PHILADELPHIA >> North Penn’s Uche Nwogwugwu already feels very much at home.
“I run fast on this track. I don’t know what it is,” the Penn-bound senior said with a smile, speaking of historic Franklin Field. “You have a long straightaway to start off. That helps me build speed and I just take it right into the curve.”
Nwogwugwu ran the fastest split of any competitor in Saturday evening’s Philly Area 4×400-meter relay, helping the Knights to polish off an impressive weekend at the 123rd Running of the Penn Relays.
“Crazy,” she said of the atmosphere on the final day of the relays, which drew a crowd of 47,420. “I was standing there (ready to run), everyone’s screaming, yelling. You walk in and you’re like ‘wo, there’s a lot of people here.’ But then when you’re on the track, you’re in the race.”
The Knights surged to a third-place finish in the Philly Area Race, a team of Mikaela Vlasic, Kat Stevenson, Natalie Kwortnik and Nwogwugwu combining to go 3:48.13.
The Knights held off seven other squads from PA and New Jersey, including rivals Abington and Central Bucks West.
Stevenson has been a nice addition to the 4×4 this spring.
“I think we all ran really hard,” she said. “I went out really fast, faster than I usually do…”
North Penn very nearly cracked the top three, with Winslow (3:48.08) holding on by five hundredths of a second. Penn Wood (3:45.57) was second and Neumann-Goretti was the winner in 3:43.61.
Nwogwugwu’s anchor leg was a 52.88. Of the 44 runners in the race, she was fastest by more than a second.
“This weekend, I wanted to go out, see what I could do with fresh legs, knowing there’s nothing after it,” the senior said. “And I can literally put everything into one race.”
And it served as a homecoming of sorts.
“Some teammates of mine — future teammates that I met on my visit — were on the infield,” Nwogwugwu said. “So I finished and they were like ‘good job,’ and I said ‘see ya soon.’”
Central Bucks West’s Jake Claricurzio thought his day was complete when he ran on the Bucks’ 4×8 squad in the Championship of America race.
Then came a bit of serendipity.
Pennridge, with Austin Howell working his way back from injury, decided not to do the Philly Area race in the evening. Rams coach Bob Hosier gave Bucks coach Greg Wetzel a heads-up, allowing West — an alternate in the race — to jump in.
The Bucks took full advantage, cranking out a school-record time of 3:17.84.
Said Bobowicz: “We wanted to make sure we went out with a bang.”
“I wasn’t expecting to run the 4×4 but I’m glad I was a part of it,” Claricurzio said. “I owe it to these guys for giving me an awesome spot.”
Joe Manetta, Bobowicz, Nick Ferrentino and Claricurzio were the top PA team in the race and earned third overall.
Shortly prior to that, West competed in the 4×8 Championship of America for the third straight year, racing to 12th with a time of 8:05.91.
“It wasn’t our best race, but regardless of that it’s an honor to be here,” Claricurzio said. “This should push us for the state meet. It’s a good test.”
Brian Baker led off for the Bucks, handing off to Luke Fehrman to Teagan Fortna to Claricurzio.
“Definitely trying to keep the CB West track legacy going,” said Fortna of getting to run again in the COA.
Fortna’s older brother, Rock (Rhode Island), was also a fixture on the 4×8.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to run out there, feel the pain that I felt,” Teagan Fortna said of the challenge of the two-mile relay. “Great venue here, gets you fired up.”
The Cheltenham 4×100 relay of Bria Barnes, Giani Fleming, Alexis Crosby and Chanel Brissett broke its own event record in the Tri-State Championship, clocking a 45.94. North Penn also medaled, a foursome of Jessica Brenfleck, Stevenson, Natalie Kwortnik and Sophia Broadhurst closing in on the school record with a 47.92.
Pennridge’s 4×400 relay of Alex Dimon, Howell, Bobby Brashear and John Nash won the SOL National race, crossing in 3:19.37 to edge Council Rock North (3:19.77) at the finish.
Wissahickon (3:22.74) followed by taking SOL American honors, the foursome of Max Davies, Sam Kane, Darnell Watson and Cam Christopher beating out rival Upper Dublin (3:24.73).
Souderton Area’s Shamar Jenkins finished well in the Triple Jump Championship, leaping 48-11.5 to notch fourth overall.
Top Photo: Cheltenham’s Chanel Brissett competes at the Penn Relays on Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Mikey Reeves/For Digital First Media)