By Christopher Hunt
NEW YORK – Christina Hillman stood next to the board that showed the best throw of her life – 14.88 meters.
She didn’t know exactly what the distance meant. But the St. Thomas More Prep (Del.) knew she had never been there before. Hillman had never been to a national championships. Never been a national champion. Never beat a thrower the quality of Georgia’s Shelby Ashe.
And so she deserved to take a billion pictures and remember this day forever – the day she threw a seven-foot personal best, 48 feet, 10 inches to win the shot put at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, the second-best toss in the country this season.
Hillman said she had one of her worst weeks of practice this past week and it had been a month since her last competition, when she tossed her best at the Delaware state meet at 41-4.75.
Then she threw 47-4 on her first attempt.
“I kept looking back because it looked really far,” she said. “I’m thinking, did I really just throw that.”
Hillman spent the last five weeks training with Barry Swanson, at Train Hard Win Big, a strength and conditioning facility, where Swanson has revamped Hillman’s technique. The difference apparently meant a national championship. Throw One Deep’s Ashe, last year’s NSIC champ, was third at 47-7.75. Jackie Leppelmeier (McComb, Ohio) finished second at 48-8.75.
“I was just jumping for joy,” Hillman said. “I really can’t believe it. I’ve never even been to nationals before.”
Runner’s High (Red Bank Catholic, N.J.) knows all about unexpected wins. Red Bank Catholic coach Rob DeFilippis projected his team could clock around 9:02, given the best case scenario. It worked out even better than that.
Anchor leg Molly McNamara took the baton from Lindsey Bellaran with a 10-meter leg and McNamara bit right into.
“Lindsey and I make good ends,” McNamara said. “It’s kind of like we have two anchors. I knew if she could give it to me with a three or four second leg, I was pretty confident we could win.”
Liana Marzano, Meghan McMullin, Bellaran, and McNamara finished in 8:56.94, the third-fastest time in United States history.
“At the beginning of the season there were a few things I wanted to do,” McNamara said. “I wanted to qualify for Millrose and I did that. I wanted to win a state championship (she won the 1600) and I wanted to win a national championship individually or on a relay. Now I can take that off my bucket list.”
Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) scored a victory in the 4x1-mile relay for the fourth consecutive year. This time, Molly Pezzulo (5:07.5), Sydney King (5:19.2), Keelin Hollowood (5:16.1) Amanda Borroughs (5:15.2) won in 20:58.04.
“It’s not as fast as we wanted but we wanted to come out and do our best,” Pezzulo said. “It’s a nice race for cross country runners and we’re all cross country runners.”
Garden City took advantage of Neptune (N.J.) being absence from the sprint medley relay. Alexis Yeboah-Kodie, Taylor Hennig, Taryn Schmelzinger and Emma Gallagher handed the field in 4:04.17. Blacksburg (Va.) was second in 4:05.94.
“The goal was to provide a buffer for Emma,” Hennig said. “We knew that if we could give Emma a big enough buffer that she could put it away for us. We thought that Ajee Wilson would be in the race. Once we saw she wasn’t that just made it a little easier for us.”
Kendall Williams of Kennesaw, Ga., threaten the meet record in the pentathlon but fell just short in the 800. Williams posted a personal best mark of 3792 including a lifetime best in the high jump (5-9.25).