HORSHAM >> In the end, a tricky headwind was no match for the state’s best pole vaulter.
Nicholas Marino defended his title at his home pit, the North Penn girls racked up 158 points, and Wissahickon edged Pennridge for tops in the boys competition as the Second Annual Jim Kelly Invitational produced several outstanding performances on a mild, windy afternoon at Hatboro-Horsham High School.
“I was feeling refreshed, considering I had a meet on Thursday,” said Marino, who was coming off a personal-best vault of 16 feet, 1 inch at Thursday’s Knight Invite.
“It was switching between a (headwind and crosswind), and it was kind of awkward to try and time it out and go between the wind gusts,” Marino said. “I had to be very patient with it.”
Marino cleared 15 feet to win the event for the second year in a row, improving upon his winning mark of a year ago by a foot.
The senior’s vault of 16-1 on Thursday is also the best in PA this spring.
“That definitely gives me confidence to keep pushing and pushing,” he said.
One final push is what North Penn’s Ariana Gardizy was digging down deep for, coming down the stretch of a tightly-contested 1,600-meter run.
“I wanted to wait until I felt I was building up the speed for it,” Gardizy said of the final lap. “I think around the 150 (meters to go), I didn’t wanna just go right up next to (Cheltenham’s MaryGrace Rittler) and keep running with her. I wanted to make a surge, so that I knew it was definite and confident.”
Gardizy pulled away in winning style, crossing with a time of 5 minutes, 4.35 seconds, with Hatboro-Horsham’s Miranda Royds racing to second in 5:06.46 and Rittler earning third with a 5:06.65.
“Up by the 200, I couldn’t tell if I was close or not,” said Gardizy, her victory part of an impressive day for NP. “I tried to hang on as much as possible. Like in the middle of the race, I kind of felt myself falling back a little bit.
“But at the end, when I realized I had 200 left to go, I thought I would wait (to make my final push).”
And that provided the difference.
“In the last stretch I felt like I had no control over myself whatsoever,” Gardizy said, smiling. “I just wanted to cross the finish line.”
Another win for North Penn came in the 4×800 relay, as a team of Jenna Webb, Uche Nwogwugwu, Natalie Kwortnik and Mikaela Vlasic motored home with a first-place time of 9:30.57, 23 seconds better than anyone else in the field.
“We had Natalie and Uche in at the same time today, which we’ve never had before, and it went well,” Vlasic said. “We have a lot of girls who can run a really good 800 — some distance, some sprinting, so for Penn Relays we’re just trying to figure out what our best lineup is gonna be.
“We came off the indoor season really strong after getting second at Nationals, so we’re looking to do some bigger things this season,” said Vlasic, also the open 800 winner. “We went 9:03 indoor and I think we can drop a lot more time from in to out. And I think there’s gonna be a lot of good teams pushing us this year.”
Cheltenham’s Chanel Brissett took the 100 and 200 for the Panthers while Upper Dublin’s Madison Langley-Walker was unbeatable in the hurdles, winning both the 100 and 300’s.
Victories by the shuttle hurdle relay and Ahmir Johnson in the 110 hurdles powered the Trojans to the top spot in the boys competition, their 69 points propelling them past Pennridge (67).
Despite missing two of their top sprinters in the 4×1, the Trojans still raced to a second-place finish, as teams hope to get healthy and prepare for the final stretch.
“You have some minor issues but nothing too serious,” said Wiss’ Sam Kane, a member of that 4×1. “I think we’ll be in good shape come postseason.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Jenna Webb sets the pace in the first leg of the girls in the 4×800 meter relay at the Jim Kelly Invitational on Saturday, April 15, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)