Four members of the Kittatinny Regional High School track and field team competed April 28 at the iconic Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
Senior Ashley Gordon, juniors Sophia Molfetto and Iris Wikander, and sophomore Holly Sadjack ran in the 4x100 meter relay against high school teams from the United States and 13 other countries.
The Penn Relays is the world’s oldest and largest track and field event in the U.S. It spans three days, draws crowds of up to 100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, and includes top high school, collegiate, Olympic development and masters athletes.
“Penn Relays is an amazing experience for a high school track athlete,” said Kittatinny coach Melissa Fischer. “The opportunity to run on a college track in front of a large crowd is something they have never experienced before. It shows them what is possible when you excel at track and field.”
The Kittatinny team was slotted to run at 10:45 a.m., but during the two-hour bus ride from Newton, Fischer realized that the pace of the meet was accelerating.
“The meet started running ahead of schedule when the team was warming up, so once I saw the events starting before their scheduled time, I knew the girls had to get to the check-in area.
“I reached out to them and encouraged them to move quickly to where they needed to be,” she said. “This group has never been to a meet of this caliber, so I needed to make sure they understood that they had to get themselves to the right spot quickly or they would miss the race. They made it and all was fine in the end, but it was a stressful couple minutes!”
Wikander said, “It all happened so fast. We didn’t really have time to get nervous or over-think where we were or the magnitude of what we were competing in. We just had to go and suddenly we were on the track and the gun went off for our first runner.”
She was the team’s anchor, which meant that she ran last. Relay runners pass a baton to the next one. If the baton is dropped, the team is disqualified.
“All of a sudden, here came Holly and it was go time,” said Wikander, who also is a stand-out cross country runner and swimmer for Kittatinny.
All three baton passes went well.
Gordon led off, starting in a crouched position.
“I didn’t really have time to think about missing my blocks because it all happened so quickly,” she said. “The 100-meter relay is different than my usual individual 100-meter event because as lead-off, I’m running it on the curve rather than the straight of the track.
“I think we all did great. Being at the Penn Relays was an incredible experience. Walking in and seeing this humongous stadium with so much track and field history in person that was so filled with spectators and knowing I was going to be running on that track was amazing.
“It was so great to experience this with my teammates and coach as a high school runner and I hope to return there as a collegiate runner.”
Gordon will be a freshman at Ramapo College in the fall and will run track and play soccer there.
Molfetto said, “It was a whirlwind of excitement. It was such a great experience to be at Penn Relays ... not just be there but actually be in it.
“It was a little scary trying to get to the check-in, but then all of a sudden, we were being led out to our spots by a person with a flag and then the gun went off.”
Molfetto, who also plays soccer at Kittatinny, was the second runner.
She handed off to Sadjack, who also plays basketball and soccer for the school.
“It got a little crazy being in such a big stadium and suddenly our event was ahead of schedule,” she said. “Coach Fischer was great, staying calm and getting us to where we had to be and quickly.”
The Kittatinny runners still have some big events coming up this season.
“Our goals are always to run our best times and races at each meet,” Fischer said. “The championship meets are coming up, so everything we can do to develop them to perform their best under pressure will help them be successful in those meets. They did that on Friday, so I’m confident this group will do big things in the meets to come.”
It all happened so fast. We didn’t really have time to get nervous or over-think where we were or the magnitude of what we were competing in.” - Iris Wikander, junior, Kittatinny Regional High School