PHILADELPHIA – The Ridge High School girls track program rang up a long list of accomplishments over the years, but a Penn Relays Championship of America appearance was not among them.
The Red Devils broke through at Franklin Field Thursday. They clocked 9:24.32 in the 4×800, earning the 10th spot in Friday’s 12-team final, which goes off at 1:10 p.m. They are the lone New Jersey squad to make it.
“This was huge,” senior Kelly Van Baalen said. “My freshman year we were struggling just to make it into Penn. To see our team come so far, not only to have a chance to make it into the final but to actually do it, that means a lot.”
Senior Liz Newman (2:23), Van Baalen (2:19), sophomore Emily Hirsch (2:21) and senior Abigail Regner (2:19) carried for Ridge, which lost roughly four seconds on a baton drop by Newman at the end of her leadoff leg.
“I messed it up a little but thank goodness were able to come back from it,” Newman said.
Western Branch (Va.) captured the top seed at 9:09. The cutoff was 9:26. A total of 65 prequalified teams toed the line in four heats.
There was a strong sense of unfinished business for Ridge, which ran 9:13 indoors and seeks to break the outdoor school record of 9:20.
“We made some mistakes, and we’re very fortunate to have a chance to come back tomorrow and make up for it,” Regner said.
The ultimate goal is to crack 9:10, which should put the Red Devils in contention for medals (top five). Among the qualifiers, only two ran faster than 9:17 in the cold, windy conditions.
“Mixed emotions because they know they can run a lot better,” Ridge coach Tim Mooney said. “They’re an impressive group and I’m really happy for them—they deserve it. Now they have a chance to run faster tomorrow — a lot faster.”
In other local highlights, Union Catholic got a big day from Amari Onque-Shabazz, who anchored the Vikings to an area-best 3:57.58 in the 4×400 with a 57.33 split and split 2:16 on the 4×800, which clocked 9:33.
Competing without All-American sophomore Sydney McLaughlin (sore hamstring), Union Catholic also posted the area’s top 4×100 time of 49.80.
In the 4×400, two local teams earned plaques for winning their heats: North Hunterdon (4:14) and Middlesex (4:19).
Individually, North Hunterdon senior Eve Glasergreen finished 10th in the girls 3000 in 9:57.93 and Franklin senior Ashley Berry placed 11th in the girls discus with a 128-1 effort.
For a more detailed breakdown of how locals performed during day one of the Penn Relays, visit the Weights and Measures blog at http://blogs.mycentraljersey.com/track/
Staff writer Jerry Carino: firstname.lastname@example.org.