Toms River, NJ: South Jersey teams converged on Toms River’s Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend for the NJSIAA State Group Relays. South Jersey athletes distinguished themselves in 9 relay events (4×200, 4×400, 4×800, Distance Medley, Sprint Medley, Shuttle Hurdles, High Jump, Pole Vault, and Shot Put).
Group IV Boys (Thursday)
Rancocas Valley (RV) entered the NJSIAA State Relays Championship eyeing gold in the sprint medley relay (400m, 200m, 200m, 800m) and though they fell short Coach Jeff Dzuranin called anchor Isaiah Curbelo’s 1:58 split a “very gutsy effort… !”
State powerhouse Old Bridge opened the event with a blistering 400 meter leg that gapped RV despite a strong 52.9 split by RV junior Rob Hawkins. 200 meter legs Tyler Pohl (23.7) and JeSean Foster (23.8) closed the gap on Old Bridge but still left Senior Cubrelo with a 10 to 15 meter deficit. “He (Cubrelo) ran close to an all-out first 400 to get himself even with Rey Rivera with 300 to go; however, those first 3 laps took too much out of his legs for any real kick,” explained Dzuranin.
Still, RV’s performance was a 1 second season best of 3:38.44 and puts them in position to take a run at their school record of 3:35 at next weekend’s New Balance Games on the fast track at the New York Armory.
Egg Harbor Township emerged over RV’s SMR nemesis Old Bridge in the 4×800 meter relay making them the only Group 4 South Jersey team to win a track relay. Tough lead off legs by twins Rob (2:04) and Alex (2:04) Dessoye set the stage for 3rd leg Aidin Hendriks (2:00) who was able to establish a 10 meter lead for anchor Eric Barnes (2:02) (8:12.72). Coach Ryan Smith said this of his all junior 4×800 championship team:
“[They] are four great kids that are the leaders of our distance team. They work so hard day in and day out at practice. Whether it’s the distance workouts and OC bridge runs with Coach Lucchio or the sprint workouts with myself, I could not be happier with their progression.”
Kingsway Regional High School won South Jersey’s sole field relay title in the Pole Vault. The Junior team of Ryan Evernham and Jacob Metheny both cleared 12 feet 6 inches to clinch the title. The duo tied for the highest clearance of all individuals in the competition. Their 25 feet of skyscraping gave them a 1 ½ foot victory over second place Hunterdon Central High School.
Back on the track, South Jersey teams excelled in the shuttle hurdle relay where 4 South Jersey teams (Egg Harbor Township 32.01, Millville 32.36, Cherry Hill East 32.73, and Rancocas Valley 32.80) ran under the national qualifying mark of 32.89. In the distance medley relay (1200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m) Cherry Hill East impressed with a 4th place finish in 10:39.27. The East team consisted of Isaiah Jean-Baptiste (3:12), Jordan Clark (53), Cole Parsons (2:04), and Aaron Groff (4:27).
Egg Harbor Township followed up its strong 4×800 effort with a 4th Place finish in the 4×400. A. Dessoye (51.9), R. Dessoye (52.9), Barnes (54.2), and Amir Brock (51.1) combined to make the Eagles SJ’s fastest Group 4 team.
Despite just missing at 6 feet 6 inches, Cherry Hill East’s Nevin Beasley had to settle for the highest individual clearance of the meet (6’4”) and, along with his teammate Kyle Encarnacion, a 3rd place team finish. Kingsway was the highest South Jersey finisher in the shot put as Sam Shinn (52’9.75”) and Byron Wells (44’10.5”) combined for 5th.
Egg Harbor Township was South Jersey’s highest finisher in the team competition (5th).
Group IV Girls (Friday)
The Lenape Regional High School team of Jasmine Staten (1:00), Shannon Lambert (27.4), Dana Duffield (27.2), and Megan Quimby (2:14.7) turned in an NJ#1, US#4 performance in the sprint medley relay to win the State Group 4 SMR relay title for the second consecutive year. Coach Gerald Richardson said the girls use their 4×400 meter foundation (where they placed 4th in 4:06.01) and the leadership of Staten and Quimby to excel:
“I’ve always coached my teams to believe that a strong 4×4 relay is the foundation of a solid team. Quimby and Staten solidified that foundation, they are the only two returning runners from last years SMR. Their presence provided the confidence, calmness, and intensity needed to compete at such a high level.”
Cherokee High School followed district rival Lenape with a 3rd place finish capped off with a 2:23 anchor by senior Jess McAdams. Lenape used these strong finishes to place 3rd in the team competition making them the highest finisher amongst South Jersey teams.
In other events, Kingsway’s underclassmen foursome of Destiny Stanford, Haley Rivell, Alexis Mullarkey, and Rachel Vick ran an impressive 12:30.48 for second in the Distance Medley Relay. Shawnee (12:47.76) also scored in the event. Egg Harbor Township was the highest South Jersey finisher in the 4×200 with a time of 1:50.52. Rancocas Valley’s Taliya Rogers, Camryn Colon, Mahon McClenahan, and Razamiyah Carter broke a 20 year old school record to become South Jersey’s highest finisher in the Shuttle Hurdle Relay.
Lenape’s Shannon Storms (10’) and Cassie Hoxit (9’) broke a school record in the Pole Vault Relay to earn the highest South Jersey finish and second place overall. Vineland earned top SJ honors in the shot put with a fourth place finish, while Emily Hilt had the second furthest throw day (38’8.5”), best amongst South Jersey throwers. Rancocas Valley’s Sydne Nance cleared 5’0 in the high jump, best by a South Jersey athlete.
Non-Public A&B (Saturday Morning)
NP A Boys
Missing two important team members Paul VI faced a challenge. Coach Jim Cox challenged his athletes to focus and compete after a disappointing 4×200 meter race where they finished 5th. According to Smith the team responded in the 4×400:
“In the 4×4 they showed the heart and determination that we were expecting. They are a great group of kids who compliment each other very well. Nick has the heart and determination of a lion as he gutted his way, with the broken toe, and kept us in the race, Max did what Max has always done, put us in a position to win and Ric ran a great, aggressive 2nd leg. He refused to give up the lead. While we did lose the lead on Nick’s leg, Antonio, only a Sophomore, showed great race instincts in chasing down Union Catholics anchor.”
The team split 49.9, 52.2, 55.1, and 51.8 to place second in 3:30.21.
With the top clearance of the day in the Pole Vault Relay (12’6”) St. Augustine Prep’s Marc Reeder lead his team to a 2nd Place Finish. His teammate Frank Bergamo contributed a strong 9’0” performance. Another St Augustine duo (Ernest Coursey and Sean Becker) turned in the top SJ performance in the shot put.
On the track Camden Catholic was the highest placing South Jersey team in the 4×800, Distance Medley, and Sprint Medley while St. Augustine Prep earned top honors in the Shuttle Hurdles.
NP A Girls
The Camden Catholic 4×200 squad of Zarria Williams (27.11), Moriah Hall (27.22), Olivia Covington (27.62), and Audrey Esposito (29.99) teamed up for a 3rd place time of 1:52.03. Coach Sonny Anderson was not surprised by the effort, “The goals guide them like a beacon in a storm. The goals keep them on course.” He continued, “They know what they have to do and are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve.”
Paul VI earned the highest finish of a South Jersey team with their second place finish in the shot put relay as Bernadette McGowan (37’09”) and Anna Marie Carrozzo (29’01”) combined for a 66 foot, 10 inch performance. Another Paul VI pair (Anastasia Ketchek and Gabriella Babore) earned top SJ honors in the high jump relay (5th).
Bishop Eustace turned in top South Jersey finishes in the 4×800, distance Medley, shuttle hurdles, and sprint medley, while Camden Catholic followed their strong 4×200 effort with a 4th place finish in the 4×400.
NP B Boys
Bishop Eustace came into the meet hoping to earn a team title despite missing key performers. They placed second to Hudson Catholic (52 to 49). Coach Chris Threston said he “liked how we were able to fill in and still contend for the state title,” and found, “the shuttle hurdles relay… victory… particularly satisfying because we were actually missing [two top legs].” The team of John Nguyen, Cameron Acito, Zahir Williams, and Mike Fisher combined for 35.72 second victory. Fisher is a pole vaulter forced to fill in for a missing teammate and protected a lead for the win.
In sprint medley relay Dan Hullihan (57.4), Jason Varley (24.6), Jack Brady (24.1), and Phil Sobocinski (2:04.9) came from behind to clinch victory for Bishop Eustace in a time of 3:50.46. The Crusaders also earned top SJ honors with a 3rd place finish in the Distance Medley. Nick Hutchinson (3:23.2), Hullihan (56.1), Paul Jacob (2:19.9) and Mike Dziuba (4:48.9) teamed up in the effort. Eustace also scored in the 4×200 (2nd), 4×400 (6th), 4×800 (4th), high jump relay (2nd), and the shot put relay (5th).
NP B Girls
The Holy Spirit team of Asia Young, Angela Bannan, Isabella Desano, Kristy Goff ran to a 2nd place finish in the 4×400 with a time of 4:23.03. They also scored in the 4×200. Holy Cross High School earned top South Jersey honors in the 4×800, distance medley, and sprint medley.
Group 2 (Saturday Night)
Willingboro High School Boys had a strong performance on Saturday night earning a second place finish in the team competition at the NJSIAA Group 2 Relay Championships. The Willingboro 4×800 team of Aaron Cooper, Michael Walker, Tyshon Hernandez, and Tyler Davidson ran 8:19.77 for the win. The Chimeras followed that up with a blistering nationals qualifier in the shuttle hurdles (30.81). Zavian Bell, DeVon Watson, Jahaad Beckford, and one unknown athlete contributed to that victory. Willingboro was also the top placing South Jersey team in the high jump relay.
Delsea High School’s Jarrod Brovero and Nick Clark cleared 12’6” a piece in the pole vault relay and remarkably did not win the team competition. Their 25’ performance would have won or tied for first place in every other group. Kingsway also cleared a combined 25’ in the Group 4 relay meet. The Tri-County pole vault looks to be remarkable yet again this year. In the shot put relay the Oakcrest duo of Enaje Johnson-Hutto (49’1.5) and Terrence Smith (46’11.25) posted a South Jersey best 2nd place finish.
In the 4×400 the Oakcrest foursome of Tyler Clybourn (51.6), Oliver Paul, Isaiah Whaley (52.9) and Chris Dennis (53.3) teamed up to win in an impressive 3:28.42. Oakcrest also ran to a second place finish in the Sprint Medley. This top SJ relay consisted of Clybourn (51.6), Paul (23.5), Marquis Miller (24.1) and Cole Puggi (2:06) and ran an official time of 3:45.8. The Sterling High School Team of Darin Clark, Conner Garzon, Terry Francis, and Charles Naone-Carter ran 1:35.28 for 3rd place and top SJ honors in the 4×200. The Delsea squad of George Tenenberg, Greg Butenewicz, William Mayhew, and Nanthan Senatore finished 3rd in the Distance Medley with at time of 10:59.71, tops in SJ.
South Jersey impressed in the 4×200 relay where traditional SJ powerhouses toed the line at the expense of the rest of the state. In a race that turned Central Jersey’s Bennett Center into a South Jersey landmark Deptford (1st, 1:48.97) outlasted Camden (2nd, 1:49.72), Oakcrest (3rd, 1:49.76), Delsea (4th, 1:50.69), and West Deptford (6th, 1:51.73). The champion Deptford team consisted of Kayla Tucker, Amaris Marsh, Jayla Harrison, and Kiara Lester. Tirado Camryn, Tucker, Zabrina Clements, and Lester returned to capture the 4×400 title in 4:07.44. Deptford carried that momentum to a top South Jersey team finish of 3rd.
The West Deptford team of Jazmine Daly, Lauren Tigue, Alexa Petracci, and Annette Wanjiku combine to bring home the title in the shuttle hurdle relay. Delsea accomplished their goal of earning a medal in the 4×800 with a 6th place finish (10:35) and in the process became SJ’s highest finisher. Sterling took home top SJ honors in the distance medley with a 3rd place finish in 12:48.57, while Cinnaminson placed out of the unseeded heat in the sprint medley to place first amongst SJ teams (4:33.01).
According to Delsea Coach Linda Merchese the team set a goal of 3rd place in the high jump relay. They exceeded those expectations as Megan Zabelski (5’0.75”) and Mercedes Morales (4’4”) placed second. Delsea was also the top finishing South Jersey team in the shot put placing 6th. Sterling earned the top SJ spot in the pole vault relay as they finished 4th.
Group 1 (Sunday Morning)
The NJSIAA Group 1 Relay Championship saw the return of the neighborly rivalry between two of South Jersey best distance programs in the distance medley relay. After a great leadoff leg by Haddonfield’s Austin Stoner (3:12.2) and strong performances from freshmen Zach Murray (55.5) and Derek Gess (2:05.8), Senior Greg Pelose found himself in a battle with Haddon Township’s Owen Long. Pelose’s 4:21.6 anchor allowed him to pull away over the last 400 meters and earn Haddonfield a victory in 10:36.54.
Haddonfield also earned victories in the 4×800 and sprint medley. In the sprint medley Haddonfield chased down Weequahic High School for a new school and state meet record. The team of Luke Colehower (51.2), Joey Ellis (24.2), Franklin Clapp (24.8) and Pelose (1:56.8) clocked 3:37.66. The 4×800 consisted of Stoner (2:00.1), Colin Gallagher (2:03.5), Gess (2:02.2), and Pelose (2:10) who was conserving energy for the spring medley.
Jean Brevil (47’1.25) and LaQuay Bishop (44’0) turned in big performances for Pleasantville and earned gold in the shot put relay. Palmyra’s Kelvin Harmon (6’0) had the highest individual jump and along with teammate Clarence Brigmon (5’4) placed second overall, tops in South Jersey, in the high jump relay. Jarrett Bullock of Gateway Regional had the highest individual pole vault of South Jersey athletes at 10’6, while the Pennsville duo of Spencer Walker (10’0) and Alec Labb (10’0) had the highest team finish (2nd).
On the track A.P. Schalick turned in top SJ performances in the 4×200 and shuttle hurdle relay, while Haddonfield added to their point total in the 4×400.
Haddonfield coach Jason Russo knew his team was strong and when adversity struck (a dq in the shuttle hurdles, and a no height in the pole vault) he challenge the girls. They responded: “I was really proud of the girls… our kids stayed focused and intent on accomplishing their goal (the team title). Good teams find a way to win no matter what.” Haddonfield won 4 events and scored in another. Their total of 48 points edged a strong Whippany Park team’s 44 and the Bulldogs were crowned Group 1 State Relay Champions.
Haddonfield got off to a quick start in the Distance Medley as Kaitlyn Bonnet (3:55.1), Nicolette Barranger (1:04.6), Casey Clarke (2:31.7), and Briana Gess (5:02.9) ran to victory. They continued their strong running in the 4×200 where their second place finish made them the top South Jersey team. That team consisted of Ana Buzzerd (26.8), Lizzy Mulvenna (28.3), Bridget Kane (27.3), and distance star Gess (27.2). Their official time of 1:49.97 shattered their indoor school record of 1:51.15.
Haddonfield scored another victory in the 4×800 where they were lead by Lillyl Minor (2:26.1), Meg Schroeter (2:33.1), Casey Clarke (2:30.2), and Bonner (2:27.6). Their time of 9:58.79 earned them a 3+ second victory. Next they won the sprint medley with a combination of Nicolette Barranger (1:04.6), Buzzerd (27.1), Kane (27.3) and Gess (2:20). Haddonfield’s final meet clinching victory came in the 4×400 where they ran 4:10.83. Bonnett (1:04.7), Mulvenna (1:04.2), Kane (1:03.1) and Gess (58.9) teamed up that effort. Russo was impressed with his team, “They make us look good… Obviously Bri had a hell of a day, but so did Kaitlyn Bonnet. Similarly Bridget Kane and Ana Buzzerd added some explosiveness that people aren’t used to seeing out of our team.”
In other action AP Schalick earned top SJ honors in the shuttle hurdles (38.25), high jump relay (9’2), and shot put (60’2.75). Pennville was the top finisher in the pole vault relay (16’6).
Group 3 (Sunday Night)
Timber Creek knew they had a battle on their hands. After winning the 4×200 early in the meet and exerting significant effort in the sprint medley, they poised themselves for one more race. According to Assistant Coach Mike Short, “Jason Butler (51.0), Jerome Gibson (51.5), Cameron Stinson (51.7), and Dante Witcher (51.0) wanted to make a statement in the 4×400.” A statement they made as the foursome combined for a narrow victory (3:25.31) over a strong Pennsauken squad. Pennsauken’s time of 3:25.84 was the second fastest time recorded over State Relays weekend. Short continued, “Pennsauken provided a great battle. Dante Witcher ran a perfect race and made his final move at just the right time.”
Timber Creek’s 4×200 victory was the only other South Jersey victory. Butler (23.2), Gibson (24.0), Stinson (22.2), and Witcher (23.4) also teamed in that effort. Highland Regional used exceptional performances in the 4×200 (3rd), 4×800 (3rd, SJ 1), high jump relay (3rd, SJ 1), and shot put (2nd, SJ 1) to finish second overall, best amongst South Jersey Teams. Mike Calabrese (48’0) and Orlando Council (46’6) joined forces for their 2nd place shot put performance.
Mainland’s foursome of Matthew Grillo, Trey Ogelsby, Larry Gustafson, and Kenny Anderson ran a South Jersey best 31.48 in their 3rd place effort. Other top performances included Hammonton’s 6th place time of 11:01.63 in the distance medley relay and Burlington Township’s 4th place performance in the spring medley relay (3:45.64).
The Timber Creek High School, which opened in 2001, has done a lot of winning in 15 years…. on the boys side. Going into Sunday night’s NJSIAA State Group 3 Relay Championship the Chargers had never won a single state championship… in any sport. That all changed in what assistant coach Mike Short called, “the most satisfying 20 minutes of my 28 year coaching career.” Despite not winning a single event Timber Creek was down only 4 points heading into the final event of the day: the 4×400 meter relay.
Heading into the meet Coach Shawn McHugh knew that winning would be a tough task. According to Short, “We felt that Seneca and West Windsor Plainsboro South would be great in the distance races and that Winslow was a deep and balanced team.” He also worried about leadership, “losing Myiah Sturvidant (broken leg) meant that our depth and leadership would be severely tested,” but his concerns were quelled by leadership of Janiyah Davis-Hines, Ziani Smalls, and Christine Lavallias. In the end Timber Creek clinched their first state title with a 3rd place finish in the 4×400 meters. The team of Janiyah Davis Hines (1:00), Cheyenne Beattie (1:02.4), Ziani Small (1:01.7), and Sarina Jones (1:01.4) scored just enough points as Timber Creek tallied 40 points to Seneca’s 39. Timber Creek scored in the distance medley, shuttle hurdles, 4×200, 4×400, high jump relay , and shot put relay(SJ 1). Still Short points to another source of victory, “Depth and guts won the meet for us.”
Winslow Township shook off a false start in the shuttle hurdles and ran the fastest 4×200 of any group State Relays weekend. The team of Tionna Tobias, Ahiarakwe Flora, Iyianna Williams, and Brittany Preston defeated second place Timber Creek by over 2 seconds. Winslow backed up their 4×200 gold with another win in the 4×400 where Williams, Flora, Nicole Hood, and Preston ran 4:04.55. Though disappointed they were unable to compete for the team title, Winslow Coach George Horn took positives from the meet: “In the end 9 different girls medaled and we were state champs in two relays. I’m proud of how they kept it together after the start of the meet.”
Seneca had a performance for the ages winning 3 events and placing 2nd (SJ 1) in a third. They claimed victory in the 4×800, distance medley (12:29.56), and pole vault relays. They placed second in the sprint medley after an impressive anchor leg from junior Kayla Martin. In the 4×800 the team of Joey Webb, Lindsay Hoffman, Sydny Warner, and Kayla Hay posted the fastest time of State Relays weekend (9:41.96). The Pole Vault tandem of Brittney Raffo and Rebecca Bohi cleared 11’0, and 9’0 respectively for the win.
Mariah Hubbard of Absegami and Kai Starns of Timber Creek matched top clearances in the high jump with 5’2 performances but Absegami claimed victory when ‘Gami’s Leah Gaston (5-0) edged Creek’s Azhanee Johnson (4-8). The Absegami team of Joshonda Johnson, Erica Ross, Cyann Moyer, and Mariah Hubbard posted a time of 32.22 (the fastest time of state relays weekend) in the shuttle hurdle relay.