Cara Ulizio, Kayla Ferron, Amber Gore and Anevay Hiehle at Nationals. (photo courtesy of Ulizio)
It was the best-of-the-best track and field athletes competing at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor held at North Carolina A+T in Greensboro last weekend, and a few girls from Redondo made the long trek east.
According to the event website, 4,200 athletes from 47 states were competing.
"We saw many great races," Redondo track coach Julie Ferron said.
It was a great opportunity for Cara Ulizio, Kayla Ferron, Amber Gore and Anevay Hiehle to show their talents in a couple of relays - the 4x800 and the distance medley.
"This was a special trip in so many ways," Ulizio said. "It was my first track nationals, my last high school race, last time competing with these girls and my last time running with Kayla before we join new teams."
"I was going to go last year, but we ended up not being able to go so I was super pumped for this year," Kayle Ferron said. "The atmosphere, it was really exciting."
However, the timing of it all kept the team from being able to really compete at a high level. Ferron injured her foot at the CIF Southern Section Masters in Cerritos and she was still on the mend, but the senior made the trip for the Sea Hawks.
"It was a good, but rough time for her dealing with the stress fracture," said Julie Ferron, who is also Kayla's mother.
But they made the trip knowing beforehand what they could not do, which was show they were one of the best.
During the season the group set some of the best marks in the country in the distance medley relay and also the 4x800. The times they set early in the season still remain among the lowest recorded all season as they headed to the competition, but knew that duplicating or setting a lower time was going to be impossible.
They made a decision to scrap running in the 4x800 and focused on the distance medley.
"Going into the race we really had no idea how things would go since Kayla was injured and not running recently," Ulizio said. "We went into the race committed to running our best given the situation."
Ferron ran a 1200 (or three laps), Hiehle 400, Gore 800 and Ulizio 1600.
The relay team finished with a time of 13:00.47 in the girls distance medley championship and took ninth place.
"We did not finish close to how we originally wanted, but after the race I realized that is spoke true of our character that we still chased after our dream and gave it our best shot," Ulizio said.
West Springfield out of Virginia won in a time of 11:51.46.
Julie Ferron said Kayla "got caught up in the meet atmosphere and attempted to run in the distance medley to have one last race with her team."
"Despite her competitive spirit, her foot was still very painful and she had a difficult time during the race and realized that despite her tough competing spirit, she was not ready to race," she said.
Redondo finished the season with the second fastest time in the event in California with a 11:51.82 (recorded at the Arcadia Invitational), which was only behind Simi Valley's best time.
"If we were perfect, like 100 percent, I think we could have won. We definitely could have competed for that first-place spot in both of the relays," Kayla Ferron said. "I mean, not everything can go exactly as you planned."
Ulizio also competed in the 1600 before taking the track for the relay as well, and finished in 19th place out of 27 runners in the 1-mile run championship division with a time of 5:05.93.
"The pace was pretty conservative, but I stayed close to the front pack and responded to different moves through most of the race," Ulizio said. "As we were on the last lap the girls made a hard move and I didn't respond hard enough. I didn't finish near my personal record from state, but I was happy I went out there and had the chance to race."
Runners from 18 different states ran in the race, which was won by Wesley Frazier of North Carolina in 4:39.66.
Hiehle, who is a sophomore, competed in the 400 meter and ran a 58.46, which put her in 24th place out of 29 runners.
"All-in-all it was a good trip for them, but not what they hoped," said Redondo head track coach Bob Leetch.
Ulizio and Ferron will now gear up for their freshmen seasons at Penn State University and the University of Arizona, respectively.
"It seems surreal that my high school running career is over," Ulizio said.
"It was a great end to an incredible season and we are glad we had the chance to attend even with not being able to compete at 100 percent," Julie Ferron said.