Tony Russell hopes to become a mainstay on Penn State's distance medley relay team in due time, and on Friday, he bolstered his case to do just that.
Running in his third Penn Relays, the Nittany Lions recruit recorded a time of 4 minutes, 9.99 seconds for the 1,600-meter anchor leg of the Championship of America DMR race, helping West Chester Henderson take the title in 10:03.77.
Starting out behind Cardinal O'Hara's Jim Belfatto upon taking the handoff from teammate Kevin Moy, Russell quickly picked off Belfatto and never looked back.
"Starting out right behind the lead guy, I tried to run a really fast 800 to try to crush him a little bit," Russell said. "I was confident in my strength to hold him off, so I eased up a little on the third lap. I tried dropping a really fast last lap after that, and I did that."
After Henderson's DMR took third in the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March, a revamped quartet of Eric Stratman (1,200), Steve Thompson (400), Kevin Moy (800), and Russell finished ahead of runner-up Northport and Cardinal O'Hara (10:11.17), which had won the indoor national race.
All members of the winning foursome ran their last Relays in a high school uniform Friday, so taking home the famed Penn Relays plaque will make for a lasting memory.
"That was the most amazing experience I've ever had in track," Russell said. "This is something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. Just to be able to anchor and bring it home was amazing, and I'm so honored to be able to do that."
In other boys' action, Pennridge's 4x800 relay of Alex Masgai, Dan Williams, Matt Schulberger, and Joey Logue finished fourth in the Large Schools heat in 7:50.43 to qualify for the Championship of America race, scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
In the girls' 4x800 Championship of America, Central Bucks South's Kaitlin Poiesz, Amber Stratz, Alexa Kwapinski, and Brianna Stratz ripped off a fifth-place mark of 9:04.59 and earned the first girls' Championship of America medal in the school's history.
Amber Stratz ran the fastest split of the quartet as the second leg, and twin sister Brianna gained a spot while running the anchor leg and sealed the fifth-place position, as well as the reward.
"I'm always very nervous running anchor," Brianna Stratz said. "It's a lot of pressure, but running in front of everybody who was here today gave me a lot of motivation."
The same relay squad missed out on the Championship of America race by one spot last year, making Thursday's qualification and a trip to the medal stand Friday all the sweeter.
"We're a lot more used to each other now, and that counts," Brianna Stratz said. "We're a lot closer now, we push each other, and we want to do well for each other."
In other girls' action, Cheltenham's 4x100 quartet of Ciara Leonard, Janiel Slowly, Chanel Brissett, and Katelyn Jackson took seventh in the girls' Championship of America race in 47.11 seconds.