PHILADELPHIA — Nothing, not allergies, a headache or a strong field could bother Angelina Perez on Thursday.
The Lakeland elder blistered on the Penn Relays field in the 3,000 meters Thursday, claiming first in a record time of 9:18.11. (If she had had someone to run with, the record might have gone down.)
It was an impressive performance for the Florida star, especially since for a moment Thursday morning she wasn’t even sure she could run.
“She really had to fight,” Lakeland coach Damiano Conforti said.
Perez woke up with a migraine so bad that when she came to Franklin Field to watch the 4×400 races, she couldn’t stand the light and had to go back to the hotel to rest.
Her routine was interrupted, but she remained stable as soon as the shot fired. She maneuvered for a position in the first 30 meters, she took the lead…
And that was really it. It was finished.
“I felt like I had so many things in my head that when the race started I was like, I’m in the race, so I guess it kind of helped that way,” said she declared.
The only suspense was whether Perez would break the meeting record set in 1985 of 9:15.3. The AP announcer kept the crowd in pace with his progress, but Perez rode to the finish.
“Honestly no,” Perez said when asked if she cared about the record. “I didn’t even know what it was like when I started today and when I heard them say it I said OK, I know that, but I just wanted to win today regardless. what a moment. I was fine with that.”
Perez has already crafted one of the greatest running resumes of any North Jersey competitor. Thursday may have been her best performance yet, but she always seemed to have more to give.
“At the end of the day, I think there will be a lot of broken records,” Conforti said. “It’s going to be quite fun. Let’s put it this way.
Nicole Woods takes care of business
Nicole Woods wanted to win. She wanted the watch.
“I like that better than a medal,” she said with a smile.
The elder Demarest won the Penn Relays High School Javelin Championship on Thursday, finishing the field with a final throw of 141 feet, 5 inches and collecting the distinctive gold watch awarded to the winner.
Watch the video, then keep reading.
She is the first girl from North Jersey to win a Penn Relays event since Demarest’s Kelly Fazekas won the shot put in 2003.
Truth be told, it wasn’t Woods’ best day. The wind was swirling. She deliberately committed three fouls trying to make a big throw.
“I didn’t do my best and it was clearly not PR day,” Woods said. “But I’m happy. It’s something I’ve never had the opportunity to do. Coming here for the first time and winning, even though I didn’t put in my best performance, it’s exciting.
Woods essentially sealed the win with a 138-2 shot on his second pitch.
The event was a true North Jersey reunion. North Jersey had four of the nine finalists: Paramus Catholic’s Tayja Thomas was ninth, and the Fair Lawn tandem of Hailey Romero and Rachel Schmitt were sixth and seventh, respectively.
“It was nice to see how well Bergen County is doing at this level,” Demarest track coach Mike Theuerkauf said. “You look at the track in general and New Jersey is strong, but then you look at Bergen County and it’s special to have so many people represented.”
To cope with the weather, Woods played wearing a black Demarest hoodie and a Minnesota Vikings sticker on his right cheek – their logo is similar to the Norsemen. She said she woke up nervous but didn’t know why.
“Maybe because I was the first seed,” Woods said. “I’ve never been ranked first in a national competition before, so maybe the pressure was on.”
After going 138-2 on her second pitch, Woods knew she was in good shape. She fouled on her next three tries, but by the time of her last throw she knew she had the gold watch on her wrist.
Theurkauf and coach Mark Mirabelli told him to get out there and relax.
Woods listened and hit his best pitch of the day, smiling when he landed.
“It’s a competition,” Woods said. “I came here to win.”
Woods passed the time between throws by watching teammate Casey Sullivan in the shot put. Sullivan, who finished third, came out to celebrate the victory with Woods – and to check the watch.
“We’re each other’s biggest supporters and yeah, it’s really good to have someone like that around us,” Woods said. “We always support each other.”
Most years, a third-place finish at the Penn Relays would be the main story, but Thursday Woods had the big time.
“His sister competed here,” Theuerkauf said. “The most standout athletics, we come every year, and not just to run in relays, we’re in championships all the time, so our kids get it because our alumni come back. I think we might take it for granted instead of realizing it’s an honor and a privilege to be here.
Darren Cooper is an avid high school fishing sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get the latest news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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