MADISON _ The members of the Mount Olive 4x800 relay team brought realistic expectations to the Wayne Gardiner Holiday Relays.
Marissa Karl, Lindsay Schafer, Jamie Tavalare and Sarah Masukewicz weren't being negative but, well aware of the competition, figured they'd be second or third and be perfectly content.
Instead, the girls left the Simon Athletic Center at Drew University with gold medals and wide smiles after finishing first in 9:57.45.
The Marauders quartet came out ahead of Morristown, Morris Knolls, West Orange and Mendham. What surprised and concerned them most was Mendham, which featured Abby Seel, Meg Byrne, Defne Sement and Reagan Kolakowski.
"It feels great to win," said Masukewicz, the sophomore who ran the anchor leg. "Mendham is very good. So are the others. We didn't think we'd be first. It's nice to beat Mendham."
Mount Olive coach Joe Hehn told the girls they could take it easy if they were fatigued from the distance medley. They apparently didn't want to ease up and took their event very seriously.
"They're four of our key girls," Hehn said. "They're a talented group. They came out of cross country in superb shape. They're working on their track speed.
"I guess they decided to see what they can do."
Qualifying for the Penn Relays is the 4x800 team's goal. They're on track by finishing in under 10 minutes.
Masukewich and Karl competed in this event last year. Schafer, a junior, and Tavalare, a sophomore, replaced two graduated runners, Sam Tavalare and Laura Goodfriend.
The finish was impressive as Masukewicz crossed the finish line five steps ahead of the closest competitor. Karl passed Mendham's Seel near the end of the first leg.
Schafer and Tavalare fit right into the mix and have proven to be reliable.
"We all work very well together," Schafer said. "Our teammates have helped us, telling us to run as hard as we can."
Tavalare was a tad nervous going into the relay.
"I just began running and all of the nerves went away," Tavalare said.
Hehn considers himself fortunate to have exceptional distance runners. Later at the meet, Mount Olive's junior varsity 4x800 team, comprised of Erin Schafer, Cara Jacobsen, Lauren Wisnewski and Sara Christian, took first place in 11:00.11.
"This is a strong group with a good work ethic," Hehn said. "They're motivated and love to be together."
Much more success likely lies ahead for the 4x800 relay team, which competed at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. last spring, taking fourth in the emerging elite category.
"I love the relays so much," Karl said. "I get to be with my teammates. It's so fun."
Helene Rowland of Madison claimed top individual honors in the shot put with a throw of 33-04.5. Union was first as a team.
West Morris' distance medley team garnered second-place honors. Members of the team that posted a 13:02.59 were Kylene Cochrane, Taylor Brown, Brennan Sharkey and Lauren Toth.
Mount Olive's 4x200 relay team (Alicia Warren, Suzanne Nimoh, Kellie Sagi, Keturah Orji) was second to Union.
Kelsey Foster of West Morris was second in the high jump, clearing five feet.
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