By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – When Pat Schellberg crossed the finish line his jaw dropped as he raised his arms, as if somehow he was the most surprised person in the stadium. The way he raced though, was quite the opposite of the Delbarton (N.J.) senior’s initial reaction.
Maybe it was the build up. Schellberg never thought he’d be here when stars like Matt Centrowitz (Broadneck, Md.) won the boys mile when Schellberg was freshman or even when Ohio’s Corey Leslie won two years ago.
“I never thought I’d be that good,” Schellberg said.
Even the predictions for this race said that it was anyone’s for the taking.
Schellberg snatched it before anyone got any bright ideas. The North Carolina-bound senior took the boys mile in a Penn Relays record, 4:08.07 Friday at Penn Relays, the fastest time in the country this season and four-hundredths of a second faster than the mark that Rae set last year. About 600 meters into the race, Schellberg, who won the Millrose Games mile indoors, bolted from the field and turned the race into a solo effort.
“I thought I was going to have to push the whole way but I felt good like I could go,” he said. “I just tried to take the lead and gap the field.”
Almost instantly, Schellberg put 30 meters on the chase pack and even Issac Presson’s frantic kick couldn’t bring Schellberg in. Asheville’s Presson finished second in 4:09.16.
“Ever since I won at Millrose, I’ve really wanted to win another big one,” he said.
Maryland has been looking for a win in the distance medley since before any of Good Counsel’s runners were born but it finally earned one Friday. Thomas Tallerico (3:10.5), Cortlant Harris (50.5), Fola Shokunbi (1:55.0) and Kyle Graves (4:15.7) won the distance medley relay Championship of America in 10:09.07, making it the first win for a Maryland team in the DMR since Kenwood won in 1964.
Liverpool (N.Y.) led race until two laps left go after Zavon Watkins’ opened the race with a 3:02.1 1200-meter leg. But Shokunbi started to cut into the 30-meter leg on the third leg and had closed the gap by the time he handed the baton to Graves.
“I was just thinking during the race to keep my head,” Shokunbi said. “I didn’t want to get too excited so I just kept thinking, ‘Pace him down. Pace him down.’”
While he reeled in Liverpool’s Alex Wilke, Graves shouted to him, “This is Penn Relays, meaning that this is one of the biggest races we’ll be in all year,” Graves said.
Graves latched on to Colin Savage’s shoulder and drafted for about two laps before he moved to the front. Savage followed then pushed ahead on the bell lap only for Graves to immediately take over again.
“He cut right in front of me and kind of cut me off a little,” Graves said. “I wasn’t going to let him go by me and slow it up so I had to go.”
Savaged tried to tack on but broke down with 200 meters left and Otis Ubriaco (4:15.4) of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (N.Y.) surging hard. Ubriaco caught on the home stretch for second in 10:10.67. Liverpool finished third in 10:12.67.
“I tried to pass him with 400 left,” Savage said. “I just didn’t have it. You probably saw the last 200 was pretty brutal.”
Fayetteville-Manilus (N.Y.) senior Alex Hatz might call his last 200 in the 3,000 championship brutal for different reasons. Kemoy Campebell of Jamaica’s Bellefield Comprehensive ran away from the field early and no one decided to follow what was not a blistering pace.
“We just got complacent,” Alex said. “We all kind of just sat back and watched him.”
And continued to do so until about 200 meters left when Hatz exploded around the curve, electrifying the crowd, and gobbling massive chunks of Campbell’s lead. But Campbell found the finish line before Hatz could even press him. Campbell won in 8:20.14 and Hatz finished second in 8:21.01.
“I never put myself in position to win,” Hatz said. “I knew I was going to pass the pack. I tried to get away a couple times but I just fell right back.”
Hatz said he “choked” three times. Each time his coach Bil Aris disagreed.
“I’m not at all displeased with Alex,” Aris said. “The goal was to get a strong effort to work on his strength for the mile later in the season. We wanted him to run a fast time. He had a shot. He just waited too long.”
Cardozo also didn’t completely get the results they had hoped for but wasn’t discouraged at all after finishing third in the 4x400 Championship of America in 3:42.27. Holmwood Tech completed an astounding triple, winning the 4x800 championship in 8:42.XX, the 4x100 in 45.XX and claiming the 4x400 in 3:39.66.
Cardozo, with a team of Lateisha Philson (56.7), Ahtyana Johnson (53.9), Sabrina Southerland (57.9) and Chamique Francis (53.8), was the first American team.
Johnson ran a dynamic second leg, splitting in between Jamaicans Holmwood Tech and Edwin Allen down the back straightaway to give the Judges the lead. Southerland, the lone freshman, dropped two places back but held the team in contention. Then Francis lost a little more ground when Manchester’s anchor bumped into her on the exchange.
“I thought we all ran pretty good,” Francis said. “We were close. The finish line was too close.
Johnson said: “If we had 15-20 more meters it would have been a wrap.”
“We kind of redeemed ourselves,” Francis added. “We brought out two freshman and they made us look god. Next year, they’re going to have to work even harder to beat us.”
Cardozo finished sixth in the 4x100 championship in 46.25, with Philson, Johnson, Francis and freshman Elizabeth Myers on the third leg. Medgar Evers finished sixth in the large schools final in a season best 47.30.
Garden City’s Jenna DeAngelo (2:19.95), Taylor Hennig (2:20.19), Michelle Rotondo (2:13.55) and Emily Menges (2:12.80) finished fourth for the second straight year in the 4x800 championship in 9:06.49, the second-fastest time in the country.
“I think we were pretty pysched to run that time,” Menges said. “Our goal was to be the first American team (Long Beach Poly was third) but we are pretty happy. It was a lot harder this year.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.