MADISON _ If Mendham's Laura Papili needed any motivation going into the 2013 Morris County Relay Championships, all she had to do was bend her left arm, put her palm up and look down.
On Papili's wrist, written in pink and purple pen, was the number "59" - her objective in seconds as the anchor for the Minutemen's 4x400 team.
Papili, who normally leads off, had never run the last leg before and being asked to do so made her somewhat anxious.
Apparently, Papili, a senior, is just as good of a finisher as she is a starter, clocking a 59.6 leg as anchor in what was the decisive event on Monday, Jan. 7 at Drew University.
Mendham not only beat out Mount Olive in the 4x400 with a time of 4:09.49, it claimed the first relay title, indoor or outdoor, girls or boys, in school history. The Minutemen had 42 points while the Maurauders had 36. Morris Knolls and Morris Hills each had 26.
"All day long, I looked at the number on my arm and it reminded me what I had to do," Papili said. "I was a little nervous about running last. It was new to me. We switched up spots. It worked so I liked it."
Junior Cali Heffernan ran the last leg until Mendham coach Roy Hamblen decided to try something different. Papili was informed of her new role last Saturday after practice.
"Laura's so good and strong," Hamblen said. "She's our best kid so I told her she'd be the anchor. I wanted her to step up. It's not right to ask a sophomore to do it."
The Minutemen went up against a formidable foe, Mount Olive, in the 4x400. The Marauders' quartet consists of Alicia Warren, Marissa Karl, Micaela Poggi and Keturah Orji. The most feared is Orji.
"I knew (Orji) would be right behind me," Papili said. "She'd be hunting me down. I was nervous. I had to go out faster. There was a lot of pressure. It was a necessary evil. We needed it."
Papili's 59.6 leg was a PR. According to Hamblen, her previous best was "61 seconds and change" so her effort was exceptional.
"Competing in cross country for the first time last fall helped Laura," Hamblen said. "I told Laura she was going against one of the fastest in the state in Orji but that she should be in the lead when she got the baton. Laura's a sprinter. Orji is pure speed."
Sierra Tonnesen and Audrey O'Neill were the other two runners on the victorious 4x400 team.
Mendham also claimed gold in the distance medley. The Minutemen were second in the 4x800 and had third-place finishes in the shuttle hurdles and 4x200.
The distance medley team, comprised of Abby Seel, Skye Tonnesen, Reagan Kolakowski and Mackenzie Barry, prevaield in 12:19.75.
"I'm very happy," Hamblen said. "Relays are a true judge of a team. You need a whole team effort."
Butler opened the meet by taking first in the shuttle hurdles in 35.05. Melissa Mattson, Kathryn Iannuzzi, Alison Wedemeier and Mykalah Curry made up the shuttle hurdle team.
"This doesn't happen often to small schools," said Iannuzzi, a freshman. "We were waiting to hear the winner. When we did, it felt so good."
Three of the four girls were on the team that was second in the Morris County Relays last spring. Only Amberly Gurbisz graduated.
"We added in someone new but we could still do this," Wedemeier said.
In order to triumph, Mattson, a sophomore, said "We pushed it. We wanted to win."
Mount Olive (Alicia Warren, Kellie Sagi, Suzanne Nimoh, Orji) came out of ahead of the pack in the 4x200 in 1:49.80.
The Marauders, too, showed their depth, taking the 4x800 in 9:44.64. Sarah Masukewicz, Lindsay Schafer, Jamie Tavalare and Marissa Karl formed that squad.
"Winning feels good," said Tavalare, a sophomore. "We all practice hard. We're close. We train hard. I think it helps that we're good friends."
Ailis Clyne, Casey Lyness, Rhianna Follet and Ulana Thompson powered Morris Hills to a first-place finish in the 1,600 Sprint Medley.
Jefferson emerged victorious in the shot put relay thanks to the efforts of senior Carrie Wasdyke (38-08.00) and Caitlin Noonan (31-01.75).
In pole vault, Whippany Park was tops. The Wildcats had a 16-00.0. Ashley Granato cleared nine feet and Danielle Cozzarelli cleared seven feet.
Hanover Park's Alexa Perkins was first in high jump. However, the relay crown went to the West Morris tandem of Kelsey Foster and Meggie LaGueux, who cleared 5 feet and 4-10, respectively.
NOTE: For complete results, see mctrack.org.
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