While there might not be much track going on in New York State, there is plenty of history to pore through. In our time off, we are looking to revisit all of the State Records for the Outdoor Season. Who these athletes were, where their marks came from, and where are they now. Twice a week, we'll be releasing "Snapshots Of A State Record," where you can learn what it takes, to be put your mark on history. Tune in!
We look here at the fifth-oldest record still on the books for the girls. Enjoy!
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It's June 4, 2006 at the Boys Eastern States meet in New Rochelle hosted by Iona Prep, a boys' school, hosting a lot of boys teams. This is definitely not the place you expect to see a girls track and field national record being set. But five of those notoriously rowdy 4xMile girls squads have crashed the party here and taken over the track. Of course it helps that among these five highly regarded teams that include Suffern x 2, Bronxville, Pearl River, and Notre Dame is one from Iona Prep's sister school, Ursuline. The girls have an inside lane to the invite. No boys 4xMile races will be run here, it's just the girls that are getting that special chance.
Fifteen laps down for the lead squad and the end is near, but this time the leader is not a Bronxville squad that owns the 4xMile national record of 20:11.5 set in 2002 when it won a national championship. The Broncos are almost a lap behind. This time it is a Suffern team that is having one of the most spectacular ever years in distance relay events, and they've already stashed two indoor national championships under their belts in 2006. Adding in another national title that three of the members of the Mounties' squad were in on last year, and the name and the fame has made them the big favorite to win on this day.
But even in the midst of their history-making year that has already included one state record, Suffern feels a little snake-bit about the national record chase as they have twice narrowly missed that topper in the distance medley and 4x800m relays, each time running within about a half second of the record. In fact, on the bus ride over in a little dark humor they joked that they were shooting to become the second-best 4xMile team ever. Why change? Make it a trifecta!
Whether it is because of the safety pins they have stuck in their uniforms to commemorate past races or maybe something they all ate for breakfast, this day is different for the Mounties. Two freshman have led off with great legs, as Christy Goldman with a 5:08.7 opener and Shelby Greany at a 5:01.9 second leg have left seniors Caroline Heidt and Kara McKenna needing to run only around 5:00 legs for the record. That's a near certainty, as both are capable of going well down in the 4:50s.
But now another goal has also entered the picture. Only the fabled Saratoga team of 2004 that included Lindsey Ferguson, Karen Delay, Caitlin Lane, and Nicole Blood has ever broken 20 minutes, and that was indoors at Nike Indoor Nationals when they won in 19:59.24. An animated Suffern Coach Jeff Dempsey is yelling, "Leave everything on the track," as Heidt starts the last 400 of her third leg, and her final dash around the track to a 4:52.3 has left the Mounties at about 15:04 and in great position to bust below 20:00.
There is little doubt what McKenna will do. The States indoor 1500m champ has set many county and Section records during her storied career, and she completely has this one. Driving to the finish of a 4:53.9 leg, she brings the Mounties home in 19:56.75. The record will remain standing in the state and nation to the present day. A week and a half later following the States championship, the Girls Eastern States meet will be finally held, and no boys' squads will be running.
When exactly the story of Suffern's 4xMile squad and the other distance relay teams of 2006 should begin is a tough call. There were a lot of big races that year, and there were many key contributors in Suffern's various relays in the 4x800m, distance and sprint medleys, and of course the 4xMile. But a quick summary of some key meets in the year before in 2005 would be a start.
By the time the indoor track season in 2005 rolled around, Suffern had already made some big strides during the XC season as 8th grade wunderkind Shelby Greany had notched the first of her five consecutive top 10 places in the Class AA States race in 2004 with a 9th, and her junior teammate was shortly behind in 12th. Indoors the duo continued to impress and at indoor States were part of a 4x800m team along with juniors Caroline Heidt and MaryRose Consiglio that finished 5 1/2 seconds in back of the champion Saratoga team with a 9:17.88. A week later at the National Scholastic Indoor championship at the NY Armory, Suffern competed in a 4xMile relay and finished 4th in 21:03.02, but then a squad composed of Greany, McKenna, Heidt, and senior Dede Richmond captured a national title in the 4x800m in a time of 9:12.37. Down in Landover MD that weekend at the inaugural Nike Indoor National championship, Saratoga won the 4x800m title but with a much slower time of 9:20.34.
Even though Suffern finished 3rd behind Saratoga in the 4x800m at outdoor States in 2005 and McKenna placed 2nd to Saratoga ace Lindsey Ferguson in the 2K steeplechase, the Mounties knew going into 2006 that they would have much of their squad back for a big run at a long dominant Blue Streaks team that was losing many of its key parts as Karen Delay graduated and Nicole Blood and Caitlin Lane left the program.
The 2005-06 year began in the fall with Suffern earning another trip to States and finishing 4th there and then 3rd at Federations behind champion Saratoga, with Greany taking 4th and McKenna getting 5th at both meets. At Foot Locker Northeast in 2005, Greany got the last qualifier for Nationals in 10th and again McKenna was one place behind in 11th.
As the track seasons began for 2006, the Mounties were in an enviable position. McKenna was set for a bust-out senior year, and Caroline Heidt was also ready to make big strides in the middle and distance events. Greany was the top freshman and 7th-rated overall runner during the XC season, and she was about to be joined by another promising freshman Christy Goldman. Along senior distance stalwart MaryRose Consiglio, Suffern also had some other strong sprinters and mid distance runners such as seniors Deanna Vinson and Jackie Lennon who had been part of their 2005 indoor and outdoor 4x400m States champs and the freshman twin speedsters Jennifer and Janelle Clayton.
The indoor season with Coach Joe Biddy got a huge boost when a Mountie DMR team of Greany (1200), Vinson (400), Heidt (800), and McKenna (1600) beat Saratoga by 14 seconds in an 11:45.72 time for a meet record at the Yale Track Classic in mid January. The next day it was down to the Armory at the New Balance Games for a meet record in the 4x800m at 9:11.74 with Consiglio replacing Vinson as the fourth 800m leg. Individual feats at the Armory included McKenna's win in the mile in the Hispanic Games in 4:54.73 and Greany's win in the mile at the Stanner Games in 4:58.74 which earned both of them invites to run in the Millrose Mile, where McKenna was 7th and Greany 9th.
The post-season plaudits for Suffern were huge indoors. At States, McKenna ran away with the 1500m title in 4:35.22, while Heidt was 6th in the 600m and Greany was 7th in the 1000m. The usual 4x800m quartet took the States title in 9:17.19
A week later at the NSIC at the Armory, Suffern came agonizingly close to a national record in the DMR when a squad of Greany, Vinson, Heidt, and McKenna ran an 11:39.74, only .31 off Mountain View CA's 2004 mark, for the win on Friday night. On Saturday, Consiglio was sick and in a weak condition for a first leg that left the Mounties scrambling to get back for a 4th place in the 4xMile at 20:57.51. On Saturday with Goldman switching in for Consiglio to form a two freshmen-two seniors squad, Suffern roared back to break 9 minutes and capture the national title in the 4x800m at 8:59.37.
During the outdoors season, Suffern continued to pile on the big times. One included a win at Penn Relays as the DMR squad of Greany, Vinson, Heidt, and McKenna ran an 11:48.34. At the Loucks Games, McKenna won the 3200m and the squad now of Goldman, Greany, Heidt, and McKenna took the 4x800m in 9:02.13 for the US #2 time. McKenna then set a county record in the 1500m of 4:36.2 at the Rockland County meet. Going out to a Warwick Fast Times invite for a meet that frequently features gusty conditions, the three veterans of the 4x800m squad joked that the team should be looking to average 2:15 legs and told newcomer Goldman that she "better not mess it up." The freshman lead-off certainly was not messing around as she laid down a 2:15.2 that helped propel the Mounties with McKenna's 2:10.8 anchor to an 8:51.0, just .59 off Boys and Girls' team's 2002 national record. So close, but still the national mark was elusive.
As late May came around the Mounties had made a decision that would involve a lot of individual sacrifices but would bring rewards to the relay teams. With two days of Section 1 State Qualifiers set for the first Friday and Saturday in June and then a big girls 4xMile showdown scheduled at the Boys Eastern States meet on the Sunday, the runners would eschew individual events at SQs to save their strength for a 4x800m qualifier on Saturday followed by the 4xMile on Sunday. The one exception was for McKenna in the 2K steeplechase where she was US #2, as her qualifier was on Thursday.
The plan worked out beautifully. McKenna breezed to her steeplechase win, Suffern won the 4x800m by 20 seconds in 9:08.2, and the team headed to Eastern States in relatively strong shape. Sixteen plus circuits of the track and the national mark was finally theirs. Being the first team to break 20 minutes outdoors in the 4xMile was a giant thrill. Heidt's third leg of 4:52.3 in the 19:56.75 time was the fastest, and she said afterward of the national record, "It is better to share something as a team than to do something individually. It's better to have someone to share it with."
Suffern still had some big times ahead. McKenna finished 2nd to Saratoga's Ferguson in the 2K steeplechase at States again but ran the second fastest time in US history at 6:41.15. The Mounties then captured the States 4x800m title easily with an 8:56.78 highlighted by Heidt's 2:11.1 anchor.
A week later Suffern wrapped up its storied season at Nike Outdoor Nationals by winning the 4x800m title by more than 9 seconds on Friday with McKenna breaking the race open with a 2:11.2 third leg. Saturday was a little less productive as they took 5th in the DMR on Friday night and watched Roxbury MA just miss snapping the Mounties' 4xMile record with a 19:58.07 to get the 2nd best-ever US time.
In the 14 years since, no team has gone below 20:00 in the 4xMile, though Great Oak CA had a 19:59 converted mark from a 4x1600m in 2016. An infrequently held event at any but a few major invitationals and at Nationals where competing teams are often also running in DMR or 4x800m races and doing individual races that leaves them with weary legs, this record may be locked up for Suffern well into the future.
The following year, McKenna started a strong career at North Carolina State and had a career best there of 4:55.41 in the mile and also a 10:24.66 in the 3K steeplechase. Heidt posted a 4:56.67 mile during four solid years at Cornell. Goldman would head on to the University of Maryland after she graduated from Suffern in 2009. Greany created many legends in her remaining years at Suffern as in XC she finished in the top 10 of the Class AA race five consecutive times in XC while also going to Foot Locker four times with a 7th place finish as a senior. She also won the 2009 States 3K indoor title along with the 2008 and 2009 States 2K steeplechase championships, the 2008 NON steeplechase, and the 2010 USATF Junior 3K steeplechase championship on the way to a 5th at the World Juniors. She held the HS national 2K steeplechase record for two years and is still 6th all-time. Greany placed 12th at the NCAA D1 XC championships in her sophomore year at Providence in 2010, and in her senior year she helped the Friars earn a 2nd place finish.
As to who held the 4xMile state record before Suffern, it was indeed the Bronxville 2002 team at 20:11.56. The squad of Kate Ogorzaly, Michelle Rorke, and Catha and Caroline Mullen set the record at the NON at NC State.
Special thanks to Coach Jeff Dempsey for the majority of these pics.