By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA – Morris Hills senior Liam Tansey peeked over his shoulder with a lap to go. The move was partly a check to see if Ablermarle anchor Anthony Kostelac was still shadowing him and partly to extend an invitation to Kostelac to take the lead.
Kostelac didn’t take the bait. It was better to let Tansey handle the workload for now. That was until 300 meters left when Kostelac tried to settle the race on the back stretch. Tansey pressed the accelerator and both took full flight headed into the final turn. Then Tansey’s tank hit empty and Kostelac made Franklin Field witness to the greatest 4x800 relay ever.
Ablemarle (Va.) won the 4x800 Championship of America at Penn Relays in a stunning national record time of 7:30.67. Morris Hills also dropped under the national record mark finishing second in 7:31.60. And if the race could be called the greatest ever, the battle on the anchor will be the story. Tansey’s split clocked in at 1:50.65. Kostelac split 1:49.33.
“I was feeling good going into the last lap,”’ Tansey said. “I knew he was going to make his move on the back straightaway. That’s exactly what happened. I was dead on. I knew it would come down to a kick. I did all I could but he just outkicked me.”
The race was intense enough that the crowd drowned out the stadium announcer. And everyone was shocked to see the clock.
“They broke the national record too,” Kostelac said. “That’s insane. … I saw 7:30 and I couldn’t believe that. We did not think we were going to do that. Our motto for today was ‘Just win,’ and that’s what happened.”
Both anchors said they expected a two-team race, even as Bellefield Comprehensive took the lead on the first leg. But once Albemarle’s Zach Vrhovac dropped a 1:50.6 on the second leg and Lucas Clyne of Morris Hills followed with a 1:52.17 to separate the teams from the pack.
“It’s hard to be disappointed running like that,” Clyne said. “When you have two teams run under the national record, that’s just crazy. There isn’t much more you can do.”
Once Morris Hills’ Sean Poherrence closed the gap on Luke Noble of Albemarle the stage was sent for Tansey and Kostelac. All year the teams have been the best in the country and throughout the indoor season Albemarle handled Morris Hills. Not this time.
“I know that Morris Hills is strong,” Kostelac said. “They are rivals and competitors. The two are different. We could’ve never run like that without them. I give them a lot of credit.”
Noble said that no matter what happened, he was sure that once Kostelac took the baton that his team was safe.
“We know that you put him anywhere near the front and he can outkick anybody,” he said.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.