New England Girls Set Five Meet Records !

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Barrington High coach Scott Turgeon figured his 4x800-meter relay team had a good chance at winning a New England title. What he didn’t expect, at least not yet, was the leg turned in by his anchor, junior Abby Livingston.
Trailing fellow Rhode Island rival La Salle Academy by three seconds after the third leg, Livingston blitzed her two laps in 2 minutes, 8 seconds to lift the Eagles to the overall crown at Saturday’s New England Championship. The quartet of freshman Julia Zitzman, junior Julianna Portelli, junior Megan Verner-Crist and Livingston combined for a state and meet record of 9:05.49. La Salle also dipped under the existing NE mark of 9:12.16 with a runner-up time of 9:06.22.
 “We always talked about Abby as a potential sub-2:10 half-miler,” an elated Turgeon commented. “We said, ‘We think you can go under 2:10.’ Did I think it was going to happen today? Absolutely, not! I thought that was still somewhere in the future.”
Barrington, the recent state champion, had the top seed of 9:15.85. But Turgeon and his Eagles knew the only way to come out on top with a strong La Salle squad on the line was to run a time in less than 9:10.
“We knew what La Salle was doing with their kids. They were loading up,” said Turgeon, about the defending NE champions. “I was thinking we can go 9:10 and finish second. We could break the meet record and lose. I was very nervous. I knew how strong they were.”
Zitzman and Portelli each did their part by running their legs in the low 2:20-range. Trailing the Rams by a considerable margin at that point, Verner-Crist got the Eagles into contention with a PR of 2:13 for her third leg. Livingston took care of the rest, passing La Salle’s sophomore anchor Sheridan Wilbur with 300 meters left and then holding her off down the final straightaway.
“(Verner-Crist) made the difference,” Turgeon said. “We were too far behind at that point for Abby to make a move. With one lap to go, Megan was six-seconds behind. When Abby got the baton, she was three-seconds behind.”
Livingston went to work right from the time she got the baton. She passed her opening 400 in 62 seconds.
“I was a little worried,” Turgeon said. “I was hoping that she would hang on (Wilbur’s) shoulder until about 200 to go and make one move. She made the move at 300 and I was scared. I was scared from the 300 on, but she just kept going.  She ran the second lap in 65-something. She was completely spent in that race. I think she still is. Twenty-minutes later, I think she still is. She left everything out there.  That’s all you can ask for.”
Staples (Conn.) freshman sensation Hannah DeBalsi smashed a meet record and came close to a national mark for ninth-graders by winning the 3,200 with an outstanding time of 10:10.26. DeBalsi was all alone from the opening gun and passed the 1,600 mark in 5:02.
Her time was less than three seconds from former Mission College Prep Catholic (Calif.) standout Jordan Hasay’s record of 10:07.56, set in 2007.
“This (year) is completely unexpected,” said DeBalsi, who also won the NE 3,200 indoor and a host of other big-time races.
The diminutive runner is now focusing on the New Balance National Outdoor Championships this weekend where she will get one last chance at Hasay’s mark.
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see,” she said. “I am just going to try and stay with (the lead group). I am not really going to run for time.”
Emily Savage, a senior from Weston (Conn.), established a meet record in the pole vault with a winning height of 13-2.5. The favored Savage was an inch higher than her previous best of 13-1.5, a winning performance she achieved at the Penn Relays Carnival in April. She ranks No. 7 nationally.
“I was really focusing on my technique rather than the height at first,” said Savage, the recent State Open champion, who also snagged titles at the Loucks Games in N.Y., and the Golden South Classic in Fla. “I came in thinking just focus on the form and see what that gets you. I guess it ended up working out pretty well.”
Savage was tested in her specialty. Finishing second with a height of 12-3 was Newtown (Conn.) junior Jenna Calandro and taking third at 11-9 was Lowell (Mass.) senior Grace Ashworth.
“I knew I could do (the winning) jump,” she said. “I did it a billion times in practice. I cleared it pretty much at the Penn Relays. I could do it again. I just really focused on the technique again. I guess that helped.”
An expected fast race occurred in the 800 with Coe-Brown Academy (N.H.) sophomore Hannah Parker smashing the meet record with a time of 2:06.42. Dracut (Conn.) junior Karina Shepard also went under the 2:08.34 mark of former Waterford (Conn) great Liz Mueller in 1992 with a second-place time of 2:08.05.
Parker was more than four-seconds faster than her previous best of 2:10.62, set at the NHIAA Meet of Champions on June 1. Her time moves her up to No. 4 in the country.
“I was really hoping to run my hardest and get first, but I wasn’t expecting to beat my PR by so much.” she said. “It made me really happy."
Finishing third in the race was Hillhouse (Conn.) senior Kellie Davis with a time of 2:09.03. Running in the unseeded heat, Classical (R.I.) junior Maddy Berkson nabbed the fourth slot with a season best of 2:09.9.
After watching Berkson scorch the field in her heat, Parker knew she couldn’t hold back. She led the field through a 400 split of 60 seconds.
“I know she is a really great runner,” Parker said. “I just had to focus on my race and run my hardest, work off the people that are in it. They are all really good runners.”
Lake Region (Maine) sophomore Kate Hall had a banner day. Hall placed high in three events, winning the 100 with a fast 11.69 clocking, placing second in the long jump with a PR of 19-0.75 and finishing third in the 200 with a state-record time of 24.89.
“I am incredibly happy,” she said. “I am so happy with how today went. I was definitely focusing on the 100 because that one is my favorite event. I love running that short distance. I was hoping to break 12 (seconds) and hopefully win. I was just so ecstatic when I crossed that finish line. I am so happy.”
Hall actually could have been a double-winner. She was leading the long jump after the preliminaries, but never made it back to the finals. The event was won by Darien (Conn.) junior Catherine Lacy with a meet record of 19-3.5.
“I was expecting to go back to the finals and jump again, but I never got the chance because I came back too late or something,” she said. “It didn’t work out, but that’s okay.”
Hope (R.I.) sophomore Quashira McIntosh finished second to Hall in the 100 with a new state record of 11.96, her first time under 12 seconds. McIntosh secured her first New England crown with a triumph in the 200 at 24.45, just .01 from her own R.I. record.
The Hope tenth-grader broke former teammate Royal Cheatham’s 100 mark (2011) by the same .01 margin.
“Royal, the former state record-holder, was saying ‘Q’ save my record for next year,” McIntosh said. “I was like, alright, whatever. When I broke it I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. I finally broke into the 11s.’ It took me two years to break into the 11s. It was great.”
Wilbur Cross (Conn.) freshman Danae Rivers led from gun-to-wire en route to the 1,600 crown. Rivers posted a near PB of 4:54.57. Exeter (N.H.) sophomore Shannon Murdock was second at 4:58.48.
“I just wanted to do my best and have fun,” she said. “I felt relaxed. I felt pretty good.”
Marshfield (Mass.) junior Ellen DiPietro overcame a near shocker on the opening height to eventually take home the title in the high jump with a leap of 5-8. DiPietro, who matched her PB, began her series by missing five feet on her first two attempts.
“I was freaking out!” she said. “I was getting nervous because I knew if I missed it again it was over. I just focused and tried not to go insane high so my feet wouldn’t hit it. I just gazed over it. I then cleared 5-3, 5-5 very well. At 5-7, I cleared it well, too. Five-eight, it took me two tries. I got it on my second try.”
The event was without Wachusetts (Mass.) senior Amy Collins, who DiPietro defeated to win the state title last weekend.
“When I came in I just felt great. I had good energy and everything,” DiPietro said. “I was missing some good competitors from Massachusetts, like Amy Collins, but I kind of like not knowing the other girls. I can just do my thing, kind of.”
Newton North (Mass.) junior Michaela Smith copped the shot put with a PB of 43-3.5. Mahar Regional (Mass.) senior Sabrina Silva was second at 42-4.25.
“The (preliminaries) were a little rough, but then I got a whole new personality going into the finals,” said Smith, a second-place finisher to Silva at the state meet. “I was really glad I was able to pull myself together. It paid off. I am very happy.”
Other victors in the meet, held at Willow Brook Park, were Simsbury (Conn.) senior Madeline Nicholson in the discus (136-4), Ridgefield (Conn.) senior Ellen Gravitte in the javelin (137-7), Colchester (Vt.) junior Abiti Pearl in the triple jump (37-5), Tolland (Conn.) senior Katy Sprout in the 300 hurdles (43.95), Bishop Guertin (N.H.) senior Betsy Garnick in the 100 hurdles (14.20), Weaver (Conn.) senior Monique Beckford in the 400 (55.73), Windsor (Conn.) in the 4x100 (48.3) and Norwich Free Academy (Conn.) in the 4x400 (3:52.18).