LYNCHBURG, VA -- The Bullis School (MD) quartet of Masai Russell, Kasey Ebb, Sierra Leonard, and Shaniya Hall came within a deep breath of breaking the World U20 junior and national high school record in the girls 4x400 championship at Friday's Virginia Showcase, held at Liberty University.
With their time of 3:39.60, the Bulldogs were within a second of the high school national record and world junior time of 3:38.91, which was set by Poly High of Long Beach, CA in 2004.
Faced against Jamaica's Hydel and St. Jago high schools in Lanes 3 and 4, the Bulldogs drew Lane 5, and immediately were forced to run a quick pace, with Hydel taking out the first 200 in 25 seconds. The Jamaican teams held steadfast through the first 300 meters, but Russell edged the Bullis team into second as she handed off to Ebb for the second leg.
Ebb started out eight meters behind the Hyder team, but didn't panic.
"Our main goal was to stick to our race plan," said Ebb, who made up all but two steps on her 400 leg as she handed off to Leonard. "Everyone did their part. My job was to close it up and make up the gap. I just wasn't able to take the lead, but Sierra (did)."
Still on record pace, Leonard forced the pace on the Hydel runner and pushed her into the first straightaway where she took over the lead at the mid-point. Pouring on the pressure, the junior extended the lead to ten meters before handing off to Hall, the sophomore, for the anchor.
Hall made it to the bell lap in 3:09, putting the Bulldogs squarely in position to claim the record, but fell just short on the last 200.
Still, for coach Joe Lee, who has taken the Bullis program from obscurity to national prominence, there is a lot to be proud of.
"We didn't panic," said Ebb. "We did what we expected to do."