The Southampton girls 4×100-meter relay team achieved what it set out to do at the New York State Track and Field Championships at Middletown High School on Saturday, finishing in the top six among Division II (Small Schools) teams to earn All-State distinction.
Carley Guida, Meggie Gallo, Jessa Laspesa and Paris Hodges finished fifth in the race in 50.64 seconds to cap an impressive season for the Lady Mariners, who won the Small Schools county title and made it to states for the ninth year in a row.
“I can honestly say, mission complete,” head coach Eddie Arnold said on Monday. “They did better than they were listed on the sheet.”
He was referring to the fact that the girls were seeded seventh in the race, a finish that would have left them one spot short of achieving their goal of finishing All-State. Since the streak began, the Lady Mariners have failed to finish in the top six at states only twice.
Notre Dame-Elmira was the winning team in Division II, finishing in 49.65 seconds.
Keeping the 4×100 win streak alive was a big goal of the team this year, one it achieved despite dealing with injuries to key runners and the shuffling of the order in the relay. Guida, Gallo, Laspesa and Hodges were running together as a team for only the third time this year when they finished fifth at states, an impressive feat, according to Arnold.
“It’s always good when you go to states and come home with medals,” he said. “We had a goal in mind, and the chemistry between them developed very quickly. They really pulled together and got the job done.”
Southampton senior Bella Franz also competed at states, finishing 10th in Division II in the 800-meter race in 2:18.69. While noting that it was not her top time of the season, Arnold had nothing but praise for Franz.
“She will leave Southampton as one of the top runners in the past 10 years,” Arnold said.
Franz earned All-County status in both winter and spring track, both difficult feats. Winter track is not divided between large and small schools, making the competition tougher, while the requirements for achieving All-County status in spring track were more stringent this year, requiring athletes to finish in the top four in the county among all schools, large and small.
Franz also achieved the rare feat of qualifying for states in cross country, winter and spring track in the same season.
Franz, Guida, Laspesa and Hodges will all graduate this year, but have a bright future. Franz will run track at Connecticut College, Laspesa will continue her track career at Loyola University in Maryland, and Hodges will be playing basketball at Brandeis University. Guida is headed to Occidental College in California, although she is not sure yet if she will run track.
Losing three of four relay members means that Arnold will have work to do if he wants to get his team back to states for the 10th year in a row. Still, reloading the team has become a specialty of his. He already has several athletes he’s keeping close tabs on to join Gallo next year.
“I think we can rebuild,” he said. “Next year would be the tenth year, so I’m looking forward to that. That’s a big year to get.
“It all depends on the personnel and putting them in the right places,” he continued. “We have a good recipe to be successful, it’s just a matter of having the ingredients. I think we’ll be ok.”