Staples girls DMR team has the perfect combination
The quartet of Erica Hefnawy, Olivia Wiener, Tyler Scanlin and Hannah DeBalsi rarely get the chance to run in the same race for the Staples girls track team, but one event seamlessly combines each runner's skillset.
The distance medley relay involves four different distances -- 1200, 400, 800 and 1600 meters in that order. Each leg of the 4000 meter combined distance is crucial to success, and the Wreckers have four runners at or near the top of the state in their respective distances.
"Some kids do really well at relays because they feel that accountability for their teammates," Staples assistant coach Amanda Morgan said. "It motivates them to run at a different level. For other kids, it's the opposite. These four girls are all the type the rise to the occasion of a relay."
The DMR is not an event run at the FCIAC or state scene, leaving few chances for the girls to run in the same race together.
However, the four earned a victory last Thursday in the Women's East Coast Challenge DMR race at the 47th annual Loucks Games. The three-day event at White Plains (N.Y.) High School featured some of the tri-state area's best runners.
"It's definitely cool. We knew it was going to be competitive, and it definitely was," said Weiner, who runs the 400 leg. "We were excited to win; not (happy) about the time, but excited that we won."
The Wreckers (11:54.15) defeated Mamaroneck (N.Y.) by 11.83 seconds. Staples was in third place when DeBalsi received the baton, then blasted past of Mamaroneck's Lauren Chapey on the first lap of the 1600 and cruised to victory.
Hefnawy (3:42.33), Wiener (1:00.32), Scanlin (2:16.79) and DeBalsi (4:54.70) ran the race in preparation for Nationals next month.
"We talked about it as a dress rehearsal for nationals," Morgan said. "Every girl at the end already had something they wanted to do differently at nationals. I thought Olivia did a really good job; she was way faster than at indoor nationals," (Wiener cut down two seconds from her segment from indoor nationals, when she ran her leg in 1:02.55).
Wiener has primarily been a relay runner at the state level for the Wreckers. Weiner also won the javelin throw (125-05) at the Loucks Games and should be a major threat to claim a state championship in that event.
The 1200 distance, which isn't on the state circuit, is still somewhat new to Hefnawy, who has enjoyed a strong indoor season in the 800 and 1000 events, finished fourth in the indoor State Open (3:00.00) in the 1000.
"I've run the 1000 and the 800 and I've tried to do a little bit more with the mile," Hefnawy said. "For the 1200, it's really just focusing on the second lap. The middle part is naturally the hardest part of any distance race. It was more closely packed than I thought it was going to be."
Scanlin won the 600 at the indoor State Open and finished sixth in last season's outdoor state open. Both Scanlin and Hefnawy excelled in the 800 last indoor track season.
With these crucial cogs in place, the Wreckers' home run hitter can truly shine. DeBalsi, one of the top distance runners in the country, provides Staples with an edge many other DMR teams can't match.
The group finished third (11:45.79) at indoor nationals in New York in March.
"We were saying before the race that who knows when we're going to have four girls that are this talented on a team again," Morgan said. "Tyler is about to graduate. They probably only have a few chances to run together. They appreciate that it's a rare occurrence."
Next month, the four will compete together in the event for the final time -- Scanlin is a senior -- at outdoor nationalsin Greensboro, N.C. Hefnawy, Tyler Scanlin, Emily Troelstra and DeBalsi finished third (11:53.61) last season in the same event.
After a pair of third place finishes in the past two national races, a victory in Greensboro this year isn't out of the question.
"(The Loucks) was good practice for all of us to get our timing down and see what we can do," Scanlin said.
As a group, the quartet has a multi-layered personality. Hefnawy is talkative and sometimes boisterous. DeBalsi is on the quiet side. Somewhere in between are Scanlin and Wiener, helping this four-piece puzzle fit together.
"It's kind of funny because at school they are an eclectic group of kids," Morgan said. "Hannah is a sophomore, Olivia and Erica are juniors and Tyler is a senior. ... They are united by this really big goal that puts a lot of pressure on them, but also is really rewarding to work for."