Higginson defends 3K title, Forys splits 4:04.2

District certainly well represented at Penn Relays

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

With a 113-year tradition dating back to 1895, the Penn Relays are all about history.

Last week, Colts Neck’s indomitable duo of Craig Forys and Ashley Higginson put in historic performances that highlighted a big weekend for area athletes at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field.

Higginson became only the fourth girl to win the 3,000 meters twice, while Forys turned in the fifth fastest 1,600-meter leg ever, 4:04.2, as part of the Cougars’ second-place distance medley relay team.

Higginson first ran in the Penn Relays as a freshman as a member of Colts Neck’s 4×800 relay team. That’s when she fell in love with the nation’s biggest track and field event.

“Penn is where history is made,” she said. “Runners come to watch every year. It’s a special meet every year.”

Higginson became a part of that long history when she turned in yet another in a long series of super races. The Cougar was the class of the field, turning in a 9:37.92, the third fastest time in state history.

“I felt a lot more pressure this year,” noted Higginson. “I was excited about trying to do better than last year and run a personal best.”

She succeeded in running almost five seconds faster than her winning time of 9:42.07 last year.

Higginson took the lead at 200 meters on Thursday night and never looked back. An opening 5:06.1 1,600 meters left only Cassandra Schenck of Mantua, Ohio, in contact. Higginson relentlessly wore the Ohio runner down and won by more than 10 seconds.

Of the four girls who have defended their 3K titles, Higginson is the only one from New Jersey.

Forys etched his name in Penn Relays lore on Friday night. Thanks to two delays due to lightning and torrential rains in the morning, the boys DMR went off three hours later than scheduled, but the delay turned out to be worth it for the Colts Neck boys, who came up with an effort to remember as all four runners turned in with personal bests. The Cougars turned in a 10:09.11 in finishing second to indoor national champion Coatesville, Pa., which ran a 10:08.51.

Brenden Krewer’s 3:09.5 had the Cougars in contention from the start. Evan Stivala followed with a 51.6 400 leg, and Kevin O’Dowd hit 2:03.8 for his 800 – all personal bests.

“We all thought that we were in pretty good shape,” said O’Dowd.

By the time the Cougars took the track, it was night and the lights were on, adding to the atmosphere of anticipation.

“I never felt so good in a race before,” said Krewer. “You don’t realize the difference it [running under the lights] is.”

O’Dowd experienced it the same way.

“I liked running under the lights,” he said. “It makes a difference.”

Even with their pb’s, the Cougars were 12 seconds behind the leaders when Forys was handed the baton. But as his teammates knew, that was close enough to give Forys and the team a fighting chance. An opening 400 in 59.9 took Forys from out of focus in the background to front and center. By the bell lap he was fighting for the lead and pulled up next to Coatesville anchor Kyle Dawson.

Dawson, handed the 12-second margin, didn’t have to extend himself like Forys did and was able to muster a closing kick in the final 100 meters that just held Forys off.

Officially, Forys was timed in 4:04.2, the fifth fastest split in Penn Relays history (Dawson was clocked in 4:15.5) and his personal best. He received the Toyota Moving Forward Athlete of the Day for his anchor split.

“We’re all happy,” said Krewer. “Second placed at Penn is pretty good.”

Stivala remarked that “it’s awesome to be a part of something so great.”

The strength of this DMR squad is more than just having the country’s best runner anchoring them.

“We run for each other,” noted O’Dowd, the only underclassman of the quartet. “We clicked from day one.”

Krewer said the Cougars are motivated by the their friendship. They don’t want to let one another down. It has driven them to All-American honors during the indoor season and now, a second place at the Penn Relays.

It was a big day for Forys in more ways than one. His brother, Matt Forys, anchored Bucknell to a second place in the College Men’s DMR (9:54.81) and Craig’s future team, the University of Michigan, was running the Championship of America DMR.

Friday’s conditions were very trying on the discus throwers, who started at 9 a.m. It took five hours to complete the girls competition. Through two lightning delays and a wet circle, Marlboro’s Kristen Batts overcame all the elements to come up with the second-best throw of her career, 136-2, good enough for fourth place. Five of her six throws were over 120 feet. She became the first Mustang to medal at Penn.

Howell’s Brittany Napoli was ninth in the girls high school javelin. The Rebel threw 38.10 meters. Manalapan’s Jack Gilburn was 13th in the boys javelin (173-11).

Allyson Moskal of Freehold Township was 12th in the girls high school mile (5:05.68).

Freehold Township’s team of Dan Mularz, Bobby Searby, Bryan Collins and Ryan Spadola were second in the boys 4×400 heat, but turned in a season’s best 3:26.05.

Ada Unahchukwu’s 59.2 opening leg helped Marlboro’s girls finish second in their heat of the 4×400. Lauren Pietrosh, Brittany Pietrosh and Emily Cellini closed out the 4:10.15, which was a new school record by more than five seconds.

Colts Neck’s team of Kathlyn Herrick, Julia Tomaro, Samantha Santo and Meryl Wimberly (59.9) turned in the fastest time of the area teams, 4:08.07, in finishing third in their heat.

Saturday, the venue moved to Middletown High School North for the Lion Invitational. Colts Neck’s Matt Sullivan showed everyone what the Cougars have known all year: that he is one of the best hurdlers in the Shore. He won Most Outstanding Performer honors after winning the 110-meter hurdles in a swift 14.60 and the 400 intermediate hurdles in 56.80. He also finished fourth in the 200 (23.3).

The Cougar boys were runners-up to Matawan, 82.33-60.75. Also taking a first place for the Cougars was thrower Kevin Kelly. He won the javelin at 178-8.