'All-In On Relays!' Cuthbertson Have Eyes On Season Finale

* Stella Kermes finishes the DMR on Friday, helping Cuthbertson claim a national title

Photo Credit: Shawn Conlon/MileSplit

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By Cory Mull - MileSplit

BOSTON, Mass. -- Much is made of the figurative 'last dance.' 

One final ride. One last hurrah. One lasting moment. 

In a good year, a talented high school team might grab a state title. But not often do prep track and field programs possess an elite combination of talent, ability and drive between four girls. Not often is a national title within reach. 

The Cuthbertson High School girls knew the high stakes going into the weekend at New Balance Nationals Indoor.

So senior Alyssa Preisano and juniors Justine Preisano, Stella Kermes and Charlotte Bell did something atypical. 

They opted against their interests in individual events to focus primarily on three days of work broken into three races from Friday to Sunday. 

On Friday, Act 1 was finished: They earned their first national title in school history in the distance medley relay. Better yet, they conjured a little bit of magic in the process, earning the seventh-fastest performance in high school history in 11:35.51. 

"It was really important to us to go out there and show what we are capable of this weekend," said Alyssa, who relayed that the team would follow with the 4xmile on Saturday and the 4x800 on Sunday. 

Aside from the race's first few laps, it was never in question. 

Once Alyssa Preisano took control a few laps into the 1,200m leg, holding off a strong effort from No. 2 ranked Union Catholic, her teammates did the rest. 

"I was waiting for a time to make a move," said Alyssa, who ran 3:33 on the leg. "Once I was sitting in that first place position, my goal was to see if I can gap them even more. I was pushing from more." 

Cuthbertson had run the DMR just once prior, on the 300 meter JDL flat track in February, and had earned a time of 11:40.32, which was good enough for 12th all-time. What's more, the girls also opened their outdoor season just last week, producing the fifth-fastest 4x800 of all-time in 8:48.48.

It only gave the Cavaliers more confidence.

But they weren't without worry. 

Justine, a middle-distance runner with an 800m PR of 2:12, was operating slightly outside her comfort zone, taking on the 400m leg.

She had run just two open races at the distance at across her career. But the senior knew she had to step up. That was her role. She ran 59 seconds. 

"It's definitely different," she said. "It's a little scary, because there's not much pacing through the 400m. You just have to go as fast as you can."

Photo Credit: Shawn Conlon/MileSplit 

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The gap never closed. Once Justine handed off to Bell, the team's top 800m runner, it was essentially over. Bell, who was running in her first DMR, ran 2:10 on the split, giving the senior Kermes ample room to operate.

"I was just running to run," Bell said. "It was a fun race for that." 

As one of the team's senior leaders, Kermes was as poised as one would consider an athlete competing in that position. Union Catholic buckled late, while Kermes held off Cicero North-Syracuse's Kate Putman, who took her team all the way from fifth to second with a 4:45 split. 

Kermes finished the job with a 4:52 leg. 

"This is kind of our last season indoors and outdoors with this team specifically," Justine said. "Last year we we really saw how competitive we were getting at higher levels. We were excited to see how far we could take that. So we wanted to race with this team as much as possible. This race specifically, the best way to do that was with relays."

As for the next two days? 

Bell said the team isn't finished. 

"We have the potential to get the national record in any one of the three races," she said.  "We're really still going for that."

Related Links: 

New Balance Nationals Day 1 Recap

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