At just about the exact moment that Anthony Averett went airborne for a long jump of 24 feet, 1/4 inch, the packed house at Franklin Field erupted. An American runner raced right by the Woodbury junior, about to cross the finish line first in the USA vs. the World 4x100 relay of the 118th Penn Relays.
Many athletes say there are two ways to deal with the tens of thousands of screaming fans, and the general controlled chaos that has long been a staple of the Relays: Block it out, or feed off it.
Saturday, Averett, in his first Penn Relays, was in the latter category as he performed in Franklin Field's infield simultaneously with some of the track events' tensest moments.
That 24-1/4 jump, his third try of the afternoon, was good enough for second place in the boys' long-jump championship. Jamaica's Clive Pullen took the title with a 24-3.
"I've never been through anything like that," Averett said. "It was like nothing I've ever experienced. The adrenaline was pumping. I tried to stay focused. But I was able to use all of that energy to my advantage."
Averett's performance in front of the Relays crowd was encouraging. Even bigger and louder crowds await Averett, who has committed to play football at Alabama, likely at cornerback.
The junior failed to top the 25-21/2 that he recorded a week earlier at the Woodbury Relays. That distance is No. 1 in the nation this season.
Undoubtedly, the windy, 50-degree, overcast conditions played a role in Averett's performance.
"I'm pretty satisfied," he said. "It was definitely amazing, jumping against people from all over the world. It was a great experience, and hopefully I'll be there next year."
Three-peat for East. Last season, the Cherry Hill East boys won the South Jersey large-school 4x400 championship in controversial fashion.
The team finished first, but was initially disqualified for straying from its lane. East disputed the call, successfully, and was awarded its second straight title in the event.
There wasn't nearly as much drama this time.
Brad Krell, Kevin Barry, Joe Pellegrino, and Alex Reber won a third straight title with a time of 3 minutes, 20.07 seconds, a comfortable margin over the 3:24.12 of second-place Washington Township.
"This is the best track atmosphere in the world," Barry said.
Added Pellegrino: "It's a great feeling to win. I think we were pretty confident coming in."
Camden won the small-school 4x400 title in 3:27.61.
Strong as Oakcrest. After winning the South Jersey large-school 4x100 last year, the Oakcrest boys set their sites on this year's Championship of America race.
Making it to Saturday's race was a goal accomplished. Placing sixth was icing on the cake.
Justin Veltri, Reggie Morton, Darnell Charles, and Fabian Santiago finished in 41.98 seconds. Jamaica's Wolmer's Boys School won in 40.34.
"It was amazing," Morton said. "Running in front of all of these people just makes you want to go harder."
Chiefs challenge. The Cherokee boys' 4x800 relay team, which entered Saturday's 4x800 Championship of America with high hopes, led for much of the first part of the race but fumbled the baton before the final handoff.
Colin Merrigan, Shawn Wilson, Ross Staudt, and Drew Viscidy ultimately finished ninth in 7:49.85.
"We're not really satisfied," Merrigan said. "Dropping the baton completely took us out of the race. I don't think we showed our best potential today."