PHILADELPHIA -- No high school girl from the Baltimore area has ever won an event at the Penn Relays, but a pair of middle-distance runners distinguished themselves in the 97th edition of the carnival at Franklin Field yesterday.
Stephanie Morningstar, a junior from Westminster, finished second in the 1,500 meters, as her time of 4 minutes, 40.5 seconds was just one-tenth off the area record. Fallston senior Jenny Howard did establish an area best of 10:00.4 in the 3,000 meters, finishing fifth.
Howard was thrilled with her effort, which was her second area record in as many months. In early March, she lowered the area mark in the 3,200 meters to 10:51.03 with a fourth place in the national indoor championships.
"I'd like to break 10:40 [in the 3,200] this season, and go for the state outdoor record," Howard said. "I'm real pleased with the race I ran today. It was my first chance to run here, and it was a great experience."
Howard will be seeking her third straight state Class 2A title in the 3,200 next month. In September she'll head to Wisconsin, one of the nation's premier colleges for women's distance running and the program that turned Suzy Favor into America's top hope in the mile.
Morningstar, meanwhile, still isn't ready to commit to running full time; she plays soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter. Last spring she won state 4A titles in the 3,200, 1,600 and 800.
"At the end of one season, I'm sick of running," Morningstar said. "It's a sport I'm still learning about. I was seeded about 10th in this race, so I'm awfully happy with finishing second."
Dulaney sophomore Amanda White, in her first season of track, was the early leader in the 1,500, but faded to ninth, in 4:51.9. New Yorker Clare Quaderer took the race in 4:35.5, and Monal Chokshi, of Raritan, N.J., surged in the last 600 meters to claim the 3,000 in 9:40.1.
Woodlawn junior Erin Graham was seventh in the 400 hurdles, a new Penn Relays offering for girls.
No area teams qualified for high school relay championships, but Meade had the fastest time through 18 of the 25 sections in the 4X400 relay. The quartet of Chelsea Williams, Amanda Simmons, Amy Bell and Tawana Wilson was caught in 4:02.49. Bell is a sophomore and the other three are juniors. Also getting an area-leading time was Glenelg, which ran 10:13 in the 4X800 with the foursome of Tammy Coon, Kelly Pelovitz, Katie Terry and Kristina Adams.
Among the college women, Navy senior Marty Shue won the slow section of the 3,000, in 9:37.22, a personal best. The ECAC's Outstanding Performer indoors among Division II women, Shue is from Rehobeth Beach, Del. In other individual events, George Mason's Shirl Dorsey, a senior from Westminster, was sixth in the shot put (47-3) and eighth in the hammer throw (144-10).
Maryland qualified for tomorrow's championship race in the 4X800 by placing second in its section, in 8:57.18. The Terps also qualified for the ECAC championship in the 4X100, running 47.70.
Maryland-Eastern Shore was fastest among state teams in the 4X100, dipping to 46.93. That came in the middle of a long day for Jessica Hudson, a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y. She began by running a 60.52 in the 400 hurdles, and finished with a 54.9 anchor as the Hawks finished first in their section of the 4X400 in 3:43.00.
In other 4X400 relays last night, Brown won the Heptagonals section in 3:42.7, thanks to a strong leg by Teri Smith, a senior from Bel Air. Mount St. Mary's won its section in 3:52.3.
Morgan State coach Leonard Braxton is being honored as the Honorary College Women's Referee, but it was not a good day for the Bears, who were a slow fifth in their section of the 4X100 and dropped the baton early in their 4X400 section.
Villanova won the distance medley for the fifth straight year, this time in 10:55.98, as Sonia O'Sullivan's anchor split of 4:27.5 was the fastest ever at the Penn Relays. She's a senior from County Cork, Ireland.
The Penn Relays pick up steam today with college men -- including Carl Lewis and multi-millionaire Raghib "Rocket" Ismail -- and high school boys moving in.