The Canton girls 3,200-meter relay of Gemma and Rebecca DelRossi, Maria Ricalton and Laura Pierce knew that their final run together would come at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday morning.
Judging by the times, the state Division II champions knew they had a good shot at sixth place and All-American honors, or they could participate in a race that is run infrequently.
They decided to the enter the 4 x 1 mile relay as the Canton Track Club and came away as national champions after running 20 minutes and 19.84 seconds in the unseeded section and finishing with a 10-second margin of victory over a team from Carmel, Ind., for the national championship.
The Golden Bears’ mile splits were: 5 minutes, 10.424 seconds for Gemma DelRossi, 5:06.211 for Rebecca DelRossi, 5:02.095 for Maria Ricalton and 5:01.110 for Laura Pierce.
Because they did not run a 4x1 mile relay this season and because none of the foursome had even run a classic mile race competitively they were placed in the unseeded heat.
“At first, we had talked about running the four-by-mile relay as a second race just for fun after we ran the four-by-eight,” Pierce said.
“Rebecca is the one that noticed it. Then we checked out our 1,500 times, and how they would convert to a mile, and realized that we could do pretty well.”
Pretty well would be a bit of an understatement.
“We took the girls’ 1,500-meter times and converted them and we figured that if they ran well their four-by-mile time would have won the national title in two of the last three years,” said Canton assistant coach Paul Pierce, Laura’s father. “The girls went out and they all ran pretty close to their best times. They did a fantastic job.”
Laura Pierce, a Lisbon Central student, is the last of five Pierce siblings to enjoy a stellar running career through a merger agreement between Canton and Lisbon. She is headed to the University of Virginia in the fall to become the fifth child of Paul and Sue Pierce to run collegiately. Rebecca DelRossi will run for Villanova University and her twin sister, Gemma, will run for the University of Vermont.
Maria Ricalton is a junior but has already established herself as a strong collegiate prospect.
The unseeded section of the race turned out to be anything but the slow heat.
“It was a very competitive race. Gemma and Rebecca ran first and second and some of the teams were pretty close together,” Laura Pierce said. “Maria Ricalton can really kick and she used her kick over the last 200 meters to widen the lead.
“I ran last and it was really great. It is hard to describe what it feels like to win a national championship but it is very special.”
Canton Athletic Director Bill Porter, who coaches the Canton boys track and field team, called it a remarkable victory for the school and the community.
“What these girls have done is really amazing. They did all research themselves and figured out what they were going do,” Porter said.
“They are such a talented a group and our girls coach Barry Whiteford, Tom VanDeWater and everyone who has ever coached them deserves a lot of credit.”
The foursome captured the state Division II 3,200 relay title and came very close to winning the Federation championship, running a 9:08.51 at Cicero-North Syracuse Central School the previous weekend.