TOMS RIVER — For the Rahway High School boys track and field team, Thursday’s NJSIAA Group II Championship at the Bennett Center was a coming out party for junior Deshawne Bunion.
In the meet’s first event, Bunion won the 400-meter run in 50.32, besting Anthony Forrest of Buena by 0.24, and in the final event, he helped Rahway win the 4X400-meter relay in 3:26.28.
Bunion qualified for both events at the March 1 Meet of Champions.
“I came in here with the mindset that I was going to win the 400; that’s my mentality every time I run the 400, no matter who I’m going up against,” Bunion said. “But Anthony said that he respected me a lot from a prior meet and I didn’t even know who he was. He knew me and if there’s someone out there that knows who I am like that, I just have take them down one at a time. Today, that’s what I did. I came out a fought and worked hard and he and I have a new respect for one another.”
After cooling down from his first-place finish at the outset, Bunion ran third in the 4X400, taking the baton from Thorne Roberts and handing off to Harlan Clarke. The Indians beat out Camden by more than a second, with Clarke’s final two laps extending the lead.
“We had to come out here and prove a point in the 4X400, because there are people that doubt us. We came in and tell everyone that no matter who you are, we’re going to try and beat you. We’re going to try and beat everyone in our path,” Bunion said.
Clarke added a third-place finish in the 800-meter run, finishing in 1:58.07, meaning he’ll join in competing in two events Bunion at the Meet of Champions.
Rahway tied for second in the team competition, finishing with 34 points to match West Deptford and finish 17 points behind Highland Regional.
Kurt Williams rounded out Rahway’s impressive day, finishing second in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 7.77. Williams made up a considerable amount of time after his qualifying run of 7.92 seconds.
He said that there were some nerves going through him before the gun was fired, but once he got himself off the blocks, he was calm in his race.
“I was nervous at first, but I felt like I got a good take off, and that led me to pick up some speed and I came in a good spot for me,” Williams said. “I am ready to take it to the next level at Meet of Champs. I just need to catch some more speed through the hurdles if I’m going to win.”
For Rahway’s girls, the final event of the meet proved fruitful, as the foursome of Gabrielle Charles, Nina-Simone Murriell, Alana Peterson and Assata Edwards finished fourth in the 4X400-meter relay. With Edwards running the anchor two laps, Rahway crossed the finish line in 4:12.32, two seconds behind Rumson-Fair Haven, which won.
Ellie Yepez and Brittany Gasser posted qualifying marks in the 400-meter run for Woodbridge’s girls. Yepez finished third in 59.42 seconds and Gasser was fourth in 59.75 seconds. Both advanced to the Meet of Champions, where they’ll look to improve on those times, but Gasser pulled up at the end of her 800-meter run with an apparent leg injury. She did walk off on her own power, which is encouraging for Woodbridge.
Yepez, along with Olivia Martinez, Temi Odukale and Elisantte Marine, took part in the 4X400-meter relay, running the third leg in the fifth-place finish for Woodbridge. The quartet crossed the line in 4:07.84, less than one second out of the third spot.