Locals best in distance

Reilly, Leung race to MOC

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
  Trish Reilly likes running in the bigger meets.
   ”I know that’s when I get my faster times,” said the West Windsor-Plainsboro North junior. “I feel more accomplished.”
   Reilly was one of the area distance runners to advance to the Meet of Champions with a top six finish at the Group III state meet Sunday. Reilly ran 5:00.40 to place second in the girls’ mile to return to the MOC.
   ”It’s a six-second personal record off last year’s and a 10-second season best,” said Knights head coach Brian Gould. “She looked good. She looks like she has a little more in her. She’s running strong.”
   While Reilly was the top area finisher on the girls’ side, it was Brian Leung who continued his winning in the boys’ two-mile race. The West Windsor-Plainsboro South senior set a new personal best of 9:02.61 to move on to Saturday’s MOC as the top seed.
   ”It’s the top time in the U.S. right now,” said Pirates coach Kurt Wayton. “He was supposed to hit the first mile in 4:30 and he hit it in 4:32. He took it down a notch the second mile. He looked good and in control the whole way. There was some traffic the second mile which makes the 4:30 that much more impressive.”
   Also advancing to the MOC from the Pirates are Keith Griffith, who placed second in the 800 meters in 2:00.12, Sam Macaluso who snared the last spot in the mile with the third fastest time in school history and second-best time among state sophomores of 4:27.44.
   On the girls’ side for South, Sam Howell and Katie Kellner advanced to the MOC. Howell finished third in the high jump by misses at 5-feet-4. Kellner was third in the two-mile.
   ”She should run faster,” Wayton said. “She went out a little fast. She’s one of the girls to beat next week.”
   The Montgomery High School girls’ advanced their 4×400 relay of Dani Sciotto, Fiona Paladino, Kelsey Godfrey and Jessica Perone after their fourth-place finish in 4:07.64. Paladino also placed fifth in the high jump at 5-feet-2. Madison Smith was sixth in the pole vault at 9-feet.
   ”It was a pretty good day,” said MHS head coach Jim Goodfriend. “I was happy with the 4×4. I was happy with Madison. If Fiona had a great day, she would have been in it higher up. But she’s going on so she has another day.”
   In addition to Reilly, WW-P North will advance five of its boys to the MOC. Tyler Corkdale was second in the mile in 4:23.42, Jim Rosa was fifth in 9:32.08 and Joe Rosa was sixth in 9:36.57, Ryan Sleeper was third in the 800 meters in 2:01.00 and Steve Au-Yeung was fourth in 2:01.25.
   ”They did real well,” Gould said. “We had three school records — Tyler in the 1600, Ryan Sleeper in the 800, Jim Rosa in the 3200. Steve Au-Yeung also broke our former school record and Joe did also in the 3200.”
   The MHS boys and Princeton High School did not have any athletes to advance to the Meet of Champions.
   For Reilly, it is another big meet. Last year, she went from fourth at the Group III meet to ninth at the MOC in a season-best 5:06.43. She will be taking on last year’s winner, Jillian Smith of Southern Regional, as well as Sunday’s Group III winner, Ashley Cromartie of Roxbury.
   ”I’m excited to run the Meet of Champions,” Reilly said. “I like getting in the fast races. After Easterns, we’re going to nationals. The team is going with the distance medley relay.”
   Reilly has shown she can compete at a high level. She was in the lead until the final 200 meters of the Sunday’s mile final until Cromartie overtook her.
   ”I felt pretty good about it afterwards,” Reilly said. “I was hoping to win. At the end, I felt it was all I had at the time.”
   As for her time, she didn’t know she had a new best when she crossed the finish line.
   ”I wasn’t paying attention to any splits,” she said. “I was focusing on running the race. It wasn’t until I went over to Coach Gould when he told me my time that I knew. I was excited.
   ”I knew I could run that,” she added. “I didn’t know I would run that fast today. I didn’t think it would come until Meet of Champions or Easterns.”
   Reilly is working off a stronger base built up from her first season of cross country last fall. She has been able to use that training this winter and it showed up at the group meet.
   ”Any time you start to run longer, it’s going to help,” Gould said. “She’s always able to run good miles and 800s because of field hockey. I see a little difference in the way she’s able to handle some workouts. I think you’ll start to see the bigger effects in the spring and the fall.”
   The group meet was a breakthrough for Reilly. She has been working toward a sub-5:00 time since freshman year.
   ”The mile has always been my favorite,” she said. “The two-mile is a little long for me. The mile, I know I have the speed for. It’s also a distance so I have to push my limits.”
   Her experience helped in the group meet. She is becoming a more polished racer.
   ”I definitely knew what to expect from being there last year,” Reilly said. “I’ve gotten pretty used to racing. I’m always nervous, but I was more confident.”
   Added Gould: “She’s finding her way to the front. She won the county meet. She won the sectionals. This week, she tried it. She broke a state meet record to finish second. She’s running really well now. She’s learning different ways to race. She’s always been aware of certain strengths. Now she’s learning new ways she can compete with different runners and get to the front. The girl has never run a race where she’s not given a great effort to get to the front.”
   Reilly gave another great effort for one of the impressive local performances by a distance runner. With it, she earned a return trip to the MOC.
   ”Even though I didn’t win,” Reilly said, “I knew I ran one of my best races of the season. Just knowing that, that was enough.”