Ridge Leads 3 NJ Teams Into C of A 4x800 At Penn Relays


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PHILADELPHIA-- The Ridge (NJ) boys 4x800-meter relay squad kept their eye on the clock before they took the track on Friday to run its qualifying heat at the 126th Penn Relays at Franklin Field.

They wanted to know approximately what kind of time they would need to run to secure a spot in the 12-team Championships of American race, scheduled for Saturday at 4:50 p.m. 

"We knew that if we just broke eight minutes we would advance,'' said Ridge senior anchor Jackson Barna. "So that's what were aiming for.''

Ridge, who ran 7:42.89 to win the New Balance National Indoor title in the 4x800, did exactly what it needed to do by winning the final heat in 7:59.23 to advance as the sixth fastest qualifier. Jamaica College, the huge favorite after running 7:24.30 at the Gibson McCook Relays earlier this season, ran a very comfortable 7:53.41 to earn the top seed in the final.

Ridge is one of three NJ teams to earn a berth in the C of A race. Westfield, with a huge 1:53.87 from Charlie Stock, won its heat in 7:59.45, and Chatham ran 8:01.45. This will be first time Westfield runs in the 4x800 C of A race since 1997 when the great Matt Elmuccio anchored, and Chatham will be making its C of A debut. 

The splits for Ridge were 2:02.14 for Andrew McCabe, 2:00.57 for James Kisker, 1;59.05 for Patrick Doran, and 1:57.48 for the Georgetown-bound Barna.

The fastest time by an American team was clocked by West Springfield (VA), which finished second to top COA qualifier Jamaica College (7:53.41) in 7:57.05.

Barna was in fourth place and about 25 meters behind the leader when he got the baton, but blasted his way to the front after a 56.9 first 400.  

"I wanted to make sure we got the win to secure a spot in the final,'' said Barna. "All the times were slower today, but we know that will change tomorrow for all the teams, and we will be ready.''

Ridge, who broke the national record in the DMR indoors when they finished first in 9:53.40, passed up a chance to try win the DMR wheel here, and instead opted to target a really fast time while chasing Jamaica College.

"We felt like this is the only chance we'd get to run against the Jamaicans, so we wanted to challenge ourselves and race against the best team there is,'' said Barna.  "We know how great they are, and they will force us to run a very fast time, which is why we chose this race over the DMR. We proved ourselves in the DMR indoors and will that again at nationals later this season. We are looking forward to trying to go as far under 7:40 as we can tomorrow.''   

McCabe said he's confident that he and his teammates will rise to the occasion.  

"They are obviously know they are faster than us and we are the underdog, but we always seem to find a way to run our best when it matters the most,'' said McCabe. "Indoors, Union Catholic was faster than us going into the DMR at nationals, and we all came up with our best races and got the win. So we feel like can rise to the occasion and come up with a great race tomorrow. We are running to try to win. You never know what can happen. That's why you the race.''