Engels enters the home straight, still trailing Burcham. (Photo by Don Rich)
No lead is safe. No lead is safe, at least when it’s Edward Cheserek.
The St. Benedict NJ junior didn’t disappoint the fans gathered at Franklin Stadium Friday night for the 118th Penn Relays Carnival.
In one of the feature high school races of the day, the Championship of America Distance Medley Relay, Cheserek overcame a nearly nine-second deficit on the final leg to lead his team to victory with a combined time of 10 minutes, 7.76 seconds (US #2). The Gray Bees phenom anchored the winning quartet with a mile split of 4:06.20.
Cheserek trailed Christian Brothers Academy’s George Kelly NJ when he got the baton. He blitzed his first 400 in 57 seconds and was 2:01 at the half. Pulling within a few strides of Kelly at that point, Cheserek held that position until the final 250 meters when he bolted to the front and then held on for the win on the home stretch. Christian Brothers, the defending titlist, finished second at 10:08.96. LaSalle PA was third with a school record of 10:10.76.
Cheserek admitted he was just biding his time before making his decisive move for the win.
“I was aiming to stay with (Kelly) for the third lap and was aiming to kick with him (the last lap),” he said. ““I was thinking I have to pick it up and stay with the (leader). I was thinking I want to kick the last 300 meters.”
St. Benedict’s performance was among several highlights during Day Two of the high school competition.
The much-anticipated COA mile went to North Carolina’s Craig Engels. The senior from Ronald Reagan High, who captured the junior mile at the New Balance Indoor Games in Boston this past February, finished with a time of 4:09.42. Jacob Burcham of Cabel Midland WV was second at 4:09.49.
Burcham, the top seed with a 4:07 best, did the pace-setting from the gun and held as much as a five-second lead for most of the race.
Engels gradually reeled in Burcham the last 400 and edged past Burcham with less than 25-meters left.
Ben Malone of Pascack Valley NJ was third with a time of 4:12.24. Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland PA was fourth, running 4:12.74.
“I never felt like I had it,” Engels said. “I thought that Jacob had it until the last one meter and then I was so overjoyed.”
For Engels, it was his second race of the day. Earlier in the morning, he coasted to a 1:56 on his team’s 4x800 relay.
“I was confident coming into (to the mile), but we didn’t run a good 4x800 so my confidence was a little off,” he admitted. “But I decided to go out there and race my own race.”
Billy Stanley, a senior from South Park PA, had the best day of his career, winning the COA javelin title with a meet record of 223-3. Stanley, who beat his PB of 221-3 set at Mount Lebanon on April 17, had all six of his throws surpass 200 feet.
“I’ve had a series like that, but not as good as I did today,” he said. “Everything just felt right today.”
Stanley, who is heading to Ohio State in the fall, took the pressure off himself quickly with his winning distance coming on his initial throw.
“It felt great and then I could just concentrate on getting better,” said Stanley, whose sixth-best effort of 203-3 still beat second-place finisher David Reinhardt of Bradford PA (201-3). “I think I can get 230 (feet) by the end of the year.”
The South Park standout eclipsed the old mark of 220-3 by Justin Shirk of Central Dauphin PA.
After seven straight years of dominance by Jamaica in the COA 4x100, Long Beach Poly CA, made it two in a row for the Americans with an exciting, down-to-the-wire victory. The quartet of Tori Myers, Traci Hicks, Diamond Thomsas and Ariana Washington cruised to a time of 46.35. Herbert Morris of Jamaica was second at 46.49.
Washington secured the title with a blistering final leg, passing the Jamaican’s anchor with barely 10 meters remaining.
“I had no thoughts whatsoever,” she said. “I just went. I got the baton and knew what I had to do. I just had to catch people.”
Long Beach was one of just three U.S. squads among the eight teams. The remaining five were from Jamaica. Edwin Allen of Jamaica was third at 46.55 and North Carolina’s Wakefield took fourth in 46.86.
“We had a lot of pressure coming here,” said Hicks, who ran the second leg. “It’s like the pros, almost – Americans versus Jamaicans. It feels good. It feels like you’re a pro and all the weight is on your shoulders…It was pretty intense out there.”
Fayetteville-Manlius NY, the No. 1 American squad, earned the COA 4x800 crown by finishing second with a time of 9:04.12. Top-seeded and defending titlist Edwin Allen of Jamaica copped the overall title with an 8:52.97 clocking.
“It was pretty tough,” said F-M runner Jillian Fanning. “We knew what we were up against, a powerhouse. We were just going to give it our all.”
“We came out here ready to give it everything we had,” fellow teammate Katie Sischo said. “The competition was fierce and everyone out here worked hard to be here. We are no exception. We knew it was going to be hard. We just had to keep pushing it and give it everything we had.”
Edwin Allen held an 11-second advantage over the rest of the field after the first two legs with F-M, Strath Haven PA, and Jamaican teams’ Holmwood Tech and Spalding battling together in the chase group.
F-M took over sole possession of second place with less than two laps remaining, thanks to a quick 2:12.7 anchor leg by Kate Brislin. The remaining legs and times for the New Balance Indoor National champions were Heather Martin (2:18.5), Sischo (2:15.8) and Fanning (2:17.2).
Fayetteville-Manlius’s time was less than a second from its winning 9:04.21 effort at the national meet, but the quartet was not overly pleased. Considering it’s just starting its base training for the season and the Jamaican’s are at the peak of their spring season, F-M knows that its better days are ahead.
“We got time a little bit,” Martin said. “Then we’ll start revamping it in time for the championship season."
In the COA discus, Sam Mattis of East Brunswich NJ, won convincingly with a throw of 211-11. Pennsylvania’s Kyle Long of Landisville was second at 193-4. Mattis placed second last year at 201-2.
Bareme Days Jr. of Bridgton NJ., who won the Eastern States Indoor Championships in February with a PB of 70-8, copped the shot put. He was slightly under that mark with an outdoor-best of 68-6.
Jamaica posted a 1-2-3 sweep with Edwin Allen taking the crown with a fine 3:42.06 clocking. Holmwood placed second at 3:43.93 and defending titlist Vere Tech was third at 3:45.23.
Junipero Serra CA earned gold watches for taking the COA championship, placing fourth in 3:46.43.
Thomas Madden of Skyline VA took the 3,000 with an impressive time of 8:25.54. Dustin Wilson of Chestnut Hill PA was the runner-up with a time of 8:30.18.
“It was just amazing to be here,” Madden said. “I felt confident. I have been having good training and races and have been healthy. I am just so thankful to be here right now.”