(Photos by Don Rich, Pat Montferrat, Kyle Brazeil)
Thursday: Penn Relays Day One Recap
PHILADELPHIA –Sophie Chase wouldn’t mind forgetting what happened the final few weeks of her indoor season when a hip injury forced the Lake Braddock (VA) senior to drop out of her state meet and also miss the New Balance National Indoor (NBNI) Championships.
“It was really disappointing because I really wanted to run those meets, especially the state meet,” she said. “My team had done so well and I couldn’t be there. Right after that I really had a kind of renewed sense of wanting to finish off my senior year really strong.”
Judging by the first month, Chase is certainly heading in the right direction to achieve that goal.
During the first day of competition on Thursday at the 119th Penn Relays Carnival, Chase successfully defended her crown in the Championship of America (COA) 3,000-meter run with a winning time of 9 minutes, 35.52 seconds. She defeated a strong field that included second-place finisher Margaret Drazba of St. Mary’s (WV) and senior Courtney Smith of Unionville (PA). Drazba was timed in 9:37.37, while Smith clocked 9:38.40.
Chase’s victory comes just three weeks after a satisfying, first-place effort at the Colonial Relays, where she ran a time of 9:49.
“That 3K I did down in Williamsburg was just kind of like a good tune-up, my first race back after being injured,” she said. “It was just great being down there, being on a fast track and having a college atmosphere as well. It was just cool and definitely got me excited for Penn, too.”
Chase took a patient approach en route to her triumph. She didn’t take the lead until the 1,200 mark.
“I really like to run a conservative first half and really go after it the second half,” said the talented senior, who was 5:10 at the mile checkpoint. “I was really happy I ran negative splits. That’s really how we do our workouts. At the beginning of the workout we try not to go all out and force it too hard and then at the end of the workout we do a little more sharper-speed stuff to sort of mimic a race like this…I feel quick. I was just really happy with how the race played out.”
With a blistering kick the final 100 meters, Jamie Phelan of St. Mary’s in Ontario won the mile with a time of 4:50.60. Phelan snared the victory by overtaking Delaware’s Reagan Anderson of Tatnall the final few meters of the race. Anderson finished just .06 behind the victor to earn the COA title with her second-place time of 4:50.66.
“I felt pretty good,” Phelan said. “I am not used to racing this group of girls and didn’t really know what to expect. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all.”
West Genesee (NY) junior Laura Leff did the early pace-setting, leading the pack through the first 800, passed in 2:30.8. The Canadian runner stayed within striking distance and assumed control of the top position before hitting 1,000 meters.
“I wanted to be patient for the first half of the race,” Phelan said “I wanted to make sure that at the 800 mark I was back up there with the lead pack and then try and hold until the final stretch and go for the kick.”
The St. Mary’s star, who has a best of 4:53 for the 1,600, focused on Anderson during the last straightaway.
“When she passed me at the last stretch I told myself, ‘You gotta go, you gotta go and try and catch up to her.’” she said.
N.Y. school snares DMR
Benjamin Cardozo of New York City copped the COA crown in the DMR. The team of Denise Branch, Deajah Stevens, Shaniqua Kirtpatrick and Sabrina Southerland combined for a winning time of 11:45.69. Germantown Friends (PA) placed second at 11:55.99. Taking third was Warwick Valley (NY) with a time of 11:57.08.
The win by Benjamin Cardozo was the first girls’ title for the city in the event’s history.
“We were very confident in each other,” Stevens said. “We knew we could come in here and win.”
Branch led off the relay with a 1,200 leg of 3:36.9. In fourth place at that point, Stevens made up a five-second deficit to put her team in the lead for good with a blistering 53.2 400 split..
Stevens had a similar scenario this past March when her fast 400 leg fueled Benjamin Cardozo to the team title at the NBNI.
“I like a chase. It makes me run faster,” said Stevens, who owns a best of 55.1 for the open 400. “When I saw that she was in front I was like I have to pass her. When I caught her, I just kept going. I told myself I have to catch these girls for my team.”
Stevens was somewhat surprised how fast she ran.
“My coach kept telling me, ‘You can do it, just do it,’” she said. “Hearing it is easier than doing it.
Kirtpatrick was timed in 2:21.8 for her 800 and Southerland finished it off with a 4:53.8 mile
Déjà vu for Streisel
It was two in a row for Tamaqua (PA) senior Christine Streisel in the javelin. Streisel held off hometown rival Sarah Firestone of Mercersburg Academy by seven inches with a winning distance of 149-6. Firestone took runner-up honors at 148-10.
Firestone overtook the front-running Streisel by tossing her top effort to begin the finals. The Tamaqua standout saved her best on her final attempt.
Streisel admitted she didn’t feel pressured with the COA title on the line.
“That’s how I am all the time,” she said. “I put so much pressure on myself and have so many high expectations that coming into big meets like this I don’t really think about who thinks I should win it and if I can repeat. I just try to focus on myself and do what I need to do.”
Streisel knew Firestone, among other athletes in the field, would not make it easy to repeat. Just a week earlier, Firestone defeated Streisel at the Shippensburg Jack Roddick Invitational by four inches with a 141-8 effort.
“She’s a very good athlete,” she said. “I have been to some camps and she is very good technically. Even last week she beat me by four inches. She is a very good competitor. I know she is not going to lie down.”
Shot put is Taylor-made
Bowie (MD) junior Antonella Taylor, the No. 2 seed, claimed the COA shot put crown with a toss of 45-3.75. She led a 1-2-3 finish for U.S. athletes. Taking second was Selinsgrove (PA) senior Courtney McCartney at 45-3. Briyah Brown, a senior from New Rochelle (NY), was third at 44-1.5.
Taylor took the pressure off early, unleashing her best effort on her second attempt of the preliminaries.
“I could tell as soon as I pushed it out,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yes, I did it!’”
Taylor, who has a PB of 46-9, was focused on doing well.
“I had a little bit of confidence being the No. 2 seed, trying to like push and get first and at the same time try to break my own record,” she said. “I think I was mostly confident.”
Strong finish for Woodard
Jessica Woodard, a senior from Cherokee (NJ), was the top American in the discus, placing third overall with a strong throw of 156-6. Jamaica’s Gleneve Grange of Holmwood Tech set a meet and her country’s national junior record in the event with a 13-foot personal best of 178-1. Top-seed Tara-Sue Barnett of Jamaica’s Edwin Allen was second at 164-1.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be out here and compete against the Jamaicans,” said Woodard, who owns a best of 161-3. “For me to represent the Americans here is a great opportunity.”
Woodard, who opened with a solid 149-0 effort, finished off in style. Her third-place heave came on her last attempt and her next best of 154-1 was on her second toss of the finals.
Woodard got a boost after Grange’s huge throw, which the Jamaican did on her initial attempt in the finals.
“It’s motivation,” she said. “When someone pops a throw out like that you want to be the next one to pop a throw like that. It pushes you to keep going and leave it out on the circle.”
Woodard is looking forward to the rest of the season. She heads to Oklahoma in the fall.
“I am happy with the season so far and I still have the competitive part of the season to go,” she said. “It can only go up from here. You just have to keep working hard.”
Big win for Little in 400IH
Lindblom (IL) senior Shamier Little, the top seed in the 400 hurdles, began the high school events by winning the COA crown comfortably with a time of 58.80. Wootton (MD) senior Gwen Shaw was second at 59.97.
“I didn’t really have a strategy,” Little said. “Today, I just wanted to focus on getting out. As always, the first half of my race in any that I do is the worse and my finish is good. That was basically my strategy, to get out first and go over the hurdle with my lead leg instead of my other leg.”
Little, who has run sub-58 twice in her career, had a strong start. She was already second by the 200 mark and took the lead on the final turn.
“That was better than all my other races,” she said. “Usually I would be in eighth coming around the curve. That was kind of good, coming around in second. I had a little bit of confidence coming off the curve when my race started to get a little sloppy. Once I was (near the finish) I started to get a little more confident and started to build up speed.”
The Chicago hurdler admits winning and receiving the customary gold watch for her victory at Penn ranks high on her list. It also helps ease the pain of a strong performance at the World Junior Championships that went sour in the finals last June when she tripped over the last hurdle.
“This helps my confidence like big time,” Little said. “My last big race was in Barcelona, Spain and I did well, but I ended up falling and kind of had to redeem myself in a big meet. I was really happy to run it at this meet.”
Field day for Americans
U.S. athletes claimed all four COA field events inside Franklin Field.
Thomas Edison (VA) senior Anna Williams took the triple jump with a PB leap of 41-1.5. Williams, a third-place finisher at NBNI, edged Mount Olive (NJ) senior Keturah Orji, who was second at 40-9.5 Essex County VoTech (NJ) senior Iana Amsterdam was third, also at 40-9.5.
In the long jump, top seed Felecia Majors turned in the best effort of her career by taking gold with a distance of 20-3. Jamaica had the next two placements with Edwin Allen’s Claudette Allen taking second (19-10.25) and Manchester’s Annastacia Forrestor placing third (19-9.75).
Weston (CT) Emily Savage set a PB by more than a foot in the pole vault, winning the event with a meet record of 13-1.5. Oakdale (MD) Emma King was second at 12-9.5 and Council Rock South (PA) Amanda Benninghoff was third at 12-1.5.
Fleetwood (PA) sophomore Cyre Virgo, who recently copped the individual crown in the high jump at the PTFCA Championship, earned the biggest victory of her young career by taking her specialty with a height of 5-8.75. Virgo won a few misses to Jamaica’s Chennel Palmer of St. Andrew Girls, who also cleared 5-8.75 for second.