It's never easy taking home the title in the 4x800m at the Penn Relays. With the Island nation of Jamaican pushing more and more athletes to the longer distances, "to spread the wealth away from the sprints" as we were told by a Jamaican national, the 4x800m becomes increasingly more competitive. But for the Shenendehowa girls, the deck wasn't stacked even in their home country. Despite having the fastest qualifier, a new US #2 of 9:10.39, Shen had some issues to overcome.
One the one hand, they had in-state rivals Mamaroneck to keep in mind. Mamaroneck were not only the Indoor State Champions, and National Champions as well, but they had beaten Saratoga Springs at Indoor States, who had in turn beaten Shen at State Quals. To say it was a high mountain to climb to be in contention wouldn't be a long shot. 9:10.08 was again their Indoor Season Best this year.
On the other hand, Emily Crounse had suffered an injury in her qualifying heat.
"I got clipped in the first couple steps of the lead off yesterday and I got 10 stitches. They told me I wasn't allowed to run today. I cried... I was pretty upset. But I just said, 'I'm gonna do tomorrow and take it easy from there.' It does hurt a lot. But I'm okay!"
Through the first legs, Shen was on the move. While many teams tend to frontload their relays, Shen let Crounse take the lead, to stay clean of any bumping. They steadily began to move up towards the front, as their more balanced relay surpassed the ebb and flow of others. Their second leg (Danielle Jordan) was the third fastest in the field, their third leg (Julia Zachgo) as well the third fastest in the field. That balance gave way to an opening for their anchor, Hannah Reale. Leading from the exchange, Reale pulled the field with her. The field expected her to come back, and gave some distance. But that fade never came, as Reale pushed her body to the limit, with the finsih line in site. With a surging Mamaroneck to her right, and the Jamaican's to her left, Hannah Reale pulled her body across the line with all her strength, tumbling to the ground in exhaustion not to steps over it, only to be quickly surrounded by her teammates, letting her know their fate.
They had just won the Championship of America 4x800m. Hear from the squad below