Penn Relays: Penncrest gets its wish, advances in 3,200-meter relay

PHILADELPHIA — Penncrest’s Brendan Hefferan, Shane Hall, Ben Holst-Rightley and Kadin Salaria set a simple goal for the boys 4 x 800-meter relay Thursday at the 127th Penn Relays.

“We just want to advance,” Hefferan said, referring to making Friday’s Championship of America race.  “That’s all we were trying to do, get to the next round.”

That was easier said than done.

The Lions ran in the first of four 18-team heats. Since the top 12 teams advance to Friday’s final, they had to wait almost an hour, after the final heat was completed, to find out if their time was good enough for a return trip to Franklin Field.

Hefferan, Hall, Holst-Rightley and Salaria ran a season best 7:57.83 to finish third in their heat and then held their breath as 54 other teams took to the track with the same goal. As it turned out, that time, the team’s best of the outdoor season and the third fastest in the state, according to, was enough to earn the Lions a spot in the final as the 10th seeded team in the 12-team field. It also was the top time of the 13 Pennsylvania teams entered in the event.

“I thought we did pretty well, all things considered,” Salaria said. “I was sick the last few days but now I have another day to recover and get stronger. And the weather made it tough to run. It was cold, but it was cold for every team. That’s the Penn Relays. You just have to deal with it. We ran 7:52 indoors, so I know we can run better.”

Strath Haven (A.J. Glavicic, Emilio Hooper, Matt Lundy and Dan Wueschel) finished seventh in that opening heat in 8:05.23.  Ridley (Jesufifunmi Olubenga, Nick Gdowik, Colin Walls, Jackson Kate) was in the final heat and placed ninth in 8:05.21.

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Upper Darby’s Jason Bateman finishes strong to help the Royals win the Central League 4 x 400 Thursday at the Penn Relays. Bateman anchored the team of Lavar Jackson, Kareem Good and Josh Sharp to victory. (Pete BannanMediaNews Group).

Upper Darby senior Jason Bateman was all smiles when he saw his split time for the anchor leg in the Central League 4 x 400 relay. Sharp brought the baton home in 52 seconds flat, to help the Royals win in 3:26.98.

Not bad for a Penn Relays rookie.

“This is my first year running track,” Bateman said. “It’s my senior year and I wanted to do it.”

Bateman teamed with Lavar Jackson, Kareem Goode and Josh Sharp to give the Royals their first win at Penn since 2019.

“This has been a fun experience,” Bateman said. “It’s awesome running in front of a big crowd like this.”

The victory was part of a good day for the Royals. In the morning, Jackson and Bateman teamed up with Kamal Adgebite and Andre Henneghan to run the fastest time of any Delco team in the 4 x 100 at 43.46.

“Two of our handoffs were kind of funky,” Jackson said. “We didn’t get it on the first contact. We can do a lot better.”

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Freshman Abaas Hunter was a busy guy for Episcopal Academy. In the morning, he anchored the team of Chris Purnell, Jahmir Brown and Karan King to its best time of the season in the 4 x 100 (44.25). That tied Chester for the second fastest time by a Delco team in the event. Later, he teamed up with Anik Vossschulte, Mike Woolery and Connor Hanrahan to help the Churchmen win the Inter-Ac League 4 x 400 for the second year in a row with a winning time of 3:22.85.

Episcopal Academy’s Abaas Hunter anchored the 4×400 relay team to first place in the Penn Relay’s Inter-Ac division Thursday in a time of 3:22.85. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

“I can’t even talk right now,” said an exhausted Hunter, who will run the 400 leg for EA in the distance medley relay Championship of America Friday. “I feel good, though; locked in.”

The Churchmen were on a mission in the 4 x 400. They wanted to defend the title they won a year ago and send a message to the rest of the Inter-Ac League.

“We know that we’re the best in the league,” Woolery said

“We weren’t worried,” Vossschulte added. “We knew if we had the lead after each handoff we would be fine.”

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It was a rough start for Chester’s Jaydon Bantum in the Suburban A 4 x 400. He was knocked to the ground at the start of the race, which caused a restart and left him with scrapped elbows and knees.

“I got pushed by multiple people right after the gun went off,” Bantum said.

Bantum got up, gathered himself and helped the team of Quamere Cosby, Zion Spotwood and Walton Garnett take second in 3:25.24. Garnett did his best to make up the considerable distance separating him from the leaders when he got the baton. He took the Clippers from fourth to second but just could not catch the anchor from Spring-Ford, the team that won the event.

‘I wanted to take it out and take a chance because you never know,” Garnett said. “I just pushed it.”

It was the second race of the day for the quartet. In the morning they ran 44.25 to tie Episcopal Academy for the second fastest time by a Delco team in the 4 x 100.

“That was like a light warmup for me,” said Garnett, whose specialty is the 400.

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NOTES >> Episcopal Academy’s Alphonso Koukou finished 17th in the shot put. His best effort was 46-8½. …  Garnet Valley’s Felicia Grimmelbein, Janani Muniswany, Victoria Li and Avery McCrimmon won the girls PIAA 9th grade 4 x 100 in 50.80. … Wyatt Stewart of Madison Central (N.Y.) High School set the Penn Relays record in the high school pole vault with vault of 16-8. … Michigan’s Samanta Tran was first in the women’s 1,500 (4:15.47) and Gavin Gaynor of N.C. State took the men’s 1,500 (3:40.24). Villanova’s Sean Donoghue was second in 3:42.67.

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