Roxbury (N.J.) wins DMR at Penn

Boys & Girls drops 3:40.17 in 4x400

By Christopher Hunt
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PHILADELPHIA – Roxbury’s Ariann Neutts had been asking her teammates for two weeks. She asked politely.

“Can we win Penn Relays please? Please can we win Penn Relays, “ she said.

Neutts did her part. She broke Roxbury from fourth place to flailing down the straightaway the led on the third leg of the Championship of America Distance Medley Relay.

“When she handed off to me in first I just knew that I had to run,” the anchor leg Ashley Cromartie said. “I knew it was time to buckle down and run.”

Saratoga Springs senior Hannah Davidson and Lillian Greibesland of Warwick Valley gobbled Cromartie into a pack that Davidson led. But the pace proved too much for Greibesland and Davidson and Cromartie pulled away. Then Cromartie surged to the front with 550 left and Roxbury, with Lauren Penny, Rose Turley, Neutts and Cromartie, won the distance medley relay at the Penn Relays in 11:42.16, the second-fastest time in the Penn Relays 114-year history.

“I was definitely running for my teammates today,” said Cromartie, who will attend the University of Maryland. “I knew that I wanted to make that move. I didn’t know if it was going to be too early. But I know that (Davidson) has a kick and I was going to need to go early. The last 200 I just really had to focus and get in.”

The race expected big runs from Warwick Valley, which had the nation’s fastest time indoors, and Southern Regional, which touted star junior Jillian Smith on the mile anchor leg. But after a 2:10, 800-meter split by Neutts and 4:54 anchor leg by Cromartie, Roxbury owned the pace.

“We thought we had a chance,” Neutts said. “We knew there was a lot of competition in the race. We all came to run today. When I gave the stick to Ashley, I knew she came to work.”

Suffern (N.Y.) sophomore Jen Clayton shared the same excited most of the competitors felt at Franklin Field but she had a lot of nerves to deal with too. Enough so, that when meet officials tried to lead her onto the track Clayton stopped.

“I was scared to walk on the infield,” Clayton said.

She literally froze. The official had to push her onto the infield grass.

“Once I got that out of the way I was OK,” she said.

Clayton finished second in the long jump in 19 feet, 4 3/4 inches. Tynita Butts of T.C. Williams (Va.) won with a jump of 20-3 1/2.

“I think I could have done better,” Clayton said. “I have a lot of things to work on. I’m satisfied. I think I did my best.  I know I can’t expect to win every time. I’m only a sophomore so this won’t be my last time.”

Clayton’s teammate Shelby Greany enjoyed a breakthrough in the 3,000 championship finishing fifth in 9:48.92, a Section 1 and Rockland County record. With all Greany’s cross country credentials, the two-time Foot Locker cross country finalist had never broken 10 minutes in the 3,000.

“People would ask me, ‘you haven’t broken 10 minutes yet?” Greany said. “I would tell them, ‘I know I can. I’m trying. I just haven’t done it yet.’ Now that I’ve done it and I have the confidence I know I can go faster.”

For all the invitational and championship events Thursday, the sections of 4x400 relay provided the most excitement as usual. Seven teams ran faster than 3:41 with four dipping below 3:40. Boys & Girls qualified for Friday’s Championship of America, running 3:40.17 with Nadonnia Rodriques (52.5), Deandra Nelson (55.4), Hadassah Bruno (57.3) and Meghan Gillespie (54.5). They’ll match up with Jamaican powerhouses Vere Tech, Holmwood Tech, Edwin Allen, which all ran 3:39 and Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.) which had the day’s fastest time, 3:38.40.

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