The Berkeley High girls sprint relay team’s weekend trip to Philadelphia for the prestigious Penn Relays was plenty educational. But even in the heart of American Revolutionary history, with the city’s abundance of historical landmarks, it was the actual track meet that proved to be most enlightening.
Thus far unchallenged in California, the BHS girls 4x100 and 4x400 teams expected the competition at Penn to be fierce. But with some 40,000 screaming fans in attendance, the meet would be somewhat of a rude awakening, even for the road-reputed ’Jackets.
“It was a learning experience – definitely the best meet I’ve ever been to, as far as competition,” BHS coach Darrell Hampton said about the nationally recognized meet. “(Our girls) got a chance to see what the East Coast has to offer. I can’t see them being intimidated by a state meet anymore.”
Doomed by dropped batons in both relay races, the BHS girls went from first to eighth place in both events – to the disappointment of Hampton, who expected to compete for the top spot with clean handoffs. Aisha Margain, Raqueta Margain, T’carra Penick and Katrina Keith posted a 3:50.23 time in the 4x400, while Aisha Margain, Penick, Keith and Simone Brooks combined for a 47.42 in the 4x100. Both races were won by Jamaican teams, with St. Jago taking the 400 crown with a 3:42.37, and Vere Tech pacing the 100 event at 45.44.
Among the distractions affecting the BHS squads was the “Whoop-whoop Bird,” a traditional Penn Relays crowd chant used to mockingly alert a runner that she is being passed. The chant, which features thousands of people yelling “Whoop-whoop” in unison, was just one of the many intimidating aspects, according to the BHS coach.
“There were 42,000 in the stands – the intimacy of the stadium just grabs you,” Hampton said. “We really gave the events away. We were the top U.S. team, easy, and we were running with the Jamaicans.”
Because both relay times were slowed by handoffs to Keith, Hampton expects to change her position from third to first for future races, so she will not be required to receive a handoff. This weekend, both relay teams are slated to participate either in the East Bay Athletic League Championships, hosted by Foothill, or at the Sacramento Meet of Champions – a more prestigious, non-league event. Whichever the squad chooses, Hampton contends that the weekend will be important in fine-tuning the races for the state trials, later this month.
“As soon as we got off the plane, we started thinking about (this weekend),” Hampton said. “I know we’re going to have to work through some things before the state trials, We’ll just get through as fast as possible.”
The Track Panthers
While the ’Jackets were enjoying the City of Brotherly Love, the St. Mary’s boys’ and girls’ track teams were pulling double-duty – traveling to Lafayette’s Acalanes Invitational on Friday before competing in the Top-8 Invitational, hosted by James Logan High, on Saturday.
Kamaiya Warren and Bridget Duffy anchored a brilliant performance by the Panthers’ girls squad at Logan, with Warren winning the discus and taking second in the shotput, and Duffy taking the 800m crown. Warren, whose throws rank among the state’s best in both events, was named Female Field Event Athlete of the Meet.
Rounding out the girls’ highlights were Danielle Stokes’ second-place finish in the 100m hurdles (14.58) and Tiffany Johnson’s third-place marks in the 100m and 200m sprints. Johnson also combined with Parras Vega, Shamika Savage and Kristen Broady to post an impressive 3:59.83 time in the 4x400 – good enough for second place, behind host James Logan.
“We feel very good about the way this team’s running,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said after the meet. “With the training we’ve done recently, the kids are running better than we’d anticipated.”
The Panther boys echoed their female counterparts on Saturday, placing several athletes among the top finishers. Basketball crossover Ebon Glenn, who jumped a personal-best 6-feet, 10-inches in the high jump to win Friday’s Acalanes meet, had no trouble repeating as meet champion at Logan, clearing 6-feet, 8-inches. Fellow jumper Solomon Welch also had an impressive outing, winning the triple jump at 46-11, and taking third in the long jump at 22-4.5. Trestin George, also a star running back for the Panthers’ football team, edged his teammate in the long jump, leaping 22-9.5 to grab second.
The Panthers’ only other first-place finishes came in the sprint events, with Chris Dunbar pacing the 400m field at 49.65, and the St. Mary’s 4x100 team recording a season-best 42.14 to win that event. In the hurdles, state qualifier Halihl Guy ran a 38.63 to place second in the 300m hurdles.
“We’re doing pretty well. We knew we’d be a little tired after Mt. SAC, Arcadia and Vallejo,” Lawson said. “Now the focus is trying to look sharp, win our league. The goal for this team is to win the NCS championship for both boys’ and girls’.”
Lawson plans to bring a large proportion of his team to the Sacramento Meet of Champions this weekend, hoping the elevated level of competition will begin to condition the Panthers for the rigorous postseason. On Thursday, St. Mary’s closes out the 2000 league season with a tri-meet vs. El Cerrito and Richmond, starting at 3:30 p.m.