Penn Relays Preview - High School Girls

by Jack Pfeifer

One of the most revered meet records on the books, the high school girls distance medley relay, is in jeopardy at this year’s Relays.

Vere Tech ran 11:40.51 in 1992 to set the record, and it has withstood many challenges, including the U.S. national high school record run by San Lorenzo Valley of California, which ran 11:41.28 in 2000.

This year’s lineup is formidable:

* Suffern N.Y. narrowly missed the national record indoors with a great 11:35.74 at the National Scholastic last month at the New York Armory. They also became only the second team ever to break 9 minutes indoors in the 4x8, but they are bypassing that event, as well as the individual distance races, in order to go for the DM.

Suffern is led by 4:51 miler Kara McKenna on anchor. She is joined by freshman Shelby Greany and fellow seniors Deahna Vinson and Caroline Heidt.

* Warwick Valley N.Y., the defending champions, ran 11:45.97 chasing Suffern indoors. They are anchored by Aislinn Ryan, a 4:49 miler who was national prep cross country champion in 2004. Her all-underclass teammates, none of whom ran on last year’s championship team, are Tori Pennings, Claire Pettit and Kristen Peluso.

* Roxbury (Succasunna N.J.) ran 11:49.02 in the winter to break the New Jersey state record. They are led by yet another outstanding sub-5:00 miler, junior Jenn Ennis.

* Vere Tech itself will be on hand to try to keep its record. Vere won the DMR the first six years it was contested, 1990 to 1995, but neither Vere nor any other Jamaican school has won it since.

Vere’s squad is expected to be Stacey Bell (2:09.40 800), Petrona Layne (2:12.45), Kayan Robinson (53.94 400) and Teneisha Davis (4:38.69 1500).

* Ocean City N.J. may have the best 1-2 punch in the field, with Renee Tomlin, a 4:49 miler, expected to lead off, and Brittany Sedberry, national leader this winter indoors in the 2-mile (10:19.30) anchoring.

* Saratoga Springs N.Y. (11:59.9i), winner here in 2004 and perennial national powerhouse in girls’ distance, is also in the race. To do so they kept Lindsey Ferguson and Hannah Davidson – merely 1-2 in last year’s 3k – out of this year’s individual race. Ferguson won the 3,000 a year ago in 9:53.59 and last summer set the national high school record in the 2,000-meter steeplechase. They are a factor despite the loss of two of the stalwarts of the winning 2004 team, Caitlin Lane and Nicole Blood, who have since moved away.

Jamaican teams are clear-cut favorites to win the other girls’ relays.

4x100 St. Jago upset Holmwood Tech a year ago, 45.35-45.50, but Holmwood, led by the great Schillonie Calvert (11.39/23.58), is the favorite this year. They have, however, won this race only once at the Relays, in 2001.

At last month’s Jamaican Champs, Holmwood won Class I in 45.49 and finished 2nd in Class II to Edwin Allen in 46.02. They ran 44.58 at Gibson Relays in February.

There are a number of outstanding Jamaican teams this year, including Edwin Allen (meet-record 45.04 to win Class II, led by Kimberly Smith, 11.71); Vere Tech (meet-record 46.25 in Group III plus 46.37 in Group I and another 46.25 in Group II, using 12 different athletes!), led by Jura Levy (24.18 200 best); the Queens School (46.32), Manchester (46.37) and St. Jago (46.30).

It is not certain if Vere and Jago will field teams at the Relays in this event.

Among domestic teams, Bethel (Hampton, Va.) has run 46.85 this spring. Bethel features Francena McCorory, who had a sensational indoor season, setting national high school records for 300 and 400 meters.

The best Northern team is probably Middle College (Brooklyn, NY), which ran 46.22 in 2005.

No Eastern U.S. team has won this event since 1981.

4x400 Holmwood seems set on going after its own Relays meet record, a prodigious 3:34.75 set in 2001. The team of Calvert, Anastacia Leroy, Sonita Sutherland and Jeraine Bolt broke the Jamaican champs meet record last month with 3:35.26. Not even on that squad was Bobbi-Gaye Wilkins, who has run 53.13.

Sutherland has been smashing records all season. She won the Carifta Games 400 this month in Guadeloupe and ran a meet-record 51.13 at the Champs.

Two other Jamaican teams have broken 3:40, Vere Tech (3:39.04) and Edwin Allen (3:38.29).

Vere has Trudeann Clarke (54.89), Robinson (53.94) and Levy (54.89).

Edwin Allen uses intermediate hurdler Sherene Pinnock (52.81) and Andrea Sutherland (55.21).

There’s also Manchester (3:44.65) and Queens School (3:45.64).

The best domestic teams are West Catholic of Philadelphia (3:47.91 indoors), Eleanor Roosevelt of Greenbelt, Md. (3:48.64), Bethel and Boys & Girls (Brooklyn). West Catholic, 3rd a year ago in 3:43.52, has lost Nicole Leach to graduation and Nia Ali to transfer but returns 2:06 halfmiler Latavia Thomas and Kneshia Sheard (54.88 indoors).

Roosevelt strengthened its team with the transfer this spring of Elan Hilaire, a 54-second quartermiler from Baltimore. Bethel’s McCorory ran a spectacular 51.93 indoors to break Sanya Richards’s national record.

Boys & Girls has an early-season outdoor 3:50.

4x800 Suffern, which ran 8:59.37 in March, is bypassing the event, clearing the way for Jamaican teams Holmwood Tech (8:47.26), Edwin Allen (8:50.30), St. Jago and Manchester.

Edwin Allen won this race in 2003-4, Holmwood last year. EDA is expected to use Jodian Richards (2:09.22), Pinnock (2:08.89), Marvia Lewin (2:13.96) and Nikita Tracey (2:13.39).

Manchester is led by 14-year-old Natoya Goule, who set a meet record 2:09.60 in the Group III 800. Holmwood has Wilkins (2:11.56) and Susan Hall (2:12.37).

The leading domestic entries are Eleanor Roosevelt, which ran 9:11.53 indoors and is led by Tameka Jameson; Bay Shore N.Y. (9:12.14), Boys & Girls and Bronxville N.Y.

Despite its consistently strong performances for the past generation, Roosevelt, from the Prince Georges County suburbs of Washington, has never won a Relays championship.

Individual Events

Mile Two-time champ Sarah Bowman has graduated, but the next three finishers from 2005 return: Danielle Tauro (Southern Regional, Manahawkin NJ), with a 1,500 best of 4:26.72, 4:43.07 in the mile; Bridget Frank (Crestwood, Mantua Ohio), 4:31.26 1,500, 4:45.68 1,600, and Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, Brookhaven NY), 4:26.13 1,500, 4:50.10 mile. Tauro was Millrose Games mile winner this winter at Madison Square Garden in New York.

They will be joined by Katie Doswell (St. Catharine’s, Richmond Va), who ran 2:10.55 to win the Nike Indoor Nationals 800 in Maryland; Alison Smith (Atholton, Md); Kristy Longman (Sayville, NY), 4:50.11 in the mile; Sarah McCurdy (Bay Shore NY), and Maegan Krifchin (JFK, Bellmore NY).

3000 Colts Neck (N.J.) teammates Ashley Higginson and Brianna Jackucewicz will battle Catherine White, of Roanoke, Va. Higginson and Jackucewicz led Colts Neck to victory in the 4-mile relay at this winter’s National Scholastic. White ran a 10:46 2-mile indoors. Two years ago, Jackucewicz set the national high school indoor 5,000 record, as a 13-year-old 7th-grader.

400H Krystal Cantey (Winslow Twp NJ), 3rd a year ago, is back. Last June she shocked Nicole Leach at the Nike Outdoor Nationals, 56.83-57.26. Leach won this race a year ago, breaking the meet record, and now competes for UCLA, following the pattern set by Sheena Johnson, who won the high school event here 3 times, then went west where she won the NCAA championship for UCLA and made the 2004 Olympic team. (Cantey, however, has reportedly signed with South Carolina.)

Cantey will have her hands full with Jamaican champ Sherene Pinnock (Edwin Allen), who has run 57.03. At last year’s Relays, Pinnock false-started.

Other contenders include Nicole Saunders (Menchville, Newport News Va), 41.38 this spring in the 300 hurdles; Leslie Njoku (McNair Academic, Jersey City), 60.09 last year; sophomore Ryann Krais (Methacton, Norristown Pa), 60.08; Judith Riley of Manchester, 60.00, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Jameson, 62.62 this spring.

The most competitive field event should be the long jump, where Jamaican champ Rosemarie Whyte, who has gone 20-9, will face Arantxa King (Medford Mass). King won last summer’s World Youth Games, jumping 20-11 ¾ for her native Bermuda. Also in the hunt are Celeste Holder (Parsippany NJ), 19-8, and Lynne Lane (New Rochelle NY), 19-7.

Triple jump Kimberly Williams (Vere), 43-3 best, defends her championship against fellow Jamaican Kimona Smith (Morant Bay), 41-10.

Pole vault Lindsay Regan (Easton, Pa), the 2004 champion, has a best of 13-6.

High jump Rachel Gehret (Altoona Pa) is the defending champion and has cleared 5-8 ½. Ashley Gatling (Deep Creek, Chesapeake Va) has cleared 5-9 this year.

Shot put Eastern leader Allyn Laughlin (Center, Monaca Pa) 47-9 ½ faces Canadian Kaitlyn Andrews of Ontario, 47-2.

Discus Latanya Nation (Edwin Allen) has thrown 158-1

Javelin Elisha Jones (Eisenhower, Russell Pa) defends her championship against Jamaican champion Taniesha Blair (Holmwood Tech), 152-11, and fellow Pennsylvanian Kacey James (Carlisle), 147-7.