SOMERSET HILLS, NJ - Bernards High Senior Abby Ferrara ran in her third Penn Relays last Thursday. Together with Mountaineer teammates Kate DeMarco, Lucia Guerrero and Charlotte Principal, she ran the 4 x 400 meter relay in the 121st running of the Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
"It's a huge honor to go to the Penn Relays," said Ferrara. "Bernards has a long history at the Penn Relays. The plaques from the times that Bernards has won at Penn are above the Lower Gym. It's great to be part of that history."
Bernards runners are accustomed to big meets, but as far as track and field venues go, there is no bigger than Franklin Field. It is the home field for the University of Pennsylvania and has a seating capacity of 52,958.
"In most of our races, we are running for personal records or to win the race, but the coaches have taught us that you don't go to Penn Relays for the records, you go there for the experience," continued Ferrara. "The crowd is enormous, and they're all making noise during the race."
Apparently runners don't go to the Penn Relays for the weather either. On Thursday, it was raining, which made warmups difficult. "It started raining when we got into the lineup," recounted Ferrara. "We were standing in the lineup for twenty minutes without our sweats on. We were soaked by the time the race began."
The race itself is very different from the other 4 x 400 races that the team runs. There were thirteen evenly-matched teams from three states. In regular season, in conference and county meets and in state meets, there are no more than six teams in the race, and teams run in marked lanes. On Thursday, the BHS team ran against 12 other teams in a "California Start," which means that after the start, runners could use any lane.
Ferrara noted that the handoffs were "terrifying" because the teams were not limited to lanes. Regardless, the Mountaineers handled all four handoffs well. The baton went from runner to runner without a hitch, and without hitting the ground. The 4 by 400 team finished eighth in their heat.
The 4 by 400 team wasn't the only Bernards relay team to compete on Thursday.
The girls 4 by 100 relay team ran earlier in the day. Charlotte Principal did double duty, running both in the 4 by 400 and the 4 by 100. The 4 by 100 meter relay team of Caroline Leanza, Emma Principal, Sophie Luik and Charlotte Principal ran against teams from across the Mid-Atlantic region, finishing at 54.24 seconds.
The Mountaineers will compete again on Tuesday in a regular season dual meet at Bound Brook High School.