After coaching track and field for 25 years at Edgemont, Coach Steve Rubenstein was filled with much pride as he organized yet another group of girls to compete at the prestigious Penn Relays.
In Rubenstein’s first 20 years of coaching, he was able to send teams to this meet for about 10 consecutive years, and one year Edgemont was even able to medal. It’s been a while since Edgemont has attended this event, so Rubenstein was refreshed to have returned with a 4x400-meter team.
The Penn Relays is a three-day event consisting of heat after heat of races and there is not a minute during those days when the energy is lacking. Coach Rubenstein and his team of girls — Lauren Allan, Gillian Duffalo, Amanda Jaffe and Amalia Pass — made it up and back to Penn in one day, enjoying every moment of the experience.
During their time there, they watched the hundreds of runners and all bought matching T-shirts to remember the day. Rubenstein described the entirety of the day as “a great experience and an amazing venue. It was awesome.”
Not every school gets to participate in such a grand event, so the girls that did go were very lucky to have the opportunity. “I just love how excited we were because it was such a new experience for us,” Allan said. “We felt so privileged to be able to compete at the 125th Penn Relays.”
The key to having a strong relay team is having four fast legs. This principle becomes even more important for races of shorter distances, because if there is a weak leg it is harder for the other runners to recover the lost time.
Last spring, the small Edgemont community was able to produce a group of four strong legs: Allan, Lilah Willis, Nora Butler and Duffalo. At the time, the girls were in eighth grade, 10th grade, ninth grade and 10th grade, respectively, but that didn’t stop them from achieving great things. With a season best of 4:09, the girls qualified for the Penn Relays for this year.
With the meet scheduled during Edgemont’s spring break, Willis and Butler were not able to attend. The absence of these two legs meant the team was unable to show off its full potential. On the bright side, the girls are all still fairly young and will be given more chances to go together. Also a plus, talented athletes Jaffe and Pass stepped in for Willis and Butler and they pulled off a good performance.
The relay posted a time of 4:22.57.
“I was really pleased with those two,” Rubenstein said. “They both did very well, so well that they qualified for next year with their time of 4:22.”
Pass, who normally runs the 100- and 200-meter races, has shown her dedication to the team and flexibility through the whole season by stepping in when needed. To have to run a less comfortable distance at such a large-scale meet can put a lot of pressure on a participant, especially if it’s an event you don’t normally train for.
With a stadium that is “really big and daunting” and with thousands of sets of eyes on her, Pass did a good job bottling up any uneasiness she may have had before her race.
“It is really true that once you’re on the track everything around you goes away and you run like you normally would,” Pass said.
Though the 400 is one of Duffalo’s main events, she still felt the pressure and anxiety before competing. “It was definitely the most competitive and intense meet I have run at,” she said. “Nerves were high, but I think that pushed me to run my best, and I was happy that I ran either a 60 or 61.”
At the end of the day, everyone was proud of what they accomplished and the girls can’t wait to return next year.
“I loved racing with the girls at Penn, but next year I hope our usual 4x400 team can go since we are used to running together,” Duffalo said.