NJSIAA Track and Field

Woodlee, Ornstein Lead Southern Regional 4x800 Relay to Big Finish in Meet of Champions

Jun 14, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Southern Regional senior Sabrina Woodlee runs in first place toward the transition following her first leg of the 4x800-meter relay as she and teammates Rachel Ornstein, Taylor Mulch and Karagan Bulger take third place in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on June 10.

Each spring, when the NJSIAA Track and Field Meet of Champions rolls around, a Southern Regional High School senior always seems to rise to the occasion and go out with a bang. This year, that bang was delivered by Sabrina Woodlee and Rachel Ornstein.

“Our motto today was ‘Last One, Fast One.’ We were here for a reason, and that was to make our mark,” said Woodlee, who kicked off the opening leg of the 4x800-meter relay en route to the Rams’ third-place finish at Northern Burlington High School on June 10, two days before graduation. “We didn’t take first, but we’ll take third. That was an awesome race.”

The Southern quartet of Woodlee, Ornstein, junior Taylor Mulch and freshman Karagan Bulger blazed around the track with a combined time of 9:15.19, just 1.15 seconds behind second-place Mountain Lakes and just over three seconds behind first-place Ridge, which was the top-seeded squad heading into the spring finale.

“We weren’t expected to even move on to the Meet of Champions,” said Ornstein, who took the baton from Woodlee in first place and hung onto that spot until the final 100 meters of her second leg. “But I’m so proud of these girls. They worked so hard to get us here, and this was a great way to finish.”

After Ornstein handed off to Mulch, who had been hampered by knee injuries for most of the season and returned to the track only about a month ago, the junior distance specialist held onto the third position until the last 100 meters of her leg, handing the baton to Bulger in fifth. The fantastic freshman used the backstretch of her second lap to pass a pair of runners and came around the final turn making a push for second, but couldn’t catch the Laker a couple of strides ahead of her.

Woodlee, who skipped the individual 800-meter run to keep herself strong for the relay, said finishing high with her teammates was most important to her.

“I wanted fresh legs for them,” said Woodlee, the only Southern athlete, male or female, to qualify in multiple events for this year’s Meet of Champions. “I knew as a team, we had a better chance to place in the relay than I did as an individual in the 800. So I wanted to be able to finish strong for them and put us in a good position to place. All of us getting a medal was more important than me getting one for myself.”

For Ornstein, the third-place medal was a great parting gift to cap her career.

“When Sabrina came around that last turn, I thought ‘Holy bleep, she’s running so fast,’ and I just wanted to keep us in first because she worked so hard for it,” Ornstein said. “But third is great. We can be proud of this moment.”

The rest of Southern’s athletes at the Meet of Champions likely will return next season after gaining some valuable experience this time around. Of the three individuals competing, junior javelin thrower Jenna Kulinski was the highest finisher, placing 12th with a career-best throw of 122 feet, 8 inches on her first toss.

“I was happy to get my personal best, but it would have been nice to get into the finals,” Kulinski said. “I was a little nervous, but the experience will help me for next year. I’ll lift more next year in preparation for the season, get better with my throw, and next year I should do better. But I’m happy about where I am right now. I just had my best season so far, so it’s all good.”

Pinelands Regional junior Carly Jannsch had a similar mindset after falling short of the finals flight and finishing 16th with a top throw of 114 feet, 10 inches. She also was a bit nervous heading into her first Meet of Champions; her initial throw sailed out of bounds before she rebounded to hit her high mark with her final throw.

“I could have done better, but I’ll just come back stronger next year,” said Jannsch, who had won the South Jersey Group III title two weeks earlier. “My goal was to hit 130 feet today, but now that’s what I can shoot for early on next season. I’ll have to work hard, build my strength and get better with my run-through. But I can see myself placing next year – definitely.”

The other javelin thrower among the locals was Southern sophomore Joe Guglielmo, who was up against killer competition – five throwers heaved the spear more than 190 feet, and three of them easily cleared 200 feet. He finished 14th with a top throw of 179 feet, 4 inches.

“My goal this season was to make it here and get the experience,” he said. “From last year, I’ve gained 22 feet with my throws, so I know I still have room to hit the ceiling. Being here with all these really (great) guys gets me fired up to do better for next year. It’s crazy to see a group of guys who can throw 200s. But that means I can keep climbing and get back here next year.”

Meanwhile, a bunch of guys who intend to be back next year include the Barnegat 4x100 crew of junior Nico Adorno, sophomore Dewight Fernandez-Smith, and freshmen Justin Gomez and Ralph Cruz, who combined for a time of 43.32 seconds to place 20th in a 37-team field.

“There’s a lot of depth in this event, with a lot of fast teams,” said Adorno, who individually placed 31st in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.48 seconds. “Mentally, we knew we had to run our top speeds and everything had to be perfect for us to place. But to be racing in the Meet of Champions, and none of us are seniors, is great experience for us. This is the first step in getting ready for next year. We can look at the positives and build from there.”

Southern junior Paul Keyes also gained valuable experience, running in the unseeded heat of the 1,600-meter dash and ultimately placing 16th with a time of 4:24.20.

“I didn’t do too bad,” he said. “It was a tough race, but that’s part of the experience.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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