NEW YORK, NY -- The Union Catholic girls, one of the top programs in the country in recent years, once again flexed its superior firepower by lighting up the track with one sizzling victory and a total of three All-American finishes at the New Balance Indoor National Championships that concluded on Sunday at the New Balance Track and Field Center.
The Vikings got things rolling on Friday night when the distance medley team placed fifth in 11:53.31, which is No. 7 in state history and shattered the school and Union County record of 11:59.38 that UC ran to finish first at the Eastern States Championships last month.
Then on Saturday, UC blew up the track with one of the greatest performances in New Jersey history in fhe sprint medley relay when the Vikings ran a red hot 3:58.46 to finish first. That time is No. 2 in N.J. indoor history, and No. 18 in U.S. history. The only N.J. girls team to run faster indoors than UC is Columbia, which ran 3:57.19 to win the 2014 New Balance National Indoor title.
UC capped off its remarkable relay show on Sunday when the 4x400 squad burned a 3:47.31 to place fifth to give the Vikings its third All-American finish. The top six finishers in each event earned All-American. The Vikings nearly had a fourth All-American finish in the shuttle hurdles, but an unfortunate disqualification call nullified its All-American status.
The Vikings also placed ninth in the 4x800 in 9:19.05, which came without its top half miler, junior Leena Morant. Morant anchored the SMR instead.
UC Coach Mike McCabe, who received spectacular triples from Morant and junior Chi Chi Nkulume, was very excited about how his team performed.
"The SMR is the first national title for the girls without Sydney (McLaughlin, the 2016 US Olympian), so that's pretty big,'' said McCabe. "'And our DMR was great, our 4x400 had great splits. We're probably the most comprehensive relay team in the country from shuttles up to the DMR. It was a great weekend. We showed the power and the depth that we have .''
McCabe had a tough decision between loading up his SMR or the 4x800. The 4x800 had the No. 1 time in the nation heading into the meet (9:07.44)
"A lot of the decision to go SMR came from us not winning it last spring,'' said Coach McCabe, referring to the New Balance Nationals last June when UC lost the lead late in the SMR.
Junior Sydney Tucker put UC ahead to stay with a 25.1 leadoff leg. Northeastern-bound senior Khamil Evans increased the lead with a 25.2 200 carry. Nkulume then blasted a 56.04 400 leg, and Morant put the finishing touches on the national championship when she dropped a very fast 2:12.01 anchor to put the race away.
In the DMR on Friday, Morant led off for UC with a 3:40.77 1,200 leg. Nkulume followed with a 57.43 400, sophomore Morgan Williams then split 2:17.13, and LaSalle-bound senior Jerika Lufrano anchored in 4:57.99. The distance medley was won by North Rockland of New York in 11:41.84. The great Katelyn Tuohy, who owns several national records, including the mile outdoors, came from way back on the anchor leg with a 4:41.93 split to rally North Rockland to the victory.
In Sunday's 4x400, Evans led off with 58.35, Nkulume blasted a 55.32, Tucker followed with a 58.01, and Morant cranked out a 55.61 anchor carry to bring the Vikings across the line in fifth place to cap off the unforgettable weekend.