UC And Rumson-Fair Haven Qualify For Penn Relays 4x800m COA

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Defending champion Union Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven pushed each other to the two fastest times in qualifying round of the girls 4x800-meter relay to advance to the Championship of America final on Thursday morning when the 128th Penn Relays kicked off at historic Franklin Field.

Running together in the second of the four qualifying heats, Union Catholic opened up a big gap on the third leg on the way to finishing first in a very comfortable 9:02.27, and Rumson closed fast to secure second in 9:04.48, which destroyed its school record.

Union Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven, who both made the final here last year, will run in the 12-team C of A final on Friday at 6:15 p.m.

Edwin Allen of Jamaica was the next fastest team to make the final with a 9:04.67, and Padua of Delaware, who ran a US No. 1 time of 8:49.86 indoors and won the New Balance National title last month in the 4x800, ran 9:09.06 to advance.   

UC's foursome consisted of sophomore Jimmiea King (2:17.05), senior Peyton Hollis (2:14.01), freshman Sophia Thompson (2:16.53), and freshman Paige Sheppard (2:14.69). King and Hollis, the Most Outstanding Relay Performer of the meet last year, both ran on UC's winning team last year that ran a US No. 2 all-time and NJ record 8:44.98!! 

The Vikings are going into Friday's final with a lot of confidence and feel they can make a run at the national record of 8:43.12 set at the 2008 Penn Relays by Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland.   

"Winning is always the goal, but getting that record after being so close last year would mean a lot to us and I feel we have a shot at it if we all run the way we are capable of,'' said Hollis.

King said even though UC is the defending champion, she feels they have something to prove in the final.

"There are people doubting us, so we have a lot of motivation to go out there and win again,'' said King. "We have two new (legs) this year who are freshmen and they have stepped up big for us and we are confident we can get it done tomorrow.''    

Rumson, 11th in last year's C of A 4x800 C of A, chopped a whopping 18 seconds off its school record of :22 that was set in 2018. The lineup for the Bulldogs consisted of junior Izzy Rodriguez (2:15.31), junior Hannah Nitka (2:23.04), junior Reese Reynolds Malone (2:13.04), and junior Clemmie Lilley (2:13.09). Rodriguez, who ran through a hip injury last spring, and Lilley both ran on Rumson's squad here last year.  

Lilley, the NJ Indoor Meet of Champions winner in the 800, was running her first race of tis season.

"My ankle was really swollen, not from a new injury or anything, but something that came from when I broke my leg in 2019,'' said Lilley. "But I cross-trained for a whole and got back running a couple weeks ago. I felt great out there and can't wait to run in the 4x400 later today and in the final tomorrow.''

Lilley feels Rumson can make a run at winning the prestigious wheel, which is awarded to each Championship of America winner.    

"Nothing is out of the picture,'' said Lilley. "We all had a lot left after the race, so we think we can run much faster in the final, and be in contention to win'' said Lilley.

How did Rumson drop so much time?

One big reason is that Reynolds Malone has dropped her PR from 2:24.01 last spring to 2:10.61 this season!!   


"I've been training with her,'' Reynolds Malone said while pointing to Lilley. "It's impossible not to get faster running with Clemmie.''