CHARLESTON - The Madonna girls were the team to beat in the Class A 4x400 and they knew it.
"It was very nerve-racking and made us want to work harder, push harder," said Gianna Anile. "Last year, we were the underdogs. No one expected us to do anything at all. We came out of nowhere.
"This year, we knew everyone was coming for us. But, we knew we could win it again and beat the record. That was our goal this entire season. We worked hard since we stepped off the track last year.
STATE?CHAMPS — From left, Gianna Anile; Chloe Conner; Cameron Dowiak and Emilee Pollard, all of Madonna, celebrate their win in the 4x400 at the West Virginia state track meet in Charleston.
"We've been working ever since that day and - we did it."
Anile, Chloe Conner, Cameron Dowiak and Emilie Pollard defended their state championship and set a state record in the process.
The foursome toured four laps in 4:15.49 Saturday at the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field and broke Williamstown's 2011 mark by .42 seconds.
"This is a great way to end my senior year," said Anile. "I am so proud of our team."
"It (being the favorite) is really nerve-racking," said Conner, who finished second in the 400 earlier in the day. "I didn't want to disappoint everyone and I didn't want to disappoint myself."
Dowiak agreed with that.
"There's nothing like running on a (relay) team," she said. "It's all about the team and you will do anything you can to help the team. You don't run for yourself.
"When you run, your only goal in life is to get the baton to your teammate or get the baton and not let your teammates down.
"When you're out there, you're miserable. I run my best in the relays because I have a teammate waiting on me.
"If it's an individual race and your legs hurt, you can slow down. You can't do that to your teammates.
Pollard was the newbie on the foursome.
"At first I wasn't on the team and had to earn my spot and I did that," she said. "I tried really hard to live up to their standards. I'm just so thankful I am a part of this.
"I like running last. It's a personal preference for me and, plus, when they asked, I was willing. I like the pressure. I like knowing where we stand and how I have to run the last leg.
"I don't like to let people pass me. I like to win.
"I'm ecstatic. I couldn't be any happier right now for all of us."
Conner ran 1:01.52 to take second in the 400 behind Williamstown senior Madelin Gardner.
"I was a little disappointed at first," she admitted. "But, I'm a sophomore and I finished second at states. So, I'm happy."
Madonna senior Marcello Biondillo leaped 20-7.5 on his third jump to eventually claim the Class A championship.
"It sure is a lot different than coming in fifth," he said. "I was a little nervous coming in because there was a freshman from St. Joseph who was jumping well and anything can happen in this event.
"Everybody graduated last year who was ahead of me when I came in fifth, so I came in thinking I could pull it off. But, still, you never know. You still have to go out and perform."
His leap was over a foot longer than Magnolia's Tim Weekley, who placed second.
"Weekley and the kid from Doddridge (Zach Cottrill) made me a little nervous, because they are really good," said Biondillo, who leaves the Blue Dons with a pair of state championships as a senior, the first coming in football. "I feel pretty fortunate to have won it.
"It's a great way to finish my career at Madonna."