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girls relays | 08-09 most outstanding performers

This is the ninth of a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2008-09. The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series, which precedes the DyeStat Athlete of the Year awards, includes top honors for boys and girls distances, sprints/hurdles, jumps, throws, relays, and multi-events. Selections are made by DyeStat editors and are based a combination of multiple major victories/honors won and performances on all-time and yearly lists. Performances from outdoor track, indoor track, and cross-country are taken into account..

Text by SteveU - Photos by Donna Dye

Eleanor Roosevelt MD

The perennial relay powerhouse that is Eleanor Roosevelt MD was in for some major changes in 2009.  First, there was a major coaching change, with Greg Johnson taking over for the departed Desmond Dunham.  Second, the combination of Dunham’s departure, the graduation of Tasha Stanley, and other factors meant Roosevelt was simply not a superpower any more in what was the upper level of their championship range – the 4x800 and DMR.  Third, the enrollment of Georgia sprinter Aurieyall Scott and maturation/leadership of Doris Anyanwu and Afia Charles meant Roosevelt was a better short sprint relay school than it had ever been.

The revelation of the team’s short relay strength wouldn’t fully become apparent until outdoors, but indoor went well, anyway.  Early, at Virginia Tech, Roosevelt blasted a 1:38.27 4x2 – which would be topped only by themselves the rest of the winter – but was badly beaten in the 4x4.  Two weeks later, though, they would roll to US#1 clockings of 1:38.15 and 3:41.75 (#3 all-time) at New Balance Collegiate, which would hold up as national leaders.  At NIN, though there were no seasonal PRs on the Boston track, they swept the 4x2, 4x4, and 1600 SMR.

Outdoors, the show began early, at the Florida Relays, where the new 4x1 was revealed in all its splendor: A US#1 45.38 – plus a 3:41.40 4x4.  At Arcadia, the 4x1 wasn’t quite as fast, but they blasted a 1:36.55 4x2 and 3:40.68 4x4.  The 4x2 held up as US#1 until NON, while they never topped the 4x4 mark, which wound up US#2.  Then came Penn, where Roosevelt has made its legend, and the unthinkable happened.  The 4x4 girls were flat in the prelims and missed the final, unable to defending their two consecutive titles.  The 4x1 made it in, though, and ran a super US#1 45.24 for 2nd. 

Finally, NON saw Roosevelt – or the Blazin Raiders, as they are known in national meets – go two for three.  They claimed the 4x1 (45.36) and 4x2 (new US#1 1:36.54), harnessing the power of Scott, Charles, Abidemi Adenikinju, and Jenea McCammon.  But they suffered a close loss in the 4x4 (3:42.82), not getting the legs they needed save for Scott’s stunning 52.69 anchor.  Scott and Charles will return next season to lead the way again.

Southern Regional NJ

With superstar Jillian Smith in her final season, plus a strong supporting cast led by talented and steadily improving Chelsea Cox, Southern Regional NJ had a chance for yet another super year in the 4x800 and DMR.  While it wasn’t a perfect campaign, it was pretty darn close.

Their first big relay effort indoors was a 9:07.67 4x800 at the New Balance Games, US#1 at the time, and with Smith anchoring in 2:05.4.  At Eastern States, they weren’t quite as fast on their 4x8, but ran a then-US#1 11:48.61, with Smith’s 4:48.5 1600.  Then at NIN (known as Hammer TC at national meets), they had a truly legendary weekend, starting with an 11.41.12 DMR Saturday – US#1 and #3 all-time US – which featured Cox (3:36.0), Michele Simmons (61.0), Erin Horleman (2:17.0), and Smith (4:44.0).  The next day then went #2 all-time for the 4x8 with 8:54.11, with Kate Bergin and Erin Horleman starting with 2:22.7 and 2:16.2, Cox making a record and victory realistic with a ridiculous 2:08.7, and Smith finishing in 2:05.0.

The next goal for this group is always Penn and the DMR, but they didn’t have the legs they had at NIN, falling too far behind early and getting 2nd with 11:58.74.  At Nike Outdoor, though, they elected to just go with the 4x8 and were back to NIN form and better.  Elissa Knight began with 2:22.26, followed by Horleman 2:16.41, Cox 2:09.82, and Smith 2:04.31.  The resulting 8:52.80 was #6 all-time – and marked the conclusion of a four-year stretch that could be called the Tauro-Smith era, where the school was in the running for national relay titles and records every time they toed the line.

Newton South MA

It became clear early on in 2008-09 that Coach Steve McChesney had a mix of distance and middle-distance talent, of senior leaders and youngsters, that might produce some real relay magic.  With another national power right in their backyard – Lincoln-Sudbury – they would have competition all year long and be pushed just to be the best in their state, let alone the nation.  But in the end, it would’ve been hard to hope for much more.

Indoors, they suffered a pair of tough 4x8 losses to L-S, but at New Englands – with their rivals on the sidelines – they suddenly exploded to 9:04.13, US#1 at the time.  Though they also had a great DMR, at NIN they decided to go with the 4x1 Mile and 4x8 combo.  It turned out to be a great call, as the longer race gave “Newton Centre Athletics” a national title in 20:25.90 (US#2 this year, #7 all-time), thanks to Kelsey Karys (5:08.0), Kathy O’Keefe (5:05.0), Melanie Fineman (5:07.0) and Bridget Dahlberg (5:05.0).  The 4x8, with the same lineup except Juliet Ryan-Davis for Karys, went 8:58.63 (US#2 this year, #3 all-time) for 2nd behind Southern Regional. 

Outdoors, Newton South wound up focusing on getting ready for the NON 4x1 Mile, hoping to make it a in/out sweep, and the DMR.  They were able to get a nice tuneup for the longer race with a then-US#1 20:28.14 4x1600 at their state relay meet in May.  At NON, it was again Karys, O’Keefe, Fineman, and Dahlberg for the 4x1 Mile win in 20:23.20 (US#1 this year, #9 all-time), with Karys again getting a big lead at the start with 5:00.14.  They were 4th in the DMR at 11:53.35.

Miami Northwestern FL

With the talent pool that Miami Northwestern had, you knew that it was only a matter of time before they found the right combo and the right relay to make their mark.  That talent included combo hurdler Brianna Rollins – who hit 13.83 100H, 42.56 300H, and a NON-winning 1:00.58 for 400H – as well as 2:09.00 800 runner Skyler Wallen, and 25.41/55.56 sprinter Brittney Pringley.  All three were seniors and wanted to go out with a bang.  A lot of Florida schools, with their early state meet, don’t keep training for NON, but this school made the sacrifice – and it paid off.

Interestingly, Northwestern’s relays didn’t really run like world-beaters during the regular season.  They had a 46.94 4x100, 1:40.41 4x200, 3:45.15 4x400, and 9:17.45 4x800.  They didn’t win state in any of those events, with the 4x4 taking 3rd in a tough 4A race behind other national powers.

Of course, it would be revealed at NON that the best relay for this group was really the 1600 sprint medley, where the diversity of talents could really be utilized.  In Greensboro, the aforementioned trio combined with soph Shannon Spence for a US#1 3:55.58, which made them #13 all-time.  Wallen anchored in 2:10.97. 

That would have made a nice meet, but Northwestern wasn’t done.  With jr Sandy Jean joining Rollins, Pringley, and Wallen, they produced a 4x400 that crushed their previous best by more than two seconds.  With steady 55+ splits, the first three gave Wallen a lead of more than two seconds.  The Blazin Raiders and Bethel both had torrid anchors trying to catch her, but Wallen hung on and the team hit an upset-winning US#3 3:42.36.
Honorable Mention

Collins Hill GA – With a group led by star miler Amanda Winslow, Collins Hill GA knew it had the horses to challenge for the win in any of the three distance relays at NON.  They had run a 9:10 4x8 in 2008 for 3rd at NON; in 2009, they had run 11:59.44 DMR and 21:01.45 4x1600, and knew they could go faster.  Finally, it was resolved that Winslow would run the 2M Friday, and the team would go for the DMR win Saturday.  Nicky Akande, Symone Glover, and Sydney Williams got Collins Hill out with 3:43.61, 55.77, and 2:18.39, leaving the squad 3rd, more than seven seconds back.  But no one had an anchor like Winslow, who powered through in 4:45.18 for the win and a US#1 11:42.94.

Withrow OH – Withrow came in to NON with a group sprint relayers that had done well the year before, but was still relatively unheralded.  But with a chip on their shoulders from a DQ at the Ohio state meet, they were determined to show they were capable of winning at several distances.  In the 4x1 and 4x2, they gave the Blazin Raiders all they could handle, taking 2nds in US#5 45.58 and US#3 1:37.00.  In the 800 SMR, though, they were the best, as Genesis Calhoun, Brittany Smith, Jonnique Lawrence, and Jade Clingman combined for 1:41.73, US#1 this year and #3 all-time.  They added a 4th in the 4x400 in 3:45.62.

Burnt Hills NY – The New York school has built an XC and distance powerhouse in recent years and become well-equipped to compete for national titles in the longest relays, especially the 4x1 Mile.  In 2008, they won the NSIC 4x1 Mile with the #3 time ever and were back for more in 2009, winning the same in a US#1 20:23.06 behind Sam Roecker, Molly Pezzulo, Meaghan Gregory, and Rachael Cyrus.  They made it a double with an 11:52.91 DMR win.  They weren’t quite as successful at NON, taking 2nd in the 4x1 Mile (20:37.09), and 3rd in the DMR (11:53.26).

Benjamin Cardozo NY – There was no question the New York school had the talent to battle Eleanor Roosevelt for the top 4x400 mark in the nation this year, with stars Chamique and Claudia Francis leading the long sprint/800 talent.  They were 2nd with a US#2 to Roosevelt at NB Collegiate Indoors, with 3:45.36, then won NSIC with 3:46.13.  Outdoors, Cardozo didn’t clash with Roosevelt at Penn (neither made the final) or NON, but it wound up being at the Reebok Grand Prix that they would make their biggest statement.  With the quartet of Antyana Johnson 55.8, Claudia Francis 55.0, Tessa West 54.6, and Chamique Francis 54.5, then hit a winning 3:39.96, the only sub-3:40 of the year in the U.S.

Shenendehowa NY – The way Shen placed at each of the national meets in the distance relays merits them a spot here.  Indoors, they served notice they would be a top contender with a 11:51.28 for 2nd in the Eastern States DMR.  At NIN, with the team of Alex Burtnick, Kathleen Klein, Danika Simonson and Lizzie Predmore, they were 2nd in the DMR at 11:46.05, good for US#2 this year and #7 all-time.  They were also 6th in the 4x1 Mile and 5th in the 4x800.  At Penn, they took 3rd in the DMR.  Back at the 4x8, Shen ripped a 9:01.00 at the NY state meet, which held up for US#3 for the year.  For NON, however, they went for the 4x1 mile and DMR, taking 3rd in the 4x1 mile (20:38.01) and 2nd in the DMR (11:48.02).

Dallas Skyline TX – Skyline didn’t compete indoors, or get to NON outdoors, but what they did inside of Texas in the sprint relays earned them recognition as one of the best in the country.  With speed queens Tiffany Hines and Candace Jackson, it was clear the traditional power would be a terror in the short relays and that’s what happened.  At the Texas Relays, they smoked winning times of 46.04 for the 4x1 and 1:37.22 for the 4x2.  They were also 4th in a photo finish 4x4 in 3:46.24.  Several weeks later at 5A state, they netted the nation’s #2 times for the year at both the 4x1 (45.38) and 4x2 (1:36.72), just missing Eleanor Roosevelt’s US leaders.  They were also 2nd at the 4x4 in 3:47.41.

Year-End Awards Index