PHILADELPHIA >> Again they were the fastest team from Pennsylvania, by a wide margin, moving several strides closer to history.
“We broke our school record and we’re getting closer and closer to the state record outdoors.” said North Penn’s Ariana Gardizy, after two heart-pumping laps around sunny Franklin Field on Friday.
“The state record (8:51.49) wasn’t even on our radar but it seems doable now,” she said, both happy and amazed, “It was a really fast race.”
A team of Jenna Webb, Uche Nwogwugwu, Gardizy and Mikaela Vlasic raced the fastest ever 4×800 time in North Penn history, cranking out an 8:55.88, to place fourth overall in the Championship of America on a steaming afternoon on the track.
North Penn is keeping up with the times — 9:00.79 won the race last year, this year the top four all broke nine minutes, including two Jamaican teams up top in Holmwood Tech (8:48.15) and Edwin Allen (8:55.41), and Ridge (8:55.82) out of New Jersey.
“Jenna went out faster than she’s ever gone out,” Nwogwugwu said of Webb, whose first 400 was a 1:03, “so I knew she was really pushing it.”
Said Webb: “Being on the outside, no one was on my right so I could just cut right in and not worry about getting boxed in or sandwiched.”
Webb put the Knights in a good spot. Nwogwugwu went out aggressive, pushing the Knights from ninth up to third.
“I was telling myself, ‘just run a competitive race. If you see somebody in front, just go get them,’” Nwogwugwu said. “‘Forget about how tired you are. Just go get them.’
“I went out, passed a couple people, and then Spalding (out of Jamaica) — (Jezelle Shaw) was kind of chilling. So I thought ‘just go around her.’ And as I passed her, she sped up too. And the curve was coming up, so I really surged, like I was running a 400.”
Nwogwugwu’s split (2:09.32) was the second fastest in the entire race, out of 44 runners.
“I just like competition,” she said with a smile. “(Going this fast) feels really good but it makes me kind of nervous — I don’t wanna peak too soon. I wanna keep dropping time.
“I’m really happy. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’m really proud of us.”
Nwogwugwu and Vlasic will be back on the track for the Knights Saturday, joining Kathleen Stevenson and Natalie Kwortnik for the Philly Area 4×4 at 5:15 p.m.
North Penn outraced seven other squads in Friday’s 4×8, including Penn Wood (9:01.40) and Strath Haven (9:17.05).
The Knights, eighth in the race two years ago and fourth last season, were more than six seconds faster than they were in 2016.
“We’re never gonna get another opportunity like this,” Vlasic said of the COA, which drew in top foursomes from Jamaica, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and of course PA. “And I think we took full advantage of it. We competed. Every single one of us. That’s the best you can do, you know? So it was a really cool experience.”
And even faster than 2016.
“For sure,” Vlasic said. “We would have won with an 8:55 last year so it’s really crazy how much faster it got. I figured it would be Jamaica up front and then a pack of the rest of us behind them, which it kind of was. So I thought that worked out really well because we all had people to run with, which made it super competitive.”
So too was the 4×100 Championship of America later in the afternoon. Cheltenham’s foursome of Bria Barnes, Ciani Fleming, Alexis Crosby and Chanel Brissett — the only team from PA able to push through to the COA — matched its prelim time of 45.87, racing to seventh on Friday. Amazingly the Panthers are only nine tenths of a second off the time that won them the state gold last year, with still four weeks to go until Shippensburg.
“We’ve never been this fast this time of the season before,” Crosby said. “It was exciting to know that we could run this fast and still have stuff left in the tank for later.”
The Central Bucks West boys 4×8 punched its ticket to Saturday’s Championship of America, a team of Brian Baker, Luke Fehrman, Teagan Fortna and Jake Claricurzio clocking a 7:47.52 to place third in its heat and seventh overall Friday morning.
It will be the third straight year the Bucks have advanced to the COA, the race scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
La Salle’s Distance Medley Relay team of Maxwell DiMuccio, Sam Coleman, Joseph dosReis and D.J. Principe placed fifth with a 10:17.25 and the Explorers’ Noah Walker came through nicely in the field, throwing to third place in the javelin with a mark of 201-6.
Germantown Academy’s Abbe Goldstein raced to third in the mile run on Thursday night, crossing in 4:54.04, and then on Friday the Patriots’ Kyle Garland cleared 6-7.75 to place seventh in the high jump.
Souderton Area’s Connor McMenamin was impressive Friday evening, notching a 10th-place finish in the 3,000 with a time of 8:36.55.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Ariana Gardizy runs the third leg for the Knights during their High School Girls’ 4×800 Large Schools heat at the Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Mikey Reeves/For Digital First Media)