Girls first, boys second at PIL Relays


Freshman Will Tsai competes in the high jump, in a composite image produced by Tucker Johnson

Cleveland’s boys and girls track teams had strong showings at the 2015 PIL Relays, held at the Cleveland Stadium on April 1.

The girls team eked out a win with 74 points, Lincoln was second with 70. The boys team took second place to Wilson, which came into the meet as an underdog, with 70 points to the Trojans’ 79.

“There were a lot of solid performances,” said Cleveland track and field coach Steve Nims.

The PIL Relays is exclusively a relay meet. Instead of the traditional individual races, runners compete in several different types of relays. These include the 4×200, 4×800, Sprint Medley Relay (a medley of 100-100-200-400), the Distance Medley Relay (a medley of 1200-400-800-1600), and Shuttle Hurdles, in addition to the 4×100 and 4×400 relays contested at regular meets. Field events are also scored in relay fashion, with the win going to the school that jumps or throws for the greatest cumulative distance.

Cleveland’s girls were led by outstanding performances in the field events.  Senior Claire Diller won the javelin with a school record throw of 117 feet, 4 inches, a full 15 feet further than any other girl at the meet. In the jumps, junior Emma Hausafus –– the defending PIL champion –– won the high jump in a personal best 5 feet 3 inches.  Hausafus also took second in the triple jump.

The boys, meanwhile, were led by impressive performances on the track. Most notably, the team of junior Noah Adams, seniors Peter Kurtz, Nabi Amin, and 800-meter state record holder Roba Sultessa took first in the 4×800 in what coach Nims called a “show stopper.”  They ran 8:04.1, a truly incredible result especially for so early in the season. “We’ve definitely developed a strong middle distance program, and we wanted to go out and show that off for the PIL,” Kurtz said. The team lapped all but three of their competitors, and beat the second place Lincoln team by an eternity of 24 seconds. They ran 11 seconds slower than the school record, set two years ago.

In the 4×400 relay, Kurtz, Amin and Sultessa came together again, this time with sophomore Peter Gregory, to deliver a spectacular victory. In this race, they beat the second place team from Lincoln by four seconds, and Franklin’s third place team was a full 11 seconds behind.

In the girls 3×100 Shuttle Hurdles, senior hurdler Birch Clark started the relay with a form clinic for her opponents. On the second leg, disaster struck freshman Emily Welter. Her feet clipped the hurdles, and in the blink of an eye she was tossed prone on the track. Like any strong hurdler, Welter picked herself up and kept going, though she struggled to get back into her stride for the remaining 50 meters. In the accident she had sliced open her hand, and was taken to the emergency room by her mother. After doctors removed pieces of the track from deep inside her hand, Welter received six stitches for the injury. Teammates and coaches praised her tenacity; she returned to full practice only two days later. Despite the time lost to Welter’s injury, Cleveland’s relay was able to come back and take third in a time of 60 seconds even, beating teams from Grant and Franklin.

As track season begins to get into full swing, Cleveland’s team shows promise for spectacular individual performances, but may lack the depth necessary to repeat as PIL Champions. The boys team returns both Sultessa and Amin, whom, last year, each won two individual PIL championships, and went on to state where Sultessa set a new state record in the 800.  The girls side won seven PIL championships last year, but returns only three of those girls: senior Emma Wren (also the state champion in the 3000), Clark in the 300 hurdles, and Hausafus in the high jump.