By Christopher Hunt
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Olicia Williams stood on the side and watched while Ajee Wilson of Neptune (N.J.) comfortably delivered one of the greatest relay legs ever seen by a high schooler at Penn Relays. The St. Anthony’s junior didn’t have any thoughts of trying to match it. And she didn’t need to.
St. Anthony’s was one of two New York teams to qualify for tomorrow’s Championship of America in the 4x800 relay. Lauren Fontana, Danielle Cornell, Sloan Russ and Williams won the first heat of the Large Schools section in 9:10.74.
The Friars time is the fourth-fastest time in the country this season and the fourth-fastest qualifier for the final.
“We all ran good,” Williams said. “We wanted to chill. We didn’t want to go crazy. We just wanted to make it back to the final.”
St. Anthony’s led for most of the race before Wilson turned everyone’s eyes to the rear of the race. Wilson took the baton in last-place in the 18-team field. By the time she was done with her 2:03.4 relay split, Wilson had put Neptune in first.
St. Anthony’s, which finished second at the national championships indoors, had fell to third. But Williams quickly reeled in the leaders and regained control for her team. She split 2:09.9 on the anchor leg. St. Anthony’s will substitute Russ for Alex Russo. Distance coach Rachelle Clinton said the team can run in the 8:50-range tomorrow.
“I think they’ll be fine,” Clinton said. “At Penn, there’s a lot of distractions. They just have to stay focused.”
Mamaroneck qualified for the championship final from the small schools second. The Tigers finished second in their heat in 9:19.93. They used monster legs from Gina Talt, who ran third and Anima Banks, the indoor state 1,000-meter champ, who anchored in 2:09.2. Mamaroneck has the 10th fastest qualifying in the 12-team final.
St. Anthony’s splits (9:10.74)
Lauren Fontana – 2:16.8
Danielle Cornell – 2:19.9
Sloan Russ – 2:24.2
Olicia Williams – 2:09.9
Mamaroneck splits (9:19.93)
Leonie Rauls – 2:28.0
Julia Bellis – 2:25.8
Gina Talt – 2:16.9
Anima Banks – 2:09.2