he held off Unatego’s Aidan Cutting to win the steeplechase and clinch a state berth.

“I just want to thank God, my awesome teammates, my parents, my coaches,” Wright said after. “They’ve cheered me on through all this.”

Wright lowered his school record with a winning time of 9:53.71, less than a second ahead of Cutting (9:54.22).

It was nip and tuck between the two for the entire race, with Wright leading the race for the first few laps.

“It wasn’t part of my original strategy,” admitted Wright. “I just knew I had to be toward the front if I wanted to go and I really wanted to establish a spot.”

Halfway through Cutting took the lead from Wright as he worked to stay on his shoulder.

“At that point you definitely feel the exhaustion,” Wright described. “You just want to hang on and that’s what I did. I just locked onto him, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t let them get away from me.”

As the bell rang for the final lap it was just Cutting and Wright with the Unatego runner holding a couple step lead.

With 300 to go Wright pulled up to him, looking for anything to help him get by.

That anything was Waverly coach Nate Culver. He was on the backstretch the entire race and was yelling for Wright to pass Cutting.

With Culver cheering him on Wright past Cutting and took a few meters lead as they neared the water pit.

“That’s almost a deja vu kind of thing because there have been so many times he’s been there to just push me through that last part of the race,” said Wright. “That definitely helped.”

After the water it was Cutting’s turn to make a move and he did, coming up strong on Wright’s outside shoulder.

“I could hear him,” Wright remarked. “I really just wanted to keep ahead of him at all costs so I just got my arms going and pushed to the finish.”

Wright kept his form over the final hurdle while the barrier slowed Cutting down. After clearing it Wright sprinted the final 50 meters for the win.

“I wasn’t really thinking about him at that point,” Wright said about the final sprint. “I was just thinking about the finish line and getting there.”

With his goal now met Wright will refocus for next week’s state meet.

“I’m really just going to try to keep my training up and keep my base mileage up,” explained Wright. “Go into it with the same mindset I did today and see what happens.”

Wright will be joined by teammates Dylan Ward (800) and Isaac Chandler (pole vault, 110 hurdles).

Chandler ran in the 110 hurdle finals, falling in the second half of the race. He finished in eighth but qualified for the state tournament by hitting the super standard earlier in the year.

The state championship will be next weekend at Middletown.