By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – They pressed up against the fence, waiting for their prize like a group of gitty youngsters waiting for Santa to reach in his giant red bag and pull out the one thing they always wanted.
But Santa was wearing a red Penn Relays official’s cap and the gift was not a gift, but a prize that they earned.
“That’s sick,” said Garden City’s Emily Menges as her and her teammates cracked open the black boxes that held their new solid gold Penn Relays watches. She promised to wear it every day.
She certainly deserves the right. Menges passed two teams, Bay Shore and Columbia (N.J.) en route to a 2:10.0 anchor leg that gave Garden City fourth place, highest among American teams, in the 4x800 Championship of America at Penn Relays Friday. Jenna DeAngelo, Liz Slattery, Michelle Rotondo (2:18.0) and Menges finished in 9:11.90, the second-fastest time in the country this season.
“We came in and ran yesterday and we really didn’t think we were going to make it back,” Menges said.
Garden City clocked 9:27.95 in the small schools race on Thursday and squeaked into the final but the team ran more than 11 seconds faster last year didn’t qualify for the Championship of America. Edwin Allen won the race in Jamaican schools Holmwood Tech, Edwin Allen and Manchester ran off with the race from the beginning with Columbia chasing.
“I was really nervous in the beginning,” DeAngelo said but she managed to remain in the thick of the chase pack.
With Garden City in fifth with two laps left, Menges quickly passed Bay Shore’s anchor and then gobbled Columbia’s last leg which was fading in the stretch. But Menges said she didn’t try to be too aggressive.
“I wanted to stick to the race plan,” she said. “I really didn’t’ want to go out of the plan because I didn’t’ want to get tired.”
With two runners ahead as targets Menges never seemed to fatigue and she was sure afterward that her team can still run faster this season.
“I’m excited for nationals,” she said.
Defending Nike Outdoor National champs Sheepshead Bay qualified for the Large Schools final Saturday. Darryl Bradshaw, Ayo Isijola, John Thomas and Naquan Alexander won their heat in 42.24. Bradshaw and Isijola struggled on the first exchange which cost valuable time and they missed qualifying for the Championship of America by .07 seconds. The team said they all can run faster.
“We ran exactly the same time in practice by ourselves,” Bradshaw said.
Isijola said he was still feeling pain after injuring his knee two weeks ago while the team competed at the Acadia Invitational in California. Bradshaw said they may have to adjust the exchange for the final.
N.C. State-bound senior Bobby Andrews of Shoreham Wading River finished third in the 3,000 championship in 8:25.40, the fastest time in the state. Robert Micikas of Crestwood (Pa.) won in 8:23.24 with Ben Furcht of Lower Merion (Pa.) second in 8:24.72. Their times are the top three in the country this season respectively.
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
all photos by Tim Fulton