Most high school track athletes are thrilled to compete in one event at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Rahway’s Emmanuel Atilola and Old Bridge’s Alex Leto will double their pleasure on Saturday.
Atilola is a contender in the high hurdles and high jump and Leto will be in the mix in the 400 and 4×400 at Toms River’s Bennett Indoor Complex. The boys’ meet starts at 10 a.m., the girls pole vault begins at 11 a.m. and the rest of the girls meet kicks off at 1 p.m.
Atilola, a senior has seized his opportunity this winter after paying his dues behind talented teammates as an underclassman.
“We’re happy for him and his success; as a sophomore and junior he always came in second and third in his events,” Rahway head coach Gary Mobley said. “He has taken advantage of his moment to shine this year and making the most of it. He’s carried the torch this winter.”
Atilola has qualified for both the 55-meter hurdles and the high jump Saturday. He is seeded tied for fifth in the high jump after clearing 6-4 and 10th in the 55-meter hurdles after he ran a 7.73.
“We really feel that he’s met our expectations,” Mobley said. “He’s really composed and he works hard.”
Atilola helped Rahway finish second at last weekend’s Group II meet, when he finished second in the high jump and won the the 55-meter hurdles.
“We’re hoping for top-6 finishes in both events,” Mobley said. “We’re just pleased with his performance and we’ll be happy with whatever he finishes with.”
Leto is a junior, but like Atitola he came up through the ranks in a talent-laden program.
“Freshman year I wasn’t a big part of the team and last year I was fighting for a serious role, and now as a junior I have been part of a team that’s been reckoned with,” Leto said.
The Knights have been one of the state’s best 4×400-meter relay teams this season, with Leto running as anchor leg. He said that switching over from the leadoff leg that he ran a season ago to the anchor has added some pressure, but Leto sees it as added motivation to be great, especially when the 4×400 is one of the last events of any meet.
“Being anchor when it’s the last event is a good pressure to have on the team and I,” he said.
Leto’s 4×400 team placed third at the Group IV meet last weekend, coming in at 3:27.55 just one week after finishing second at the Central Group IV meet in 3:28.03. They are seeded fifth at the Meet of Champions. Individually, Leto is seeded 11th in the open 400, an event he’s hoping to place in.
“My expectations are to just win my heat and give myself a chance to place overall,” Let said. “Regardless of how I do, I’ll just be happy because I made it this far.”
Other area boys to watch are Sayreville sophomore Colin Winslow in the 400 (sixth seed), Piscataway senior Jamaal James in the 55 dash (eighth seed) and Franklin senior Yakibu Ibrahim in the 55 hurdles (third seed).
Area girls to watch: Franklin freshman Selena Thorne in the high jump (second seed), Piscataway junior Brionna Pettus in the 400 (eighth seed), Piscataway junior Jazmine Elleston in the 55 hurdles (eighth seed), Woodbridge in the 4×400 (seventh seed) and Old Bridge junior Oksana Sokolova in the high jump (sixth seed).