In her first race since the 2-mile at indoor nationals March 16, Staples sophomore Hannah DeBalsi cruised to victory last Thursday in the 3000 meters at The Penn Relays. Held in Franklin Field in Philadelphia, DeBalsi defeated 19 other runners to claim first place.

DeBalsi (9:34.57) finished three seconds ahead of second place finisher Hannah Christen (9:37.57) of Burke, Va. DeBalsi said she wanted to break 9:30, but was pleased with her performance after a slow first lap.

"For the first 400 (meters) I was stuck in a pack," DeBalsi said. "It was kind of weird because it was my first race back since nationals; it was weird being in the front pushing again. I wanted to go a little bit faster but it was good to get the first race out of the way."

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DeBalsi's time would have been 12th best in the college women's 3000 race, which was held later Thursday.

DeBalsi earned a gold watch for her victory. The Penn Relays are the oldest track and field meet in the United States, and is the lone meet with more participants than the Olympics, according to Staples coach Jesse McCray. The three-day event drew a combined 108,660 fans.

"It's a great atmosphere to be around for those who love track and field, McCray said. "To be around the college athletes and professionals; the first day we were racing there were 21,000 people in the stands. There's no other high school event that has that, it was a great experience."

The win sets up DeBalsi well for some of the bigger meets of the outdoor season, including outdoor nationals (June 13-15) and the Brooks PR invite (June 21).

"It was definitely good to get a good starting place," DeBalsi said. "It was such a big atmosphere, I kind of got those jitters away and it sets me up for Brooks PR and nationals. I'll be more accustomed to being under that pressure."