Although Victoria Vanriele came up just short in a valiant attempt to break her own meet record in the four-lapper, the Governor Livingston junior still added to her remarkable legacy by winning her third straight title at Sunday's NJSIAA Meet of Champions at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
Vanriele, who set the record of 2:08.81 last year, crossed the line in a US#7 2:09.18, the second fastest time in meet history, to become just the third girl to ever win three straight indoor M of C in the 800. Gizelle Harris of Shabazz did it from 1984-86, and Kathleen Trotter of Red Bank did the 3-peat from 2001-03.
Vanriele, who is a perfect five for five M of C 800 races in her career (she has also won 2 outdoors), led a 1-2-3 sweep for Union County. Junior Leena Morant of Union Catholic was second with an indoor PR, NJ#3 and school record 2:13.08, and sophomore Katie Hamilton of Westfield was third out of an unseeded heat with a PR and NJ#6 2:16.26!!!
Vanriele can become the first four-time champ in the 800 next year.
"I was hoping to break my record, but I am happy to come out and win this for the third straight time,'' said Vanriele, who went out very fast with a 61.7 first 400.
Considering what Vanriele did on Saturday, it's amazing that she came as close to her record as she did. Just about 16 hours prior to her race on Sunday, Vanriele raced against a field filled with professional runners in the trials of the 600m at the USATF National Championships at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island. Vanriele ran 1:30.36, tied with the great Ajee' Wilson of Neptune for No. 3 on NJ's all-time list.
"The race yesterday wasn't on my schedule at the beginning of the season, but after I qualified I saw it as a great opportunity and great experience for me to be in a race with runners at that level,'' said Vanriele. Maybe that had an effect on my race today. I always planned to run here at the Meet of Champions, and hopefully I can come back next year and win for the fourth straight time.''
A couple weeks ago, Jerika Lufrano wasn't even thinking about having a shot at being a Meet of Champions winner.
But that all changed last Tuesday, when Lufrano blasted a 4:54.68 anchor split for Union Catholic to bring the Vikings across the line first in the distance medley relay in a US#1 11:58.38 at the Eastern States Championships at the NY Armory.
That was the first time Lufrano ever broke 5 minutes.
"That race changed everything for me,'' said Lufrano. "It gave me so much more confidence and made me feel like I did have a chance when I ran against the best in the state.''
Lufrano, a senior, took that confidence to the line with her at Sunday's Meet of Champions and executed her race plan to perfection when she won the 1,600 in a personal best and school record and NJ#5 4:59.26. Freshman Camryn Wennersten of Ridgewood was second in 4:59.73.
Lufrano threw her arms up in the air when she crossed the line and flashed a huge smile.
"This means everything to me, my teammates, my friends, and my family,'' said Lufrano, who also led off UC's runner-up 4x800 relay team with a 2:21.4 carry.(9:30.45). "I worked really hard for this my whole career and I'm just so happy right now.''
Lufrano and Wennersten broke away from the pack with three laps to go, and then Lufrano made a big push with 1,000 to go. Wennersten stayed right on Lufrano's heels, but Lufrano hit the gas again with 150 meters left to open enough of a gap to push her to the victory.
Lufrano has come a long way in a year. Last year she was 16th in this race, and last spring she was seventh at the outdoor M of C in the 3,200.
What's the difference between her from last year to this year?
"Just lots of hard work, lots of mileage, and lots of motivation,'' said Lufrano. "And having confidence in yourself.''
Julia Trethaway threw her arms in the air as she crossed the finish line.
The junior at West Morris had just finished off one of the greatest performances in meet history by winning the 3,200 in a red hot 10:32.55 at Sunday's Meet of Champions. Defending champion Nicole Vanasse of Pingry rallied over the final lap to get second in 10:39.93.
Trethaway's 10:32.55 is NJ#1 and US#10 this season, and is No. 12 in state history, and No. 5 in meet history.
"This means so much to me,'' said Trethaway. "I've worked so hard to win a race like this. It so hard to describe what it's like to win a Meet of Champions title. I have always dreamed of this.''
Trethaway controlled the race the whole way.
She went out very fast, hitting 800 in 2:32 and 1,600 in 5:12 as she built a big gap on the rest of the field.
"I wanted to go out fast and get the lead,'' said Trethaway. "There were a lot great runners in the race, so I tried to just get away and keep pushing myself the whole way and do whatever it takes."
Trethaway, who was 12th in the race last year and 10th at the outdoor M of C in the 1,600, has dropped her personal best by 25 seconds in the 3,200 since last spring.
"I did a lot of strength training and just worked really hard since last spring,'' said Trethaway. "And it's all paid of for me.''