BASKING RIDGE — With the wind howling and the steady rain falling throughout the weekend, the Franklin High School boys track and field team focused solely on the task at hand and repeated as NJSIAA North 2 Group IV champions Saturday afternoon at Ridge High School.
The Warriors, led by double-gold medalist Lee Rutledge, were eight points better than second-place Phillipsburg for the team title.
“It was an outstanding job by our whole coaching staff to get everyone ready,” Franklin head coach Deshaun Gourdine said. “The throwers, jumpers and sprinters all did a great job and the coaches did a great job preparing them for these elements.”
Franklin got 15 points from field events, with Joshua Lockhart’s second place finish in the Javelin Throw (169-11) leading the way. But they dominated on the track, thanks in large part to Rutledge, who won the 200 and 400-meter dashes (23.05, 49.66, respectively) and anchored the 4X100 and 4X400 (44.37 and 3:26.66), which both finished second.
“It feels pretty good to come out and win twice, and honestly it’s still not where I want to be,” Rutledge said. “The cold didn’t help at all and I ran a lot slower than I wanted to on Friday and today as well, but I’m sure that when the weather is warmer next week, I’ll perform a lot better.”
Gourdine said that Rutledge, one of Franklin’s senior captains, came to him in the winter and said he wanted to go out as a champion. The coaches’ message to his star was simple.
“Lee is one of our senior captains and he sat down after the winter season and wrote down goals for himself,” Gourdine said. “So I told him that in order for him to go out like a champion, we were going to ride him like a horse. And he showed up and had an outstanding effort this weekend.”
The Franklin girls finished second to four-time champion Columbia, 35 points behind, thanks to strong field performances from Ashley Berry and Selena Thorne. Berry won a pair of gold medals in the Shot Put and Discus (37-0.75 and 128-8) and Thorne in the High Jump (5-4).
The Piscataway girls squad also had a nice showing, finishing sixth in the team competition, but delivering a big victory in the 4X100 race. The foursome of Nia Dupiche, Jazmine Elleston, Chanel Smith and Alexis McCullum ran a 51.23, ahead Columbia by six-tenths of a second.
“We’ll take it, it’s a win, but I know we can go faster,” Piscataway girls coach Keith Brunson said. “We’ll need to go faster next week and we’re going to keep the same group and I’m proud of the way the girls came out and blocked out the weather and did the best job they could, considering the circumstances.”
North Hunterdon, which finished third in both the boys and girls’ competition, received a big day from Morgan Harvey. The junior won both hurdle events, the 100 in 14.54 and the 400 in 1:03.08.
“I just battled the weather and wanted to make it to the next level next weekend,” Harvey said. “I know my times could have been faster, both days this weekend, but you just have to do what you can. You just can’t let the weather get into your mind.”
Harvey’s coach, Sean Walsh, was very complimentary of her after the meet.
“With Morgan, it doesn’t seem to have any affect on her,” Walsh said. “Even though she says she’s nervous before she runs, she just seems to like the competition. She hates to lose and refuses to lose and I’m proud of her today, especially in the high hurdles.”
Eve Glasergreen also took home gold for North Hunterdon, winning the 3200 in 11:03.06.