Cherokee’s Lucciano Pizarro throws a shot put PR for Penn State!

Lucciano Pizarro, a Penn State freshman from Cherokee, opened his season by throwing the 16-pound shot a personal-best 50-3 1/4 and placing fourth in the Nittany Lion Opener this past weekend.

Pizarro surpassed 50 feet on two throws, with a 50-1 1/2 and the 50-3 1/4. Penn State swept the top four spots in the meet.

It was Pizarro’s first meet since December of 2019, when he threw 49-5 3/4 in another meet at PSU’s Horace Ashenfelter track. That was his only meet last season, and Penn State continues to list him as a freshman.

Pizarro won the 2018 Meet of Champions with a throw of 60-11 with the 12-pound shot as a Cherokee senior in the spring of 2018.

In the same meet, Rutgers junior Adam Hunt, a Collingswood graduate, threw a 57-6 1/2 in the weight throw, taking second. Hunt threw two inches off his PR of 57-8 1/2 set at a meet at The College of New Jersey last January.

Delsea grad Nick Petriello of VMI records first collegiate pole vault win!

Virginia Military Institute junior Nick Petriello won the pole vault this past weekend in his first competition in over a year.

Petriello, who attended Gloucester County Tech and competed for Delsea, recorded his first collegiate win, clearing a collegiate indoor personal-best of 12-3 1/2 at the VMI Keydet Invitational at his home track in Lexington, Va.

Petriello cleared 11-9 3/4 and 12-3 1/2 on his first attempt at 12-9 1/2. Petriello’s outdoor PR is 13-7 1/4, set at the 2019 Southern Conference Outdoor Championships in Birmingham, Ala. 

Petriello was a sectional runner-up and two-time state medalist in the pole vault at Delsea. He cleared 13-0 outdoors and 12-6 indoors at Delsea.

Williamstown grad Bria Mack opens 2021 season with a win for Maryland!

Maryland senior Bria Mack, a Williamstown graduate, opened her 2021 indoor season with a win in the 60-meer dash at Penn State Saturday.

Mack ran 7.61 to win the event at the Nittany Lion Opener at the Horace Ashenfelter track in State College, Pa.

It was Mack’s first race since last year’s indoor Big Ten Championships, when he she also ran 7.61. Mack ran just 3-100ths of a second off her PR of 7.58, which she ran on the same track two years ago at the Penn State National. She ranks No. in Maryland history at 7.58 but only 13-100ths off the school record of 7.45, set in 2000 by Stacy Minott at the ECAC Championships in Boston.

Mack won the 55 at the 2017 indoor Meet of Champions and the 100 at the 2016 and 2017 Meet of Champions.

Sincere Rhea opens season with fast hurdles win for Penn State!!!

In his first race in 11 months, Penn State sophomore Sincere Rhea ran within 12-100ths of his high hurdles PR Saturday on his home track in State College.

Rhea, a St. Augustine graduate and native of Maurice River Township in Cumberland County, won the 60-meter highs at the Nittany Lion Opener at the Horace Ashenfelter track in 7.88, not far off his PR of 7.76, set last February in the trials at the Big Ten Championships in Geneva, Ohio. He went on to place third in the Big Ten final in 7.82 and finished the year as the No. 2-ranked freshman in NCAA Division 1, behind only Brithton Senior of South Dakota, who ran 7.74 at the Summit League Championships in Fort Wayne, Ind.

In the early going in this COVID-delayed season, Rhea’s 7.88 ranks 8th in Division 1 and third in the Big 10, behind Jamal Britt of Iowa [7.85] and USC transfer Ayden Owens of Michigan [7.87].

On Saturday, Rhea edged Caleb Dean of Maryland, who was second in a personal-best 7.95. 

Rhea also ran the 200 and placed second in 22.21 behind Nadale Buntin of Rutgers (via John P. Stevens High in Edison), who ran a PR 21.66. Buntin was competing in his first race in nearly two years, since transferring from Monmouth. Rhea has run as fast as 21.38 indoors

Rhea is No. 2 in Penn State history in the 60-meter highs, behind only Guy Rose (a graduate of Wayne Hills High in Passaic County), who ran 7.69 at the 2001 Big Ten Championships in State College.

No. 3 on the Penn State indoor hurdles list is Michael Timpson, who ran 7.82 in 1986. Timpson went on to spend nine years in the NFL and caught 42 passes for 484 yards and two TDs for the Eagles in 1997.

Delsea grad Nico Morales makes college debut with a win and Rutgers all-time #10 PV clearance!!!

Rutgers freshman and Delsea graduate Nico Morales made his collegiate pole vaulting debut Saturday with a win and a near-PR.

Morales, in his first collegiate meet, won the vault at the Nittany Lion Opener at the Horace Ashenfelter track in State College with a 15-5 3/4 clearance, which is just a quarter of an inch off his indoor PR of 15-6, which he hit twice – at last year’s state Group 3 meet in Toms River and the Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze, his last official competitions.

Morales’ overall PR is a 15-7 at the 2019 Tri-County Conference Championships outdoors on his home track at Delsea.

Morales is No. 2 in South Jersey indoor history behind only his brother Marco, who cleared 16-0 at a SJTCA meet in Toms River in February. Marco is also a freshman at Rutgers but hasn’t competed yet this indoor season.

Morales’ 15-5 3/4 ranks No. 10 in Rutgers indoor history and is the Scarlet Knights’ best mark since Northern Valley Regional graduate Chris Mazzacano cleared 15-10 1/2 four years ago at the Big Ten Championships in Geneva, Ohio.

It’s the top indoor mark by a South Jersey vaulter for Rutgers, supplanting a 15-3 by Matt Mancini of Cinnaminson at the 2010 Big Ten meet at the Armory.

Cherokee grad Ethan Wechsler runs indoor 3,000 PR in first college track race!

Syracuse freshman Ethan Wechsler ran his first collegiate track race Friday, running 8:33.54 for 3,000 meters. Wechsler raced at the Virginia Tech Invitational at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va.

Wechsler has never run a 3,000 before. He has a 3,200 PR of 9:10.90 from the spring of 2019 and an indoor 3,200 PR of 9:12.20 from last year’s Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze 10 months ago. That was his last race on  the track.

His 8:33.54 converts to about a 9:14.62 for two miles or a 9:11.39 for 3,200, so it’s essentially an indoor PR.

Wechsler finished third in the second of two sections of the race, just behind Dave Whitfield, running unattached, who ran 8:31.90.Overall, Wechsler finished only 8 1/2 seconds behind the first collegiate, Bashir Mosavel-Lo, a junior at Virginia Tech.

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Millville’s Leah Ellis medals in two events at Hispanic Games!

It’s not much, but it’s something!

South Jersey does have the start of an indoor track season.

Millville junior Leah Ellis, competing under the Camden Track Club banner, placed third in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump Saturday at the 27th annual Hispanic Games at the 168th Street Armory.

Because New Jersey high schools are not yet allowed to compete indoors, Ellis – and every other athlete at the annual meet – competed independently for a club team, Camden Track Club.

Ellis, who’s been a top-10 placer in the Meet of Champions in three events – high hurdles, long jump and triple jump – didn’t hurdle Saturday, but she did compete in both horizontal jumps.

She placed third in the long jump at 17-4 3/4 and was fifth in the triple jump with a 35-5. It was her first meet since last year’s indoor Meet of Champions 10 months ago.

Also, Paul VI sophomore Briyel Brown ran 7.70 for eighth in the 55-meter dash trials. She missed the finals by 12-100ths of a second. 

According to Armory rules, all athletes had to compete fully masked.

Brady Shute leads Gloucester County all-star team to East Coast XC Championship team title!!!!!

A Gloucester County all-star team led by Woodbury senior Brady Shute won the boys team title at the  East Coast Cross Country Championships Saturday at Holmdel.

The team of Shute, Clearview senior Anas Bensaoud, senior Zach Rhoda and junior Jake Cobb of West Deptford and Woodbury freshman Peyton Shute averaged 17:02 through water-logged Holmdel County Park and edged a North Hunterdon team by three points.

Shute ran 16:18 and placed 10th overall in the Gold seeded race, finishing the year undefeated against South Jersey runners. 

Bensaoud, finally rounding into shape after missing nearly two months of training with a stress fracture, ran 16:55, and the West Deptford duo ran 16:58 and 17:20. The younger Shute, in his first race ever at Holmdel, ran 17:35.

Bensaoud and Rhoda actually ran 1-2 in the Navy race, with Peyton Shute 12th. Bensaoud and Rhoda were the only fnishers under 17 minutes in that race and no doubt would have run faster had they been placed in the faster Gold race. Brady Shute and Cobb ran in the Gold race.

Although updated New Jersey COVID rules forced meet organizers to replace several out-of-state schools, runners from New Jersey and four other states were able to race in the season-ending invitational, held in cold, rainy, windy conditions.

The Gloucester County all-stars, competing under the name Rio Dam Track Club, outscored North Hunterdon 81-84, with Valley Project, representing Ridge High, third at 89 and Limitless, a Connecticut all-star team, fourth with 98 points.

Highland senior Cole Wassell and Collingswood senior Josh Forrest, both running unattatched, ran 16:44 and 16:46, placing 19th and 22nd in the Gold race.

Cherry Hill East also competed, led by senior Gabe Rodriguez, who ran 17:09, and sophomore Michael McCurdy, who ran 17:46, a Holmdel PR.

Rancocas Valley’s Erika Kemp races into all-time U.S. top-30 with a MASSIVE 10,000 PR

Rancocas Valley graduate Erika Kemp ran a massive 10,000 breakthrough of 31:35.63 at the Track Meet late Saturday night outside Los Angeles.

Her time is No. 28 in U.S. history.

Kemp easily surpassed the qualifying time of 32:25 for the Olympic Trials, which have been rescheduled for June of 2021. She fell 10 seconds short of the Olympic standard of 31:25.00 for next year’s Tokyo Games.

Kemp’s previous 10,000 PR was a 33:13.44 in the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 3, 2015. So she lowered her PR by more than a minute and a half.

The meet was put together for athletes to chase Olympic qualifying standards in fast conditions on the first day the Olympic qualifying window re-opened. 

The location was kept secret before the meet to avoid spectators showing up. It was held at Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

Kemp ran with the leaders much of the race and took the lead at one point just before the midpoint of the 25-lap race. She came through 5,000 meters in about 15:45 and was still within striking distance of the Olympic standard when she hit 8,000 meters at 25:10.25, which put her on pace to run 31:27. 

But she split 78.3 and 79.7 on her 23rd and 24th laps before closing in 76.8.

Kemp, racing for Boston Athletic Association, placed ninth. The top eight finishers met the Olympic standard.

Despite falling a few seconds short of the standard, the performance is a huge breakthrough for Kemps, whose time is No. 21 in the world this year.

It’s also No. 2 all-time by a New Jersey (or Burlington Ccounty) woman, behind a 31:05.71 by Mount Laurel native and Haddonfield graduate Marielle Hall in the finals of last year’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in September. 

Rachel Schneider won the race in 31:09.79, leading six women under 31:20. The race produced eight of the top 28 times in U.S. history (one of the runners ahead of Kemp wasn’t from the U.S.):

30:13.17 … Molly Huddle, 2016
30:22.22 … Shalene Flanagan, 2008
30:49.57 … Emily Sisson, 2019
30:50.32 … Deena Kastor, 2002
30:55.16 … Kara Goucher, 2008
31:05.71 … Marielle Hall, 2019
31:09.79 … Rachel Schneider, 2020
31:10.69 … Amy Cragg, 2012
31:10.84 … Alicia Monson, 2020
31:11.07 … Sharon Lokedi, 2020
31:12.28 … Natasha Rogers, 2020
31:12.68 … Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, 2012
31:12.80 … Lisa Uhl, 2012
31:13.78 … Amy Yoder Begley, 2009
31:15.65 … Kellyn Taylor, 2020
31:17.31 … Jennifer Rhines, 2007
31:18.96 … Amy Rudolph, 2005
31:19.89 … Lynn Jennings, 1992
31:20.45 … Emily Infield, 2017
31:21.92 … Elva Dryer, 2005
31:22.86 … Danielle Shanahan, 2020
31:24.47 … Stephanie Bruce, 2020
31:28.92 … Francie Larrieu-Smith, 1991
31:30.89 … Annette Hand-Peters, 1997
31:34.37 … Kate O’Neill, 2004
31:35.25 … Blake Phillips-Russell, 2005
31:35.3h … Mary Tabb, 1982
31:35.63 … Erika Kemp, 2020
31:35.88 … Kim Conley, 2017
31:37.14 … Desiree Davila, 2011
31:37.26 … Anne Marie Lauck, 1993
31:38.04 … Judi St. Hilaire, 1992
31:39.67 … Jordan Hasay, 2014

Before Saturday night, Kemp’s last race was the U.S. 15K road championships in Jacksonville, where she placed fifth in 50:27. Her last track race was a PR 15:14.76 5,000 at Boston University on Feb. 27. That mark moved her into the No. 17 spot in U.S. indoor history. Her last outdoor track race was the 5,000 at the U.S. Championships in Des Moines on July 28, 2019, where she ran 16:02.88. And her last track 10,000 was a 33:55.38 in Coral Gables, Fla., on May 10, 2018.

Haddonfield girls close out historic XC season as top HS team at East Coast Championships!!!

The top-ranked Haddonfield girls remained unbeaten against true high school competition with a team win Saturday in the East Coast Cross Country Championships.

Haddonfield split up its team Saturday, with its top three – seniors Sarah Naticchia, Allison Colflesh and Payton Weiner – racing in the so-called Gold Race and the rest of the team competing in the Navy race at Holmdel County Park.

On a cold, rainy morning that made the course even more challenging than usual, Naticchia ran 19:06, Colflesh 19:20 and Weiner 19:43 in the Gold race, placing 14th, 22nd and 34th among some of the fastest runners from five states.

In the Navy race, freshman Anna Earp and sophomore Helene Usher ran 20:34 and 20:48, junior Jess Goode 21:05 and senior Lindsay Colflesh 21:13.

In a merge of the two races, Haddonfield averaged 19:55 and placed third in team scoring behind two all-star teams comprised of runners from different high schools. Among teams of runners from a single school, Haddonfield was first and finished the XC season unbeaten against high school teams.

Nutmeg All-Stars and Garden State Track Club finished first and second with 36 and 39 points, but Haddonfield – with only girls from Haddonfield High School – scored 74 points in scoring only from runners competing for a specific team.

Colts Neck (94), Mendham (121) and Kingsway (152) were the next intact high school teams in team scoring.

Kingsway sophomore Aubrey Pierontoni won the Navy race by half a minute in 19:37, and junior teammate Allison Helkowski was fourth in 20:15.

Collingswood senior Sophie Steidle, running for GSTC, ran 19:23, and Highland sophomore Grace Wassell ran 19:48.

The original fields had to be pared down because of New Jersey’s updated travel restrictions.