Category Archives: Track & Field

Pingry’s Parsons wins high jump at track finals

Despite stepping onto the field at the NJSIAA Track & Field Group Championships for the first time, The Pingry School’s Libby Parsons didn’t let inexperience slow her down in the high jump.

The sophomore, who said she’s only been jumping this season, was the only competitor to clear 5-3 on Friday afternoon at South Plainfield’s Frank Jost Field, taking first place in the Non-Public B field and earning a spot in next Wednesday’s Meet of Champions.

“This is my first year doing high jump; the goal for me was to get 5-2 so this was a really big deal for me. I didn’t think I was going to get it, so it’s pretty exciting for me,” Parsons said.

Parsons, who said she was a little nervous before jumping on Friday, mentioned that her teammates have been very supportive of her since joining the squad this year.

“They’ve been so great with me and I’m excited to keep going; being my first year, I was a little nervous, but I think I can improve,” she said. “I just have to stay focused and just jump my best on Wednesday.”

Pingry’s 4×800-relay team of Sara Gagnon, Emma Palmer, Ellen Li and Anna Butrico took home first place with a time of 10:07.99, nearly 10 seconds better than second-place Newark Academy.

Palmer, a sophomore, paced the Big Blue with a split of 2:26, followed by Gagnon, a senior at 2:30. Butrico, another senior, finished her split at 2:33 and freshman Ellen Li turned in a 2:36.

“Sara and I are graduating seniors and neither of us are running in college, so we see the team as more important than our individual times,” Butrico said. “We have a freshman in Ellen, so we want to show her the Meet of Champions the right way next week, and we have super star in Emma over here, who’s going to pack it in and bring it home for us.”

Adedire Fakorede will join his female teammates next week, after winning the shot put with a throw of 51-5, besting Luke Grodeska from St. Rose by 3.5 feet.

“I don’t know to sum it up, but it’s just a lot of hard work and dedication; I thank God for being healthy,” Fakorede said. “My PR was 51-8.75, and I hit 51-5, which is close to it and on the first throw, which really blew my mind. I was really happy.”

Dana Klein of Gill St. Bernard’s earned a convincing victory in the 1,600-meter run, wiping away the field with a time of 4:59.36, which was more than 23 seconds faster than anyone else. Klein said she had her eyes set on next Wednesday before and during the race on Friday.

“I definitely knew I was going to be running it for time and I was going to be racing the clock, which can, at times, be challenging,” she said. “But I just tried to take it lap-by-lap and stay on pace and it was a little tough to do it by myself. At the end of the day, I was just looking to get a good workout before Meet of Champs, where I’ll have great competition and I’ll be able to race girls and get swept up in a great race. I’m hopeful I can run a good time on Wednesday.”

Armani Comick will join her Gill St. Bernard’s teammates, after winning the triple jump with a distance of 34-4, narrowly edging Villa Walsh’s Grace Penders by 0.25.

Rounding out the local winners was the Somerville boys 4×800 team of Dimitri Demos, Luke Prothero, Jake Howell and Alex Rohmann, who posted a time of 7:56.15, which was more than 2½ seconds faster than Chatham in the Group II race.


Bunion leads Rahway boys at NJSIAA Group II Indoor Track Championships

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.

Voorhees’ Clarissa Modde finishes second in 3,200 in Group II Indoor Track championships

TOMS RIVER — With the help of a teammate, Voorhees High School distance runner Clarissa Modde posted the second-fastest time in the 3,200-meter run the NJSIAA Group II championships Thursday evening at the Bennett Center, qualifying for the Meet of Champions in the process.

Modde, a senior, finished the race in 11:05.00, 1½ seconds behind Julia Guerra of Indian Hills, to secure a spot in the March 1 Meet of Champions.

“I started off pretty strong; I wanted to take the first mile pretty steady and really pick it up in the last mile,” Modde said. “I felt really good and I really picked up the pace with about 800 meters to go and it was really good.”

Modde said that having teammate Erin McLaughlin in the race with her was a big positive, as McLaughlin ran in the same pack with Modde for the majority of the race before fading a bit at the end. But McLaughlin will join Modde at the Meet of Champions after finishing in 11:12.61, good for fifth place.

“It always helps having a teammate in there with me,” Modde said. “I like running with my teammates and this is a good step for us. The goal was making it to Meet of Champions and I really wanted to win today, and I got really close. There wasn’t much more I could do, but I feel like I have some momentum now going into that next meet.”

Voorhees’ girls finished in a five-way tie for 11th place, with Modde and McLaughlin scoring the only 10 points of the meet.

Also scoring a trip to the Meet of Champions from Voorhees was Anthony Capone, who finished sixth in the 1,600-meter run. Capone, a senior, finished in 4:29.41, which was just eight-tenths of a second behind fifth place Nicholas Rivera of Camden.

Alex Livernois of Scotch Plains-Fanwood, who came in third in the 3,200-meter run at 9:35.13, also qualified for the Meet of Champions.

Rounding out the local winners was Moneta-kai Price of Plainfield, who scored a sixth-place finish in the 55-meter hurdles in Group III. Price crossed the finish line in 8.03 seconds, improving over his qualifying time of 8.08 earlier in the day.

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.

J.P. Stevens boys track team takes first sectional crown

Behind the strong performances from seniors Mark Cooke and Jaashir Morris, the J.P. Stevens High School boys track and field team won its first indoor sectional title Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks edged Franklin 58-49 for the crown at Toms River’s Bennett Center, as Cooke and Morris earned first-place medals in the 55-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash, respectively.

For head coach Dave Martinez, seeing his squad perform as well as they did was something he’ll remember forever.

“This is great to be a part of. These are some of the most talented kids I’ve ever had and it’s just so exciting to see it all pay off for them,” Martinez said.

In the 55-meter hurdles, Cooke won with a time of 7.79 seconds and Morris was right on his heels, crossing the finish line in 7.82, giving J.P. Stevens big points early on in the meet. Cooke rounded out his day with a third-place finish in the 55-meter dash, with a time of 6.73 seconds.

“I would never put anything past Mark for what he is capable of accomplishing,” Martinez said. “The 55-meter dash was the biggest race for us, because we knew we’d do well in the other races, but to get a third place finish from Mark in that one was huge. The 55-dash isn’t a race we normally compete in, but Mark came up to me before it started and asked if he could enter it and I thought that was a great idea. It ended up working out well for us.”

Martinez said that having Cooke and Morris finish 1-2 in the 55-hurdles was a surprise, noting that it was Cooke’s best hurdles race of the season.

The two classmates traded positions on the podium in the 400 meters, as Morris came in first at 50.18 seconds, with Cooke right on his heels, finishing in 50.46.

“Jaashir set the tone for the whole meet in the 400 and I think it was a really smart race for him,” Martinez said. “He’s been one of our elite runners for three years now and it was great to see him win that race.”

The two teamed up in the meet’s final event, as Cooke ran the opening leg and Morris ran anchor in the 4×400-meter relay. J.P. Stevens finished fifth, as Jose Delli Paoli and Aaron John ran the middle legs, with a time of 3:34.59. Even though Franklin won the 4×400, J.P. Stevens had accumulated enough points throughout the meet to remain on top.

Panth Patel gave the Hawks a solid day in the distance events, coming in second in the 1,600 meters (4:30.39) and third in the 3,200 meters (9:46.17).

“I’m very proud of Panth; he ran very tough and it was the first time all season he pulled that double. We needed every point we could get and if he ran well in both of those events, we knew we’d be in a good spot,” Martinez said. “We’ve never had three great athletes on the team at the same time, but we do now, with Mark, Jaashir and Panth. We’ve had two great runners at a time, but never three. That’s why I’ll remember this team forever.”

Belmont sets two meet marks in leading Old Bridge girls to GMC track title

TOMS RIVER — Despite not running a 3,200-meter race in nearly a year, Old Bridge High School’s Rachel Belmont scored a meet-record 11:06.83, then added to the accomplishment with a meet-record run of 5:13.17 in the 1,600 to help the Knights capture the Greater Middlesex Conference team title Saturday at the Bennett Center.

Old Bridge edged Piscataway 46-44 for first place, with South Brunswick just three points behind.

“I was so happy with the 3,200; the goal today was to do enough to win the 1,600, but save enough energy to win the 3,200,” Belmont said. “I knew that would need that extra boost to hold off Rachel Suss (of Metuchen) in the two-mile race. It was such a fun race, having a great runner push me to be my best. I haven’t run a two-mile in almost a year, so I didn’t know where I’d be. But I feel like that was what I needed to get a personal record and both of these meet records.”

Belmont, who set course records during the fall cross country season, said that being part of a championship team during her senior season was even more rewarding than earning a pair of meet records.

“Honestly, it’s amazing to be part of another team champion team,” she said. “We’re all working towards the same goal and as a senior, it’s great. Individual wins are great, but team wins are even better. It’s surreal. Everyone has to come together and that certainly happened today.”

Oksana Sokolova became a three-time GMC champion at the high jump, clearing 5-4, to boost the Knights past Piscataway and South Brunswick.

“For Oksana to win her third in a row is great,” Old Bridge girls coach Steve Gajewski said. “We talked about her being a two-time champion and defending it and it was a pressure event and she did a great job.”

Piscataway made it a close race for the team title in the 4×400 relay, the meet’s final event, winning by three seconds over Woodbridge. The quartet of Nia Dipuche, Jazmine Elleston, Chanel Smith, Brionna Pettus crossed the finish line in 4:04.25. Pettus also took home a gold medal in the 400-meter race, winning in 58.96.

Aspen McMillan won the 55-meter hurdles for the second straight year in 8.47 and Nicole Cavett was one of only four girls to clear the pole vault, winning the event by going over 9-0.

Vikings triumph

On the boys side, South Brunswick ran away from Old Bridge, 74-47, to give first-year head coach Chris Ruskie a GMC title. Elijah Suggs (55 dash), Juan Baxter (55 hurdles), Morgan Murray (800) and Nicholas Neville (1,600) all won events for the Vikings.

“This is great; we’re very excited. This is our third straight major championship victory and we want to keep this momentum going into sectionals,” Ruskie said. “But we knew it would be close with Old Bridge again, but our guys were prepared; they did what we told them. Not too many mistakes today and having Elijah Suggs winning was a nice surprise. We thought he could place, but winning was a huge bonus.”

Old Bridge received a strong performance from Hazem Miawad, who won the 400 in 49.92 and was part of the 4×400 relay team that edged South Brunswick by 2.5 seconds.

Miawad, along with Marcus Hernandez, Alex Leto and Jayson Gilbert ran the relay in 3:27.84.

James Hampsey of Metuchen took home gold in the 1,600 with a come-from-behind victory, edging Trent Brinofski of Bishop Ahr 9:39.67-9:41.90.


TEAM SCORES: 1. South Brunswick 74; 2. Old Bridge 47; 3. Perth Amboy 23; 4. J.P. Stevens 22; 5. Metuchen 21; 6. St. Joseph 20; 7. Bishop Ahr 16; 7. Sayreville 16; 9. J.F. Kennedy 11; 9. East Brunswick 11; 11. Woodbridge 6; 12. Monroe 4; 12. Piscataway 4; 14. Spotswood 2; 14 Colonia 2.

55 DASH: 1. Elijah Suggs (South Brunswick) 6.71; 2. Ivan Gulyeav (Metuchen) 6.72; 3. Shaun Abubakar (Sayreville) 6.77; 4. Brandon Phillip (East Brunswick) 6.80; 5. Gadimi Porielean (Colonia) 6.81; 6. Jorge Vasquez (Perth Amboy) 6.88.

55 HURDLES: 1. Juan Baxter (South Brunswick) 7.82; 2. Jaashir Morris (J.P. Stevens) 7.86; 3. Shaun Abubakar (Sayreville) 7.93; 4. Christopher Wong (Monroe) 8.05; 5. Josh Franklin (Old Bridge) 8.05; 6. Mark Cooke (J.P. Stevens) 8.06.

400: 1. Hazem Miawad (Old Bridge) 49.92; 2. Alex Leto (Old Bridge) 49.94; 3. Mark Cooke (J.P. Stevens) 50.67; 4. Marcus Hernandez (Old Bridge) 51.02; 5. Jaashir Morris (J.P. Stevens) 51.10; 6. Ivan Gulyeav (Metuchen) 51.37.

800: 1. Morgan Murray (South Brunswick) 1:57.97; 2. Matthew Tamasi (South Brunswick) 2:00.03: 3. Luiliam Teixeira (Perth Amboy) 2:02.46; 4. Daniel Torres (Sayreville) 2:02.48; 5. Nick Garifalos (Spotswood) 2:03.13; 6. Christian Garrido (South Brunswick) 2:03.83.

1600: 1. Nicholas Neville (South Brunswick) 4:34.38; 2. Gerard D’Ambrosio (Old Bridge) 4:34.96; 3. Tyler Sanders (South Brunswick) 4:37.20; 4. Jason Rivera (Perth Amboy) 4:39.73; 5. Joseph Weber (South Brunswick) 4:43.80; 6. Aaron John (J.P. Stevens) 4:43.80.

3200: 1. James Hampsey (Metuchen) 9:39.67; 2. Trent Brinofski (Bishop Ahr) 9:41.90; 3. Brandon D’Souza (St. Joseph) 9:47.55; 4. Panth Patel (J.P. Stevens) 9:47.94; 5. Matthew Zamorski (South Brunswick) 9:48.57; 6. Kyle McCann (South Brunswick) 10:00.51.

HIGH JUMP: 1. Joseph Egri (J.F. Kennedy) 5-10; 2. Chris Minick (Bishop Ahr) 5-8; 3. Percy Martin-Oguike (Woodbridge) 5-8; 4. Tyler Hopman (Old Bridge) 5-8; 5. Trevor Firgau (Metuchen) 5-6; 6. Kevin Thomson (East Brunswick) 5-6.

SHOT PUT: 1. Anibal Hernandez (Perth Amboy) 49-5.50; 2. Alexander Borowick (St. Joseph) 47-7.00; 3. Erich Kaiser (South Brunswick) 47-6.00; 4. Patrick Conlon (St. Joseph) 47-4.00; 5. Nicholas Krute (St. Joseph) 46-5.50; 6. Chris Simone (Old Bridge) 45-3.00.

POLE VAULT: 1. Ayman Saleh (East Brunswick) 13-0; 2. Jeremy Rodriguez (South Brunswick) 13-0; 3. Nick Carbone (South Brunswick) 12-6; 4. Kevin Wainczak (South Brunswick) 12-0; 5. Ryan Koonjan (J.F. Kennedy) 11-6; 6. Joseph Egri (J.F. Kennedy) 11-0.

4×400: 1. Old Bridge (Marcus Hernandez, Alex Leto, Jayson Gilbert, Hazem Miawad) 3:27.84; 2. South Brunswick 3:30.47; 3. East Brunswick 3:34.12; 4. Piscataway 3:34.98; 5. Perth Amboy 3:38.27; 6. J.F. Kennedy 3:39.72.


TEAM SCORES: 1. Old Bridge 46; 2. Piscataway 44; 3. South Brunswick 43; 4. Woodbridge 35; 5. North Brunswick 25; 6. Spotswood 22; 7. East Brunswick 21; 8. Bishop Ahr 18; 9. Metuchen 17; 10. Sayreville 7; 11. South Plainfield 6; 12. Edison 3.

55 DASH: 1. Essence Harris (North Brunswick) 7.25; 2. Aspen McMillan (South Brunswick) 7.28; 3. Brionna Pettus (Piscataway) 7.38; 4. Chanel Smith (Piscataway) 7.47; 5. Ellie Yepez (Woodbridge) 7.56; 6. Desirae Osley (South Brunswick) 7.58.

55 HURDLES: 1. Aspen McMillan (South Brunswick) 8.47; 2. Jazmine Elleston (Piscataway) 8.55; 3. Amber Edwards (Sayreville) 8.92; 4. Gianna Thompson (Piscataway) 8.95; 5. Julia Lekht (South Brunswick) 8.99; 6. Mackenzie Revano (Metuchen) 9.15.

400: 1. Brionna Pettus (Piscataway) 58.96; 2. Brittany Gasser (Woodbridge) 59.87; 3. Ellie Yepez (Woodbridge) 1:00.36; 4. Desirae Osley (South Brunswick) 1:00.89; 5. Amanda Cucarese (Old Bridge) 1:01.37; 6. Rachel Huang (East Brunswick) 1:01.85.

800: 1. Brittany Gasser (Woodbridge) 2:20.26; 2. Jasmine Jerman (East Brunswick) 2:24.58; 3. Alexandria Coghlan (Spotswood) 2:25.34; 4. Chasity Doctuer (North Brunswick) 2:25.45; 5. Katie Wasserman (Spotswood) 2:25.47; 6. Miaomi McGarrell (Edison) 2:26.87.

1600: 1. Rachel Belmont (Old Bridge) 5:13.57; 2. Katie Wasserman (Spotswood) 5:25.90; 3. Alexandria Coghlan (Spotswood) 5:28.10; 4. Sarah Frost (East Brunswick) 5:28.40; 5. Dianne Ferraro (South Plainfield) 5:29.17; 6. Alyssa Kramer (Old Bridge) 5:33.67.

3200: 1 Rachel Belmont (Old Bridge) 11:06.83; 2. Rachel Suss (Metuchen) 11:07.53; 3. Cassidy Flynn-Rozanski (Old Bridge) 12:00.40; 4. Dianne Ferraro (South Plainfield) 12:04.22; 5. Alyssa Kramer (Old Bridge) 12:11.19; 6. Sarah Frost (East Brunswick) 12:18.98.

HIGH JUMP: 1. Oksana Sokolova (Old Bridge) 5-4; 2. Nnenna Ibe (North Brunswick) 5-2; 3. Jada-Rae Poku (South Brunswick) 4-10; 4. Leyna Abrahams (East Brunswick) 4-8; 4. Bonayza Lunn (North Brunswick) 4-8; 6. Sydney Contrino (East Brunswick) 4-8.

SHOT PUT: 1. Amanda Julve (Bishop Ahr) 34-8.75; 2. Bernadette Maligranda (Bishop Ahr) 34-6.75; 3. Denise Porter (South Brunswick) 33-6.75; 4. Rachel Michalski (Metuchen) 32-9.75; 5. Karllanar Weekes (Piscataway) 32-6.75; 6. Brianna Baldassano (Woodbridge) 32-6.50.

POLE VAULT: 1. Nicole Cavett (South Brunswick) 9-0; 2. Danielle Hecht (South Brunswick) 8-6; 3. Claudia Reyes (J.F. Kennedy) 7-6; 4. Alexa Novoczynski (J.F. Kennedy) 7-0.

4×400: 1. Piscataway (Nia Dipuche, Jazmine Elleston, Chanel Smith, Brionna Pettus) 4:04.25; 2. Woodbridge 4:07.76; 3. South Brunswick 4:10.01; 4. Old Bridge 4:11.28; 5. Metuchen 4:15.06; 6. East Brunswick 4:17.25.

South Brunswick’s Pitt settles for second in triple jump

South Brunswick's Jonathan Pitt leaps in Wednesday's Meet of Champions at South Plainfield. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan.

South Brunswick’s Jonathan Pitt leaps in Wednesday’s Meet of Champions at South Plainfield. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD — Coming into the spring track season, South Brunswick High School track and field star Jonathan Pitt was widely regarded as the top triple jumper in the state of New Jersey. He had set the indoor record in the winter season and seemed poised to win an outdoor title in the event at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

But Dominique Irons of Haddon Heights had other ideas, spoiling the party for Pitt and the rest of the field, jumping a meet-best 48-0 to take home the gold medal Wednesday evening at Frank Jost Field.

Pitt finished in a tie for second place with Cedar Grove’s David Njoku with a jump of 47-6.25, and the silver medal is not what Pitt expected when he arrived at South Plainfield earlier in the day.

“I’m definitely very disappointed because I feel like I was the favorite coming out of the winter season,” Pitt said. “Getting second in nationals, people thought I would come here and win this thing and it wouldn’t even be close, but it’s not the last anyone will see of me, so I’m going to keep working and do some big things from here.”

Irons qualified first for the finals, with a top-jump of 48-10, besting Pitt’s 47-0.75, and in the finals, the Haddon Heights’ senior unleashed the winning jump in his second attempt.

It wasn’t the first time that Irons had gotten the best of Pitt this month. Just last weekend at the Group IV meet in Egg Harbor, Irons topped 50 feet (50-6.75) to beat the LSU-bound Pitt by more than two feet.

“Congratulations to him, he works really hard for this,” Pitt said. “The jumps weren’t as long as people expected, but it was still a great competition and I’m just happy to have made it this far. Second isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”

Tyrell Judson of Piscataway, one of Pitt’s training partners, set out to place this season after faltering in the same event in 2012. While he wasn’t one of the top three, Judson came home with a fourth-place finish after a final round jump of 46-7.

“I came out and all I wanted to do was place, because last year I didn’t place,” Judson said. “So I made it a goal that I was going to place today.”

The friendship between Judson and Pitt is something that both of them will miss when they move on to college in the fall.

“I’ll always remember working out with Jon,” Judson said. “He’s one of the best kids I know and he pushes me to be better and I’m going to miss all of that with Jon.”

Judson placed seventh in the long jump earlier in the day and sophomore Myles Hartsfield of Sayreville finished fifth in the same event.

Franklin boys earn a repeat

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.

CN All-Area Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Zach Ghizzone of Union Catholic

Zach Ghizzone, the Courier News' Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Zach Ghizzone, the Courier News’ Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Two years ago, Union Catholic High School’s Zach Ghizzone was a baseball player who joined indoor track to stay in shape for baseball season. But, with the will to win and the desire to be great, Ghizzone emerged as one of the stars for Union Catholic’s track team, and this winter made a name for himself as one of New Jersey’s best athletes.

Ghizzone took home the gold medal in the 55-meter hurdles at the Meet of Champions with a time of 7.51 and helped Union Catholic win the Union County and Non-Public B team titles.

He is the Courier News Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“This is truly an unbelievable feeling,” Ghizzone said. “I started off the season talking to the coaches and my teammates and I knew that we would be a team to be reckoned with. I just never thought I’d be this good.”

Along with the 55-meter hurdles, Ghizzone runs on the Vikings’ 4×400 relay team, but he was injured and didn’t compete at the Meet of Champions. He said that he had to persuade his coaches to let him run in the 55-meter hurdles and it’s a good thing they obliged.

“He matured as a person and he saw what the hard work was doing for him,” head coach Mike McCabe said. “He ran cross country for us and it helped him get stronger for the winter track season. He had a great season of training, and the additional effort he put in, together with his skills, put him over the top.”

The extra work that he put in included running on the cross country team for the first time, something Ghizzone did only because they needed some extra runners.

“Cross country is not my favorite sport, but I did it for the better of the team,” Ghizzone said. “I ran well in my first couple of meets and when I got the distance down in me, it helped me in the winter.”

Ghzzone said that he learned a lot from running cross country that he took into the winter track season, including how to pace himself better and finish 400-meter races with better speed and energy.

At the Non-Public B State Tournament, Ghizzone was part of the winning 4×400 team that clocked 3:28.30, 12 seconds faster than second-place Roselle Catholic.

But Ghizzone’s crowning moment of the season came when he won the Meet of Champions title in the 55-meter hurdles.

“I took some big steps in hurdles this year; to go from 7.8 last year to 7.51 this year is a good feeling,” Ghizzone said. “When I heard my name at the end of the day, I jumped up in the air and gave a big fist pump and my grandparents were there so it was exciting for my whole family. It felt so great to win.”

One member of Ghizzone’s family that was there was his teammate and brother Andrew, a junior on the Vikings squad who excels in the 1600. Having Andrew on the team helps push Zach to new heights, especially when they’re competing in different events.

“It’s pretty cool to have him on the team,” Ghizzone said. “My brother quit baseball to run track and I did the same. We’re overly competitive and it’s better than we don’t do the same events. My dad hates it when we do the same event, because we trash talk to each other a lot. When he succeeds, it’s just as good as when I do well.”

HNT Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Jonathan Pitt of South Brunswick

Jonathan Pitt, The Home News Tribune's Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Jonathan Pitt, The Home News Tribune’s Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

For South Brunswick High School’s Jonathan Pitt, this winter track and field season was all about tapping into the limitless potential he possesses in his 6-foot 5-inch frame.

Pitt served as the anchor of the shuttle hurdles, 4×200 and 4×400 meter relay teams for the Vikings and helped lead South Brunswick to the Group IV Relays championship. On the side, he broke the state record in the triple jump.

He is the Home News Tribune’s Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“I guess this shows that all my work paid off,” Pitt said. “All of that work that I put in was for a good reason, and it’s good that the hard work gets recognized.”

Pitt took on the challenge of anchoring the Vikings’ relay teams this winter, something that his coach Adam Nalven said was a good thing for him.

“He anchored three relays for us in one season,” Nalven said. “It was something that was great for him. His size makes him stand out sometimes to a casual observer, but when he goes last, it’s not just his size that makes him stand out. He’s beating everyone right now and to me, he’s on another planet.”

At the state relays, South Brunswick won the shuttle hurdles with a time of 31.07 and finished second in the 4×400 with a time of 3:27.65. The Vikings placed eighth in the 4×200 in 1:34.94.

Pitt ran the fourth and final leg of each race and relished the opportunity to be the one counted on to finish out the races.

“I love the pressure,” Pitt said. “The anchor is perfect for me; I do my best when I’m under pressure.”

But an event that’s not contested in the wintertime is where Pitt makes his mark. He set the New Jersey state record in the triple jump with a distance of 49-7.5 at an invitational in February. Pitt has his sights set on an even bigger number once he gets outside in the spring.

“I want people to be afraid of me,” he said. “I want to be in the 51-52 foot range, but I want to focus on victories instead of numbers. I want to be the best in the triple jump all season long.”

And with the triple jump being scored in events this spring, Pitt said he thinks South Brunswick has a chance to be great, and he envisions himself leading the way.

“I think the indoor season was tough,” Pitt said. “Outdoors, I’ll be able to run faster and jump farther. I think being indoors was a warm-up for spring track. It’s going to be crazy with all the talent we have all the way down our roster.”

Nalven said that Pitt’s goal, which the two have talked about at great length, is to set the New Jersey record for the triple jump outside now that he’s done it inside.

“The sky is the limit for Jonathan,” Nalven said. “The outdoor record is something he’s going to be gunning for all spring long and it’s definitely within his reach.”