SOL Boys/Girls Track & Field Notebook (5-2-17)

Denny Dyroff recaps the SOL’s top showings at the Penn Relays. The notebook features the North Penn girls’ successful relay as well as Neshaminy’s Rusty Kujdych in his Penn Relays debut. (Cheltenham photo provided courtesy of Kathy Leister Photography.  CLICK HERE to go to the gallery for Penn Relay photos.)


It was not an auspicious start for Suburban One League teams when the124th annual running of the Penn Relays Carnival got underway last Thursday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.

One of the first events of the day is the high school girls’ 4x800-meter relay. There are four heats and the 12 top teams advance to the Championship of America race.

The SOL almost always sends at least one team through to the CofA race – but not this year.

The best finisher was Central Bucks West. The team of Piper Wilson, Emmi Simon, Vanessa Barrow and Darby Roth finished third in its race at 9:27.99. In the same race, the Central Bucks East foursome of Kieman Hutchinson, McKenna Brophy, Brooke Martin and Campbell Seguine placed eighth at 9:34.25.

In the other large school race, North Penn’s team of Jenna Webb, Rachel Ahlmark, Amelia Estraghi and Ariana Gardizy took fifth at 9:28.36. The final qualifier in the CofA field of 12 was River Dell High from Oradell, New Jersey at 9:25.11.

“We were three seconds off qualifying in the 4x800,” said Gardizy, a senior. “Still, I think we did really well. It was our best time of the season by 10 seconds.”

This marked the first time in five years that North Penn failed to advance to the CofA 4x800.

But, the Knights made up for it in the other relays.

North Penn’s foursome of Anais Williams, Jenna Webb, Megan Gambogi, and Natalie Kwortnik won High School Girls’ 4x400 Suburban National race at 3:55.71.

“I kept getting cut off and people kept hitting me during the race,” said Williams, a sophomore. “I was second to Pennsbury at the handoff.”

Webb, a junior, said, “I think our handoff went pretty well considering how tight it was. I was right there with C.B. West and Pennsbury.”

Gambogi, a freshman getting her first taste of Penn Relays competition, said, “I was just trying to keep my eye on the C.B. West girl in front of me and stay as close as possible.”

Kwortnik got the baton in second place and turned it on immediately. She passed West’s anchor Emmi Simon early and then never relinquished the lead.

“I just wanted to take it out strong and get in front of her at the beginning,” said Kwortnik. “I passed her coming into the second turn and then made her chase me the rest of the way.”

With their strong performance in the National race, the Knights and qualified for Saturday’s High School Girls’ 4x400 Philadelphia Area final

In Philadelphia Area race, North Penn placed eighth at 4:00.19.

Other top SOL teams in the High School Girls’ 4x400 Suburban National race were Central Bucks West (Katy Jenkins, Sam Ronald, Steph Hiltpold, Emmi Simon), which was runner-up at 3:57.01; Central Bucks East (Kiernan Hutchinson, Makayla Romanus, Brooke Martin, McKenna Brophy), which was third at 4:04.69; Pennsbury (Maddie Hakman, Lizzy Kirk, Isabel Marinelli, Jennifer Dohalick), which took fourth at 4:07.35; and Pennridge (Meghan Kriney, Ashley Gordon, Melissa Siinski, Alexis Kirk), which placed fifth with a 4:11.36.
In other girls’ action Thursday afternoon, North Penn won its heat in the 4x100 when Kwortnik, Cynthia Sheehy, Nicole Noel, and Williams combined for a time of 48.68.

“The 4x100 was really different because you can’t use blocks here,” said Kwortnik, the Knights’ leadoff runner. “That was our best time of the season. We just wanted to make it to the finals.”

The North Penn quartet did make the finals and placed eighth in the High School Girls' 4x100 Tri-State race with a clocking of 48.73.

Two of the Knights’ relay runners also competed in individual events at the huge three-day meet at Franklin Field.

Kwortnik finished seventh in the Girls’ Long Jump Championship with a distance of 5.72 meters (18-9.25).

“I made it to the finals but it wasn’t my best jumping,” said Kwortnik. “My season best is 18-11 indoors. When I was jumping here, I just didn’t feel warmed up enough.”

Gardizy finished 11th in the Girls’ 3000-meter Championshipwith a time of 10:00.35.

“I was O.K. with my time and my place but I could have done more,” said Gardizy, who was the top District One and third-best Pennsylvania finisher in the race.

Gardizy was no stranger to the Penn Relays. She ran on the Knights 4x800 for the last three years. And, she’ll be no stranger to competing at Franklin Field as a collegiate athlete because she has opted to attend the University of Pennsylvania as a nursing major.

“Running here in an individual event was a whole new experience,” said Gardizy. “I was nervous – and excited.

“I could have been more aggressive in the early part of the race. I didn’t expect all the jostling. And, I didn’t expect them to take out the first mile so fast. The leaders went out in sub-4:00.

“I was 15 seconds back at the mile. Then, I tried working the second half of the race and picking people off. I passed three people in the last 800 but I should have started my kick earlier.”

Cheltenham’s girls always rule in the sprints and their showing at this year’s Penn Relays was no different.

In the 4x100, the team of Bria Barnes, Ciani Fleming, Alexis Crosby, and  Ni'Asia Williams won their heat at 48.06, which was third-fastest time behind Edwin Allen (Clarendon, Jamaica) and Archbishop John Carroll (Washington, DC). The Panthers’ first-day result qualified them for two finals events.

Cheltenham took first in Saturday’s High School Girls' 4x100 Tri-State race at 47.39. In Friday’s High School Girls' 4x100 Northeast race, they finished fifth at 48.36.

The Panther girls performed just as impressively in the 4x400 events.

The team of Brianna Smith, Bria Barnes, Ni'Asia Williams, and Alexis Crosby (56.00) placed first in High School Girls' 4x400 Suburban American race with a clocking of 3:55.08.

That performance was good enough to put Cheltenham in Saturday’s High School Girls' 4x400 Philadelphia Area race. Facing a deep and talented field in the Philly area race, the Panthers finished fourth with a time of 3:53.06. The top three finishers were Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti along with Coatesville and Penn Wood (two of Cheltenham’s main rivals in District One).

Barnes also ran on Thursday in the Girls’ 400m Hurdles Championship and posted a time of 1:08.15.
Upper Dublin followed a route similar to Cheltenham in the 4x400.

The Cardinals took second in the High School Girls' 4x400 Suburban American race when Zora Mitchell, Sabrina Taylor, Madison Langley-Walker and Emily Booth ran a 3:58.34. Then, Upper Dublin ran a 4:01.46 to place 10th in the High School Girls' 4x400 Philadelphia Area race.

Other top SOL finishers in the Girls’ 4x400 Suburban American event were the William Tennent foursome of Olivia Miller, Lynne O’Connor, Chelsea Meltzer, and Danielle Scott, which placed third at 4:06.37, and the Plymouth Whitemarsh team of Sam Spera, Taylor O’Brien, Jordan O’Brien, and Jenna Smith, which finished fourth at 4:11.33.
Individually, UD’s versatile Langley-Walker competed Thursday afternoon in the Girls’ 400-meter Hurdles Championship and claimed 12th place with a time of 1:02.83. In the same race, Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien checked in at Number 20 with a 1:04.69.

On the boys’ side, Neshaminy Rusty Kujdych was introduced to the world of the Penn Relays when he ran in the Boys’ 3000-meter Championship.

Kujdych finished fourth at 8:28.46 and was topped only by Devin Hart (Point Pleasant, NJ) at 8:22.24, Connor Nisbett (Wilmington Friends, DE) at 8:27.68 and William Hare (Princeton, NJ) at 8:28.25. Kujdych was the top Keystone State finisher and the only District One runner in the Top 20.

“This was my first Penn Relays,” said Kujdych. “The crowd was bigger than any I’ve run in front before. With Penn Relays, it’s a big deal just to be there. It’s a fast track. I just wanted to have fun running against really good competition on a really good track.”

Kujdych was doing very well – until the final stage of the race.

“I ran all right,” said Kujdych, who will attend Georgetown University in the fall. “It was a tough race. There were a lot of good guys.

“It went out fast -- the mile was 4:28. Devin Hart led the race and I was right behind him. But, I didn’t finish the way I wanted to. It was all right until the last lap. There was tough competition the whole race so it was a lot different than what I’m used to.

“That’s why things caught up to me and I fell apart at the end. I was tired and everything tightened up. My form fell apart and my body gave up on me. It started with 400 to go and really kicked in with 100 to go. Two guys passed me in the last 100.”

Kujdych left the infield at Franklin Field with mixed emotions.

“My time was fine,” said Kujdych. “It was a p.r. (personal record). But, I was running more for the win than for the time. I’m not disappointed. It was my first time at Penn Relays and it was a good experience.

“It’s good to run against people faster than you are. It was a good challenge. And, for a change, it was nice to have someone else set the pace.”

The only other individual competitor from the Suburban One League was Bensalem’s Yobani Moreno. Competing in the Boys Shot Put event, Moreno placed 21st with a distance of 16.11 meters, which converts to 52-10.25.

Just as in the girls’ meet, the 4x800 is a glamor event – an invitational event for which qualification does not come easy.

In one heat of the High School Boys' 4x800 Large Schools, Central Bucks East (Marcus Motter, Alex Bardwell, Richie Jethon, David Endres) finished fifth at 7:59.30 while Council Rock South (Andrew Zawodniak, Collin Ochs, Connor Dickel, Kyle Kutney) was 11th at 8:05.76.

In the other heat, Pennsbury (Javier Linares, Aidan Sauer, Jed Scratchard, Tom Mink) was fourth at 7:58.75. The Falcons qualified for Saturday’s 4x800 Championship of America and placed 12th with a time of 7:58.41.

Pennsbury’s team of Nassan Robbins, Jef Scratchard, Aidan Sauer and Javier Linares crossed third in the Boys’ 4x400 Suburban National event at 3:21.94. With that time, the Falcons qualified for the High School Boys' 4x400 Philadelphia Area race but scratched because of the conflict with the CofA 4x800.

In the Boys’ 4x400 Suburban National event, Pennridge (Luke Eissler, Matt Eissler, Bobby Brashea, Anderson Dimon) was first at 3:20.68 followed by Central Bucks West 3:21.91 (Luke Fehrman, Nick Ferrentino, Roman Katona, Jake Claricurzio) at 3:21.91 and Pennsbury.

The top three teams in the Boy’s 4x400 Suburban American were Harry S Truman (Sayyid Saunders, Terrance Rogers, Saleem Thomas, Jeshran Gayle), which was first at 3:22.04; Bensalem (Jaiden Ventour, Justin Johnson, Jared O’Connell, Dabi Chanez), which was runner-up at 3:22.79; and Hatboro-Horsham (Caleb Ryu, Matthew Lenehan, Michael Cunningham, Josh Luke), which took third at 3:26.15.

In the High School Boys' 4x400 Philadelphia Area final, Central Bucks West (3:22.72) finished third behind a pair of South Jersey powerhouses – Willingboro (3:21.59) and Deptford (3:22.34). Truman was a close fourth at 3:23.20 and Bensalem placed sixth at 3:25.02.

Truman also turned in strong performances in the High School Boys’ 4x100. The Tigers’ foursome of James Koliyah, Sayyid Saunders, Badr Fask, and Jeshran Gayle won its heat with a time of 43.00 and qualified for the High School Boys’ 4x100 Northeast.

In the Northeast finals event on Saturday, Truman clocked a 41.59 and was runner-up behind Uniondale (NY), which crossed first with an identical time of 41.59. Uniondale actually crossed three one-thousand of a second faster.

Central Bucks West, one of the best teams in District One in distance events, qualified for the High School Boys’ Distance Medley Championship of America.

In the highly competitive race at Franklin Field, the Bucks’ quartet of Ben Bunch, Luke Fehrman, Jake Claricurzio, and Brian Baker finished ninth at 10:21.14. C.B. West was the only Pennsylvania team to place in the Top 10. Hopewell Valley (Pennington, NJ) won the race with an amazing time of 9:57.77 – a time fast enough to break a 17-year old Penn Relays record.