They came to the Penn Relays with the singular goal of qualifying for the Championship of America 4×800. Turns out, the South Brunswick High School boys would accomplish much more.
The Vikings authored a masterpiece in Friday’s trials, clocking 7:44.46 and breaking a Middlesex County record that dated back to 1975. They earned the third seed for Saturday’s 12-team final and look like a real contender for a coveted winner’s wheel.
“This is a goal we’ve had for a long time,” said senior Morgan Murray, whose 1:51 carry on the second leg was the meet’s fastest split. “It’s surreal to actually do it.”
The Vikings broke 7:50 twice before, but never by this much and certainly not on a stage this grand, with more than 30,000 fans packing historic Franklin Field. Matthew Tamasi (1:57.6), Murray (1:51.7), Matt Zamorski (2:00.8) and Nick Neville (1:54.3) did the legwork.
“It’s unlike any other meet,” Zamorski said. “I woke up this morning trying to calm my nerves, saying it’s just an 800, it’s just another race. Then you get here and it’s not. It’s Penn Relays. You really can’t explain it until you’re here. It’s different and it’s just amazing.”
South Brunswick is the first Middlesex County team to make the 4×800 final since Old Bridge in 1999. The Vikings were third in their heat behind Jamaica powerhouse Calabar (7:42.94) and Chaminade of New York (7:44.20).
“We’ve been looking for something like this all year,” Neville said. “Every day we work on getting faster and today we came out and showed it. Now, can we get faster than this?”
They have some aces up the sleeve. Christian Garrido, who has run 1:59 but was injured indoors, will replace Zamorski and add fresh legs in the third spot. Coach Wilfredo Rivera is swapping Neville and Murray so his “hammer” goes last. It’s bold to change the order after such a successful race, but it’s a move you make to win the whole thing. The 4×800 anchor in the final is blistering, and Murray has the chops for it.
“This is the big breakthrough I’ve been waiting for,” Murray said. “I knew I had it in me.”
South Brunswick finally eclipsed the Middlesex County record set by St. Joseph of Metuchen in 1975. The Vikings just missed it last spring at the Meet of Champions, then came up short with a disappointing race at outdoor nationals. That planted the seed for this.
“We said that can’t happen again,” Tamasi said. “We dug deep, and I think we can dig a lot deeper.”
Franklin also made the boys 4×800 final as the eighth seed after a 7:53 effort in the trials. Ross Clarke (1:55.9), Anfernee Joseph (1:55.3), Nate Gravesande (2:01.8) and Javon Pittman (1:59.9) carried the stick as the Warriors advanced for the first time in seven appearances at the trials. They are the first Somerset County team to make the final since Hillsborough in 2008.
“This is an honor for us,” Joseph said. “So proud of this group right now.”
Sayreville boys 4×100 qualifies
The third time proved to the charm for the Sayreville boys 4×100. After dropping the baton twice in early-season competition, the Bombers got it all the way around at the right time.
The quartet of Myles Hartsfield, Shaun Abubakar, Linwood Crump and Colin Winslow clocked 42.82, which earned the eighth and final spot in Saturday’s large schools final at 2 p.m.
“They did exactly what we practiced,” coach Joe Slavik said. “We practiced the last two days just on hand-offs, didn’t worry about anything else, and today it showed.”
Sayreville’s time ranked 15th out of 245 finishers in the large schools division. Among New Jersey teams, only Paramus Catholic (42.63) went faster.
“We came in here looking to run low 43 but we ended up running high 42s, so that’s really good for us,” Hartsfield said. “Now we want to run low 42s because we’re running with the best, so you can only get faster.”
The four underclassmen also broke the school record, which was 43.00. This will be Sayreville’s first appearance in a Penn Relays final. A crowd of about 50,000 is expected to see it.
“That’s only going to pump us up more,” Winslow said.
Chiefs break girls 4×100 record
It took an extra day, but the Piscataway girls 4×100 achieved their goal of breaking 48 seconds. After clocking 48.39 in Thursday’s trials, the Chiefs came through with a blazing 47.40 in Friday’s large schools final, placing third.
Nia Dupiche, Chanel Price, Brionna Pettus and Camisha Pierson also broke the Middlesex County record of 47.61, set by Piscataway in 2011.
“To drop a whole second basically, it wasn’t surprising to us,” Dupiche said. “But it made us happy because we knew we could do it.”
It marked the fastest time by a New Jersey quartet at the Penn Relays. Winslow was right behind in 47.51.
“Handoffs were excellent this time,” Pierson said. “Proud of what we accomplished today.”
They get a chance to lower the record in Saturday’s tri-state final against the top teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“Great performance,” Piscataway coach Keith Brunson said. “I thought they had the ability to run 47, it was just a matter of their execution. I can’t say the execution was flawless, but they did what seniors are supposed to do and that is make sure the stick does not slow down.”