Hopewell girls’ 4×1,600 squad breaks 17-year-old mark

Track & Field

By: Steve Feitl
   It’s already been a record-breaking year for the Hopewell Valley Central High School girls track and field squad. But the good times may still be to come.
   This weekend, the Lady Bulldogs will be competing in the prestigious Penn Relays, but last weekend, they made their mark at the Morris Hills Relays.
   The 4×1,600 relay squad set a county record with an impressive time of 21 minutes, 22.53 seconds. That shattered the old Mercer County mark of 21:59, set in 1985 by a group of Notre Dame athletes.
   The group of Kate Willever, Jessica Pall, Sarah Seiler and Natalie Jones had eclipsed the mark previously on indoor tracks, but only an outdoor time would qualify.
   The girls’ head coach Mike Hammill said the team was confident that they could break the record, but was surprised by the nature in which they did so. Willever, Pall and Seiler all ran personal best times in their respective legs to fuel the record-breaking performance.
   "It was something that we knew they could do, but they even exceeded our expectations," Hammill said. "I think they had something to prove."
   Amazingly, it wasn’t the only noteworthy performance on the day. The sprint medley team of Willever, Pall, Natalie Mapp and Fallon Giovacchini came in first in 4:11.16. The time was good enough to eclipse the 1983 Morris Hills Relay record.
   It was just another example of the girls squad, which seems to get stronger by the race.
   "We’re showing great balance this year," Hammill said. "We’ve shown some new growth in our sprinters."
   Hammill noted the efforts of Mapp, who posted the top county times in the 100 and 400 this season with her performance in a dual meet against Princeton and Allentown on Tuesday.
   The Lady Bulldogs beat both competitors to raise its record to 9-1. The only loss came at the hands of the defending Group IV state champions, Trenton.
   Hopewell has also received contributions from Meredith Bull, who has equaled her personal best of five feet in the high jump, and Allison Sheridan and Lauren Manley, who have been helping out in the shot put and discuss, according to Hammill.
   Looking ahead, the Lady Bulldogs do not envision any road bumps in their remaining dual meet schedule and are now focusing on the year-ending championship meets and invitationals.
   It starts this weekend with the Penn Relays. The Hopewell girls will be one of just 15 teams from across the continent to participate in the distance medley relay. Likewise, the 4×800 — which will also feature HoVal representation — is limited to only 27 teams.
   "It’s a big accomplishment for us to be in those races," Hammill said.
   The Lady Bulldogs will also compete in the 4×100 and 4×400 — the latter of which Hammill hinted the Lady Bulldogs will load up on.