Ridge pulls off shocking upset at sectional track event

Heading into Saturday’s NJSIAA North 2 Group IV meet at Toms River’s Bennett Center, the Ridge High School girls track and field team knew that they had a chance to do something special.

Head coach Tim Mooney said that his group had a good feeling going into the meet, knowing that on any given day, the Red Devils could score in a majority of the events.

Despite recording just one first-place finish, Ridge shocked national-power Columbia and took home the team title, with 76 points to Columbia’s 73. Catharine Wain won Ridge’s only gold medal on the day, clearing 10-0 on the pole vault, in her first meet since injuring her ankle prior to the Skyland Conference meet in late January.

“On a given day, we felt that we could score in eight of the 10 events, and we ended up scoring in 7 of 10 on Saturday,” Mooney said. “We figured there was a good 10-point gap that we’d have to close between us and Columbia, but we did it together and this was a great team effort all around.”

In the distance events, Ridge gave itself a bit of hope, taking second and fourth place in the 800-meter with sisters Sarah and Sophie Spring earning key points. Sarah Spring crossed in 5:21.41 and Sophie was about four and a half seconds behind at 5:25.94.

In the second-to-last race of the meet, the 3,200 meters, Ridge once again placed multiple runners in scoring positions, earning second, third and fourth spots. Sarah Spring (11:53.44), Regan Asay (11:56.24) and Sophie Spring (11:56.61) earned key points before the 4×400-meter relay.

“The 3,200 is the tougher of the distance races, because it’s at the end of the day,” Mooney said. “It’s the last one before 4×400 and we had to kind of close the gap before that relay. It was actually Sophie’s first two-miler of her career and Ragen was struggling throughout that race; I think she was as far back as 10th, but she worked her way up and got us some big points.”

Even though Columbia won the 4×400 with a time of 3:57.45, Ridge’s fifth-place finish of 4:08.62 was enough to earn the team title. The quartet of Kelly Van Baalen, Kelly Corley, Abigail Regner and Shaye McCoy closed out the meet with a solid run, according to McCoy.

“When we were warming up, we got into a huddle and I reminded the girls that we wanted it more than any of the other teams,” McCoy said. “We were seeded ninth, but when I got running, I was thinking about my teammates and how well they ran and I couldn’t give up. I was so excited that we came in fifth and ultimately won the team title.”

McCoy, one of the captains for Ridge, said that coming into the meet as an underdog to Columbia helped the mentality of the squad throughout.

“We just showed how much commitment we have for Ridge; I told my friends after the meet that this is the proudest I’ve ever been as a captain and I’m so excited for what we accomplished.”

The field events were where Ridge really took control, earning top-3 finishes in the high jump, pole vault and shot put. Sarah Phinney finished second behind Wain in the pole vault, clearing 9-6, and freshman Jessica Creedon (5-2) and senior Alissa Laham (4-8) finished second and third respectively on the high jump, with Creedon’s mark coming as a personal record. Nicole Grabowski rounded out the field portion of the meet for Ridge with a second place finish in the shot put, tossing a 36-1.00.

“We knew we could score in the field events, but coming up with seconds and third was better than fourths and fifths,” Mooney said.

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