Greenwich High

Greenwich boys track athletes qualify for Nike Outdoor Nationals in distance medley relay and sprint medley relay events

Contributed photo: From left to right: ZJ Jelinek, Quinn Collins, Antonio Ciccarelli and Harrison Goldenberg of Greenwich High School qualified for the Nike Outdoor Nationals in the distance medley relay.

Qualifying a group of distance runners for the outdoor nationals has been among the Greenwich High School boys track team’s season-long goals this season and those impressive feats were accomplished at the O’Grady Relays.

Cardinals athletes Antonio Ciccarelli, Harrison Goldenberg, Quinn Collins and ZJ Jelinek qualified for the 2022 Nike Outdoor Nationals in the Distance Medley Relay by winning the race at the O’Grady Relays at Danbury High School. Greenwich’s speedy quartet won the Men’s Varsity Distance Medley relay event, which included a 1200-meter leg, 400-meter leg, 800 and 1600, with a time of 10:30.40, almost 12 seconds better than runner-up Danbury (10:42.29).

In winning the race, Greenwich’s distance medley relay broke a school record by an eye-opening 43 seconds. The previous Cardinals record in the race was 11:13.

“The past six years, I have been the only distance guy on our team to go to Nationals,” said Jelinek, one of the team’s senior captains. “We’ve had sprint guys going in the past, but never have had a bunch of distance guys going to Nationals. As captains, me and Quinn both had a goal of more distance guys going to Nationals.”

“I would simply put it as a great experience,” Collins said of the relay team running to a first place finish in the event at the O’Grady Relays and qualifying for Nationals. “Not only is a great experience for me, it is a great thing for Greenwich High School. Normally distance runners don’t go to nationals. We are going out there we are just trying to make a name for ourselves.”

Greenwich’s distance medley relay squad had to be in a competitive frame of mind early Saturday morning to run in the 40th O’Grady Relays at Danbury High School, as their race was among some of the first running events.

“We had to get up at 7 a.m. and there was traffic at that hour, it took us an hour to get there,” Jelinek said. “Then we had to warm up.”

The Distance Medley Relay at the O’Grady Relays began with Ciccarelli, a sophomore, running the 1200 in a time of 3:16. He then handed off to Goldenberg, also a sophomore, who ran 400 meters.

“Antonio Ciccarelli did a really strong first leg,” Jelinek said. “There was a lot of pressure on him to do good. “Harrison Goldenberg, he ran a 51, he was dominant. He’s been to nationals before – this was a walk in the park for him.”

Collins posted a time of 2:03 in his 800-meter leg in the Distance Medley Relay – a personal-record time.

“Before the race, it was very nerve-wracking because we had high expectations,” Collins said. “Beforehand our coach (Jeff Klein) was very excited. During my leg, my coach said ‘Quinn make sure you run fast,’ and that’s what was going through my mind.”

Greenwich senior ZJ Jelinek won a pair of gold medals at the O’Grady Relays at Danbury High School.

Collins then handed the baton to Jelinek, who anchored the race, running the final 1600 meters in a personal-record time of 4:18 – and the foursome won the race in 10:30.40.

“In the final two laps I ended up going very fast 4:18 and we ended up winning by 12 seconds,” said Jelinek, who will compete on the track team at Bucknell University next year. “It was a very productive last mile.”

The 2022 Nike Outdoor Nationals is scheduled to take place June 16-19 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.

“As a senior, I went into the race knowing it was my last chance to make nationals,” Collins said. “I just wanted to help my team and hopefully our school record stands for a while.”

Greenwich’s Sprint Medley Relay squad of Goldenberg, junior Gianluca Bianchi, senior Andrew O’Donnell and Jelinek also qualified for the Nike Outdoor Nationals.

The foursome combined for a winning time of 3:37.36 at the O’Grady Relays in the Sprint Medley Relay, which included two 200-meter legs, one 400 and one 800.

In the race, Goldenberg ran the first 200, then handed off to Bianchi, who ran the second 200 leg, before O’Donnell impressively ran the 400. Jelinek finished off the race by running the 800 in 2:01, as they quartet combined for a winning time of 3:37.36.

The 40th annual O’Grady Relays included teams from Connecticut, New York Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“It was amazing to be racing against 37 or 38 schools from around the area,” noted Jelinek, who also qualified for the Outdoor Nationals in 2021. “To get first with that many people involved was an amazing experience. It’s amazing to have coach Klein and coach Jen (St. Jean) supporting you. The entire team came, so to have that many people cheering you on was inspiring.”

Also at the O’Grady Relays at Danbury High, Greenwich’s 4×200 relay of Cameron Williams, Bianchi, James Wailgum and O’Donnell posted a second place finish in 1:31.82.

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