Krystal Cantey, from Winslow Township High, finished an impressive second in the college women's 400-meter hurdles yesterday at the Penn Relays.

Cantey, now a freshman at South Carolina, ran the loop in 57.88 seconds, behind University Tech's Kaliese Spencer, who won the day's first race with a time of 56.33.

Cantey's return to Franklin Field produced a better result that her previous two appearances. Two years ago as a high school junior, Cantey finished third in the 400-meter hurdles. And last year, hampered by a sore hamstring, she faltered in the same race, finishing a disappointing third with a time of 1 minute, 0.05 seconds.

Cantey was also part of the Gamecocks' 4x400 relay foursome yesterday that qualified for tomorrow's championship with a time of 3:38.32.

Miami (3:37.79) will join South Carolina in the final. Hurricanes sophomore and Wissahickon product Krista Simpkins ran the opening leg in 53.6, the ninth-best split of the day. With a time of 3:32.60, LSU will be the top seed.

Water winner. Like a fountain of youth, the final water jump of last night's college men's 3,000-meter steeplechase refreshed Nicodemus Naimadu and enabled him to tie a long-established record at the Penn Relays.

The senior from Abilene Christian rocketed past Virginia Intermont's David Cheromei in the 75 meters between the water jump and the finish line to win the steeplechase for the third consecutive year, tying the mark set by Fordham's Joe McCluskey from 1931 through 1933.

"Penn is the very best place that I run the steeplechase," said Naimadu, a citizen of Kenya. "I've had very good experiences here."

Naimadu, winner of 10 NCAA Division II individual championships in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track, came in wanting to better his time of last year (8:29.82) but had to settle for 8:35.55.

Tough to match. Few of the area's 4x800-meter relay teams can match Gwynedd-Mercy Academy's recent success at the Penn Relays.

This afternoon, the Monarchs are scheduled to make their fifth consecutive appearance in the girls' Championship of America race.

Heading into yesterday's race, Gwynedd-Mercy coach Larry Wilson wondered if his youthful relay team understood the importance of the streak. As a result, the longtime coach on Wednesday showed freshman Haley Keenan, sophomore Taylor Bumpas and juniors Erin Ryan and Kelly McEldrew a video of the 2004 Championship of America race.

Gwynedd-Mercy finished third that year behind Edwin Allen Comprehensive and Holmwood Technical, both of Jamaica. But the Monarchs won gold medals for being the top American finishers.

"That tape kind of fired them up," Wilson said.

Yesterday, the girls went out and posted a time of 9:19.03. It was their fastest time of the season.

Bumpas, a sophomore, ran a 2:15.7 anchor leg. It was the 11th-fastest relay split of the day.

Young Lenape excels. It turns out that Jack Walsh's concerns were unwarranted.

Heading into the high school girls' 4x800 trials, the Lenape coach was worried about how his team would perform. That's because junior Miya Johnson was the lone returner from last season's Championship of America finalist. Her three teammates were either young or new to track.

Aliva Royds is a sophomore, and Caitlin Orr is a freshman. Junior Moira Cunningham is in her first year running track.

Despite the youth, Lenape qualified for today's Championship of America race with a qualifying time of 9:23. The quartet posted the second-fastest time in Burlington County history and fifth best in South Jersey history. Lenape will make the third Championship of America appearance in school history.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane

at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.