The Cherokee girls advanced to the Championship of America 3,200-meter relay at the 127th annual Penn Relays Friday morning at Franklin Field.
Senior Kelsey Niglio, junior Kerry O’Day, freshman Maddie Meder and sophomore Megan Niglio ran 9:23.45, the 9th-fastest time of the 68 schools that qualified for the Penn Relays.
The 12-fastest schools from four qualifying races qualify for the Championship of America, scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
Cherokee is one of three New Jersey schools to qualify for the CoA race. Union Catholic led all qualifiers at 9:11.26, and Rumson-Fair Haven ran 9:22.29. The cutoff was 9:25.44. The full list of qualifiers is here.
Cherokee qualified for Penn with its 9:19.80 at the Millrose Games at the Armory in February. Cherokee ran 9:21.19 in the qualifying rounds last year at Penn and placed 4th in the CoA race in 9:17.77 with Kelsey Niglio, O’Day, Megan Niglio and Nicole Clifford.
Because they were racing in the fourth and final section, Cherokee had a good idea what it needed to qualify for Saturday. Only eight schools had broken 9:25 in the first three races, so the Chiefs were able to race with an eye on the clock, knowing exactly what they needed to get through.
Kelsey Niglio led off with a 2:19.35 split that got Cherokee near the front of the pack, and O’Day followed with a 2:18.31 that got the Chiefs into the lead. Meder, in her first Penn Relays and only her fourth lifetime high school outdoor track meet, split 2:26.82, and Niglio closed in 2:20.60, keeping Cherokee safely ahead of the rest of the pack.