Jonathan Law 4x400 relay qualifies for Nationals

The Jonathan Law High 400-meter girls relay team reigned supreme during the regular season, dominating the local competition throughout the spring.

The group then moved to the state level and continued to shine, taking second at the Class MM meet and fourth at the State Open.

On June 11, they took on the best in New England and brought home a seventh-place finish, after entering the meet seeded 13th.

Up next, a shot at national competition as the quartet of junior Olivia Steiner, recently graduated Jessica Centore, sophomore Holly Caldwell and junior Kiara Smith head to North Carolina on June 18, after qualifying for the event with a school record time of 49.39

“This is great, just the fact that we made it this far is exciting,’’ said the always-smiling Smith, the Class MM state champion in 200 meter after setting a JLHS school record in the event, a record that had stood since the early 1980s. “And the fact that the four of us made it together and we’re ready to go.’’

The depth of coach Linwood Schulte’s sprinting crew was never more evident than at the Class MM meet when alternate Melanie Coleman stepped in for the ailing Centore, enabling the team to qualify for the State Open.

Throughout the season, Coleman came in to run for each of the four at least once.

Each of the girls has a distinct, and simple, goal during their leg of the race.

“I don’t want to let my team down,’’ said Steiner, who won the long jump at the Class MM meet. “I just concentrate on running as fast as I can and running through Jess (for the handoff).’’

In addition to the relay, during the season you never knew where you would find the in-perpetual-motion Steiner. In addition to the long jump, she ran other sprints, did the triple jump on occasion and even placed in the high jump in a meet.

Centore is arguably the most decorated girls track athlete in Law history as a three-event all-stater during her career, despite battling chronic ankle injuries throughout on the track and basketball court.

While racing down the backstretch she keeps her focus on one thing.

“I just want to make sure I’m in front when I’m running to give my team the advantage,’’ said the soft-spoken Centore, who will play basketball at Skidmore College in upstate New York next year.

She acknowledged that her ankles are sore, but said she will be ready for Saturday.

Interestingly, Centore said the most important part, the exchange to Caldwell, is what she thinks about least as she is racing toward the sophomore.

“We’ve practiced it so much, I really don’t think about it because Holly and I never have had bad handoffs,’’ she added.

Once Caldwell gets the baton, she attacks the curve like few others and has distinct knack for either making up ground or extending Law’s lead.

Her aggressiveness while running is a distinct contrast to her easy-going personality off the track.

And, like her teammates, she has one thought.

“I’m just focused on getting the handoff to Kiki, nothing else,’’ Caldwell said.

And once Smith gets that baton, there is one goal in mind.

“I have to run strong and just have to kill it,’’ Smith said, “I hear (coach) Schulte’s voice in my head. We don’t settle for anything but first place.’’

In addition to coach Schulte, longtime boys coach Charlie Phillips, now retired and an outstanding sprinter in his high school days in Brooklyn, volunteers to work with the girls on the all-important handoffs.

Joe Beler, the indoor coach for the boys and girls, also has had an influence on the girls’ development.

While not overwhelmed by the idea of going to nationals, Caldwell is in awe of the opportunity for the girls.

“It’s unreal,’’ she said. “I’m ecstatic and feel really privileged to grateful to have the opportunity to do this with these girls.’’

Added Steiner: “I’m nervous about going, because we just made (the qualifying time of 49.54). But in each meet we’ve run better than we were seeded, so hopefully we can do that again.’’

In addition to the great talent the girls bring to the track, Schulte added the best thing about working with the girls.

“They’re all great kids,’’ said Schulte. “I’m happy for them and proud of them.’’