PHILADELPHIA – Haley Pierce and Mary Cain continued to cement their status as legends at the historic Penn Relays on Thursday at Franklin Field.
During an electric evening of racing for some of the country’s premier girls distance runners, Pierce and her Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) teammates smashed the Penn Relays record in the distance medley relay by more than five seconds, clocking 11 minutes, 28.86. That’s No. 3 all-time, trailing only the times Harvard-Westake (Calif.) and Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) posted at last year’s New Balance Nationals.
Pierce, who anchored the victory with a 4:42.8 split, had made the difficult decision to push her chips in with her teammates rather than try to duplicate her stunning 3,000-meter victory over Aisling Cuffe last year.
She had no regrets.
“It was kind of a hard choice at first,” Pierce said. “I thought I could really go after the 3,000, but the more I thought about it, the relay had such strong competition this year and we had three or four girls in position to run that (and win). It wasn’t that hard to decide once I thought about it. I’m really happy.”
North Shore (N.Y.) threw down the gantlet early, with Brianna Nerud gapping the field quickly and turning a scintillating opening leg of 3:26.7 for the 1,200 – and Penn Relays record split. Only four women in the college DMR championship race ran faster than Nerud did on the lead-off leg.
When she handed off the baton, Nerud had her team up by nine seconds.
But Tatnall’s Reagan Anderson ran a solid 3:35.7, and then Lindsey Voltz made up four seconds with a 57.8 split on the 400. Then, on the 800-meter leg, Julie Williams stalked North Shore’s Elizabeth Caldwell and ran 2:12.5, a whopping five seconds faster than her PR.
Williams put the baton in Pierce’s hand a half step behind North Shore’s Samantha Nadel. It was a perfect spot to be. North Shore’s lead and confidence were evaporated. Pierce remained tucked comfortably behind Nadel for a lap and then couldn’t resist going around her and pulling away.
“It was a perfect setup,” Pierce said. “At first I wanted to stay relaxed and just kick (at the end), but I felt good and I didn’t want to regret staying behind just because.”
North Shore finished second in 10:39.29.
A kick to ‘mess with’
As Tatnall celebrated its victory, Cain, the sensational sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y. dropped a devastating last-lap 62.5 to tear away from all contenders in a loaded girls mile. She finished in 4:39.28, breaking the meet record and moving to No. 7 on the all-time list. It is the fastest full mile ever for a sophomore, although Jordan Hasay ran a 1,600 that converts to 4:39.13 in 2007.
Cain bolted off the starting line and led the first lap but then two-time defending champ Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center (Homer City, Pa.) refused to yield and surged to the lead.
“Angel was amazing,” Cain said. “She was an angel to me. I wanted to go out and lead it, but she was going with me that whole time. She took the lead on the second lap and had it in the third. But with 600 (left) I was like ‘No, I want this so bad.’”
Cain ramped up her speed and sailed away from Piccirillo and everyone else.
“I got a kick to mess with,” Cain said. “That last 400, (I thought) just kill it.”
Piccirillo was second in 4:47.49 – running faster than she did in her wins in 2010 and 2011. Samantha George of Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) was third in 4:48.11 and Ajee Wilson of Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) was fourth in 4:52.89.
Lake Braddock 1-3 in 3K
Right after Cain’s heroics, Sophie Chase of Lake Braddock (Burke, Pa.) ran a lifetime best 9:37.86 to win the 3,000 meters. And perhaps more surprising was that her sophomore teammate, Hannah Christen, was right behind her, finishing third in 9:42.97.
It was a seven-second PR for Chase, a junior, and a breakthrough 17-second PR for Christen.
“I’m so proud of her,” Chase said of Christen. “It was great experience for us to be able to do it together.”
Tori Gerlach of Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.) nosed ahead of Christen for second, with 9:42.92.
LB Poly, Wakefield vs. Jamaicans
The bulk of the day’s action on the track was devoted to 4x100s and 4x400s, events that Jamaican schools have used to stamp their collective identity on the Penn Relays.
But a couple of U.S. sprints powers also were formidable during Thursday’s qualifying action. Long Beach Poly, the 2011 Penn champion, turned the fastest 4x100 relay of the day, clocking 46.39 seconds. Edwin Allen (Jamaica) ran 46.45 and Wakefield (N.C.) was third-fastest with 47.17.
Of the eight teams qualifying for the championship final, five hail from Jamaica, three from the U.S.
In the 4x400, Wakefield got a 54.7 anchor split from Ariah Graham and put together a US#6 time of 3:46.64. That was the second-fastest time of the day, trailing Jamaica power Holmwood Tech’s 3:45.58. The championship final will feature four U.S. teams and four Jamaican teams.
The split of the day belonged to Shaunae Miller of St. Augustine’s (Bahamas), who ran a blistering second leg of 51.7 for her team.
In the 4x800 relay, Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) clocked a US#1 9:04.21 to set up a championship showdown with Jamaica’s Edwin Allen, which led qualifying by winning its heat in 8:58.51.
In the 400-meter hurdles, Alexis Franklin of Old Mill (Millersville, Md.) won the first high school championship of the day by running US#1 59.05 seconds.
In the field events, there seemed to be a Pennsylvania vs. Jamaica theme. The home state collected three victories and Jamaicans four.
Rachel Fatherly of Williamsport, Pa. won the shot put with 47-5, Christine Streisel of Tamaqua, Pa. won the javelin with 154-11 and Larisa Debich of Hempfield Area, Pa. won the pole vault by clearing 12-5.50.
Meanwhile, Chanice Porter of Manchester won the long jump at 19-5.50, Shardia Lawrence of Vere Tech won the triple jump with 40-8.25, Danniel Thomas of Edwin Allen led a 1-5 Jamaican sweep in the discus with 167-4 and Kimberly Williamson of Edwin Allen leapt 6-0 to win the high jump.