There probably wasn't a team at the New Balance National Championships that experienced more of an emotional rollercoaster ride this weekend in Boston than the Seton Hall Prep 4x400-meter relay squad.
After blasting a NJ record and US No. 4 all-time 3:14.53 and crossing the finish line first to successfully defend their 4x400 title on Sunday, Seton Hall Prep seniors Nicholas DeVita, Russell Webb, Ryan Matulonis and Xavier Donaldson didn't get a chance to immediately celebrate their epic performance together.
That because just a few moments after the race, Seton Hall Prep was removed from the result board due to a disqualification for interference after the third leg for Montverde Academy of Florida crashed to the track after a collision with Matulonis, who stayed on his feet.
Seton Hall Prep assistant coach Steve Trembley said the ruling was protested, but the disqualification was upheld after the referee reviewed a video of the race.
"The referee said he agreed with the official, that our guy interfered with their runner,'' said Trembley. "So I said, what else can we can do? He said we could appeal his decision in writing and a jury of appeals would review the video.''
About 45 minutes after the race, Seton Hall Prep's frustration turned to jubilation when the jury of appeals overturned the DQ and Seton Hall Prep was reinstated as 4x400 champions.
"The jury of appeals came back with a 5-0 ruling that the runner from Montverde drifted out of lane 1 and made contact with Ryan, which caused him to fall,'' said Trembley. "It was such a relief. The feeling was just overwhelming.''
Seton Hall Prep's 3:14.53 broke the NJ record of 3:15.53 that was set by Union Catholic when it won the New Balance National title in 2014 with the great Taylor McLaughlin on the anchor.
Cuthbertson of North Carolina, who won the 11th of the 12 heats, wound up second overall in 3:16.27, and Pennsauken, in the final heat with Seton Hall Prep, finished third overall in 3:17.10. Toms River North was fourth in 3:17.19, a Shore Conference record and No. 13 in NJ history.
The victory by Seton Hall Prep was its second national title of the weekend (it won the SMR on Friday), and it avenged its 4x400 loss to Pennsauken at the Meet of Champions last Sunday at Ocean Breeze when Pennsauken won with a US No. 11 and NJ No. 4 all-time 3:15.83 and Seton Hall Prep was second in 3:16.72.
Seton Hall Prep's historic triumph was sparked by three clutch indoor PR's and a major switch in its order.
DeVita, who anchored at the Meet of Champions, led off with a 49.55 carry. Webb followed with a PR split of 49.51 as Seton Hall Prep remained in third-place in the four-team heat. Then the race started to really heat up when Matulonis, who led off last week, took the stick.
Matulonis cut into Montverde's 2.59 second lead and was making a move to take the lead when the collision occurred about 80 meters before the final hand-off. The fall ended any chance that Montverde, who came into the race with a US No. 1 time of 3:15.31, had of winning. Meanwhile, Matulonis went on to finish off his career best split of 47.84 to give Seton Hall Prep the lead. Donaldson, who ran a sizzling NJ No. 3 all-time 21.07 to place fifth in the 200 then put the finishing touches on the record-breaking victory with a 47.64 anchor carry.
"We wanted to have our big horses run at the end this time, so they could have more room to run,'' said Trembley. "Nick ran tough out of the leadoff spot, Russ ran his best race ever, Ryan brought us into the lead and Xavier did what a great anchor does, he closed it out.''
Trembley knew after the same four runners ran 3:18.76 to win the NB National 4x400 title last year at the NY Armory, that they had the potential to make history this year.
"I knew after these same four guys ran 3:18 to win last year that they were capable of coming back and breaking the state record and winning again,'' said Trembley. "They had the maturity, the experience, the toughness, and the cohesiveness that it takes to do something special.''
This may very well have been Seton Hall Prep's greatest indoor season ever, which is saying a lot because the program has been a state power for several decades.
The numbers and titles are just staggering.
Seton Hall Prep finished the season with two national titles, broke the state record in the 4x400, ran the No. 1 time in the country in both the 4x400 and sprint medley (its winning time on Friday of 3:27.42 is No. 4 all-time in NJ), and it captured the State Non-Public A Championship.
That's tough for any team to top!