The Metuchen High School boys track team earned a medal in the 4×400 at the Penn Relays with a fifth-place finish.
It took 25 years, but consider it topped. The Bulldogs’ girls distance medley placed second in Thursday’s Championship of America, posting an epic effort in one of the Penn Relays’ marquee events.
Caroline Schleif, Nelagh Matthews, Sara Lignell and Molly Malague clocked , breaking the Middlesex County record and finishing behind only New York juggernaut Saratoga Springs ().
Schleif set the tone with a monster lead leg, covering 1200 meters in 3:34 to hand off in first place. Matthews (1:01.9 400) and Lignell (2:24 800) held the fort before Malague took it home with a 4:56 anchor 1600.
“Very exciting atmosphere, energetic,” Schleif said. “It’s an atmosphere where you run your fastest time, and that’s what we came out to do today.”
Although it happened before they were born, these Bulldogs were well aware of the legend of 1997. That Metuchen 4×400, anchored by two-time state champion Tyrone Ross, wound up winning the national title later that spring. Metuchen’s longtime track coaches Marty and Kelli Holleran told that story a few times through the years.
“Nothing every matches Tyrone, according to the Hollerans,” Malague said with a laugh. “We’re trying to our best to live up to that.”
This ‘s first qualification for the distance medley at Penn. It was all new to these girls, especially after the pandemic scuttled the meet the past two years.
“We wanted to make it one for the record books,” Schleif said. “We wanted to leave it all on the track. That’s what we did.”
Gold watch for South Brunswick’s Potts
The seeds for Potts’ victory in the high jump were planted early Friday morning, when South Brunswick’s sizable contingent staked out a spot in the stands along the far turn – and within shouting distance of the high jump pit.
As soon as Potts cleared 6-foot-6, his top height of the day, he leapt up from the mat and pointed to the Vikings who rooted him on.
Only Jamaica’s Dejone Raymond jumped higher, clearing 6-8. Potts broke a tie for second because he was clean through four attempts – he cleared 6-2, 6-4, 6-5 and 6-6 without a miss.
“The opportunity to be here after (the meet was canceled) the last two years was truly a blessing,” he said. “Competing out there, there was huge pressure, but the pressure didn’t get to me.”
His personal best is 6-9, but windy conditions knocked everyone down a peg. In the end, he became South Brunswick’s highest finisher at Penn since the great Yemi Ayeni won the boys discus in 2005.
‘Very few people have these, so it’s amazing,” Potts said. “To be able to say I jumped at Penn Relays and got a gold watch, it’s an honor.”
He’s being recruited by a number of college track programs, including Baylor. This will only raise his profile, but Potts was thinking along other lines.
“It’s a motivation for not only myself, but for younger athletes, to keep striving up,” he said. “For my family even, because I have two younger siblings (ages 12 and 9).
As South Brunswick coach Wilfredo Rivera put it: “That watch, it’s a good symbolic thing for all his hard work.”
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East Brunswick’s James Sparrow, Christopher Serrao, Aiden Baldelli and Jayden Phillip blazed to a clocking in the 4×100. That was 12th-fastest among 477 entrants and fourth-fastest among American quartets. The Bears advanced to the International Final on Saturday, and that wound up being one heck of a day for the program.