Toms River, NJ: The John Bennett Indoor Complex played host to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 and 3 Sectional Championships this past saturday. In Group 3 Highland Boys captured the title on the back of strong distance performances, while the Winslow Girls used speedsters to cruize a title. Delsea Girls earned Group 2 honors by scoring in all but one event and their male counterpart Willingboro grasped victory through bursts of scoring in middle distance and explosive events.
Group 3 Boys
Heading into the South Jersey Group 3 Championship, Highland High School had won three consecutive titles. The fourth would prove a challenge as the school moved from Group 2 (where they had won the three previous titles) to Group 3 (comprised of larger schools). Under the leadership of Seniors Jose Figueroa and Sean David the Tartans overcame the group change and captured the title over a surprise second place Timber Creek squad. Figueroa registered two personal records and scored 20 points as he raced to first place finishes in the 1600 (4:29.54) and 3200 (9:44.86) meters. Sophomore Ben Woodward added to the Highland point total with a second place finish in the 3200 (9:48.44), while senior Jason Leonardo (6th, 4:38.86) notched a point in the 1600. David earned important points in the 55 meter high hurdles where he won in 7.72 seconds, the high jump where he placed 4th with a 6 foot jump, and in the 4×400 where he lead off the 6th place Tartan team. Highland Senior Michael Calabrese finished out the Highland scoring with a 5th place finish in the shot put (48’2.75).
Other South Jersey qualifiers in the 3200 meters were Daniel Do (3rd, 9:59.22) of Absegami, Joseph Dougherty (4th, 9:59.38) of Hammonton, and sophomores Jesse Schmeizer (5th, 10:06.61) and Korey Green (10:08.62) of Ocean City. In the 1600 Figueroa was followed by Joseph Dougherty who ran a personal record of 4:31.67 for 3rd, Harrison Mooris (4th, 4:34.86) of Moorestown, and Evan Schmeizer (5th, 4:35.40) of Ocean City. The other South Jersey scorers in the 55 meter hurdles were Winslow’s Jamil Adams (2nd, 7.81), Johnathan Nguyen of Absegami (3rd, 8.07), Mainland’s Kenny Anderson (4th, 8.24), and Devante Watson also from Winslow (6th, 8.51).
Timber Creek has been keeping the track warm all winter in the 400. They continued that solid running with a 2, 3, 4 finish in the open 4 and a scorching 3:23.7 victory in the 4×400. That 4×400 time is the #3 time in New Jersey this winter and the fastest on a flat track. The Creekers were outdone in the open 4 by Pennsauken standout Marquan Jones who won the event in 50.76 seconds. He convincingly pulled away from hard charging Chargers Jason Butler (2nd, 51.48), Cameron Stinson (3rd, 51.6), and Jerome Gibson (4th, 51.9). The TC trio were followed by Winslow’s Jamil Adams (5th, 52.01) and Pennsauken’s Martin Booker (6th, 52.43).
Butler (50.7), Gibson (50.9), and Stinson (50.5) were joined by teammate Dante Witcher (51.3) in their 4×400 victory. Timber Creek was followed by SJ qualifiers Pennsauken (2nd, 3:30.04), Winslow (3rd, 3:30.51), Bridgeton (4th, 3:32.16), and Highland (6th, 3:35.78). Creek Assistant Coach Mike Short was happy with the performance but noted they were, “hoping to improve and to be a top seed at states and MOC.”
Pennsauken Junior Martin Booker won the 55 meter dash with the two fastest times of the day. He ran 6.58 seconds in his trial heat to earn lane preference in the final. He capitalized with a 6.56 second finals victory over Winslow Sophomore James Bettis who ran 6.65. Rounding out the top 6 were Anthony Maturano (3rd, 6.69) from Hammonton, Nahzir Russell (4th, 6.72) of Pennsauken, Stinson (5th, 6.74), and Jones (6th, 6.76).
In other track action Absegami Senior Bobby Maguire won the 800 meters in 2:01.08. He was followed by South Jersey qualifiers Zion Watson (2nd 2:02.35) from Winslow, Moorestown’s Kevin Fox (4th, 2:02.99), Ocean City’s Brendan McClure (5th, 2:03.09), and Philip Iuliucci from Hammonton (6th, 2:03.41 PR).
The Pole Vault saw a victory for Moorestown Senior Kyle Loveland with a 12 foot, 6 inch clearance. Loveland and his Moorestown teammates were granted school board approval to compete in the meet as they do not have an official winter team. After reviewing entry numbers for the Central Jersey Sectional Moorestown was moved to their geographically natural section and Loveland was able to come through with a 1’6” victory. Zachary Lisa of Ocean City finished in a 2nd place tie with Central regional’s Keith Holland. Both athletes cleared 11 feet. Tyler Kott of Cumberland and Jeremiah Muntazar of Absegami both qualified when they tied for 5th with 10’6 inch performances.
After false starting in the 55 meter hurdles Matt Grillo needed to focus. The high jump’s technical intricacies demand it. Clearing 6 feet, 2 inches Grillo displayed his concentration and earned the South Jersey title. 2nd through 6th place all cleared 6 feet. The 5 way tie was broken by misses and the athletes finished in the following order: Anthony Maturano of Hammonton 2nd, Bridgeton’s Mikal Wright 3rd, Highland’s David 4th, and Winslow teammates Keir Smalls and Isaiah Jones 5th and 6th.
Timber Creek Senior Osemwingie (Joe) Asemota was South Jersey’s top finisher in the shot put. His substantial toss of 54 feet, 5.5 inches earned him second place honors to Toms River East’s Dan Gillian (57’3.5). The only other South Jersey shot put qualifier was Highland’s Calabrese.
Group 3 Girls
The Winslow girls sent a clear message in the first event of day: No one was beating them. Flora Ahiarakwe (1st, 60.34), Brittany Preston (2nd, 60.44) and Iyianna Williams (3nd, 61.75) swept the event, captured 24 points, and dared the other teams to chase them. Coach George Horn understatedly describe the meet this way, “Winslow girls put it together for this one.” In defense of their crown the Eagles added 3 more victories and outpaced 2nd place Timber Creek. Creek Coach Mike Short was disappointed but said, “The best team won. Winslow was on a mission. Great Team win. Great coaching, talent, effort, and result.” 3rd place Seneca’s Coach Karen O’Neil agreed with Short: “Winslow had a tremendous day, and no team could match their performance on Saturday.” Other 400 meter South Jersey qualifiers included Cheyenne Beattie of Timber Creek (4th, 62.24), Seneca’s Graycee Heinemann (5th, 62.27), and Creek’s Ziani Smalls (6th, 63.0).
Winslow’s other three victories came in the 55 meter hurdles, the shot put, and the 4×400 meter relay. Senior Brittany Preston improved her trials time by over 2 tenths of a second to capture the win in 6.36 seconds. Absegami Juniors Joshonda Johnson and Cyann Moyer were 2nd and 3rd in 8.43 and 8.65 seconds respectively. Christine Lavallias of Timber Creek was 4th in 8.84, while Absegami’s third qualifier (Mariah Hubbard, 8.87) finished 5th. Nicole Berry of Winslow was the last qualifier and added another point to the Eagle total.
The shot put was won by Sophomore Ciarra Johnson of Winslow who outdistanced 2nd place with a 37 feet, 5.75 inch throw. Gabriel Harris-David of Timber Creek was second in 36’10.5. She was followed by South Jersey qualifiers Maddie Branway (35’10.25) of Ocean City and Kiey’nay’ja Hunley (34’3) from Pennsauken. Winslow sealed the deal when Williams, Ahiarakwe, Ally Moorison, and Preston teamed up for a 4:06.09 win the 4×400. They were followed by SJ qualifiers Absegami (4:07.99), Highland (4:11.77), Timber Creek (4:12.06), and Seneca (4:12.84).
Kayla Martin set a goal to continue her outstanding season with two individual wins at the South Jersey Sectional Meet. She accomplished that goal winning the 800 meters in 2:19.48 and the 1600 in 5:11.93. Winslow’s Nicole Berry (2:21.91) ran a 5 second PR to finish second in the 800. She was followed by Highland Sophomore Kalin Priest who finished 3rd in 2:22.32. Seneca qualified all three athletes in the event as Martin’s teammates Sydny Warner (2:25.29) and Kayla Hay (2:25.41) finished 4th and 5th. Timber Creek Junior Alexa “Not Clarke” Clark rounded out qualification with a 6th place finish in 2:27.56.
In the 1600 Martin was followed closely by Cross Country Runner of the Year Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland who ran 5:12.55. In 3rd was Timber Creek’s Alyssa Condell in 5:14.79. Other South Jersey qualifiers were Triton Junior Kelsey Cummings (4th, 5:18.57), and Seneca’s Warner in 5:20.91 for 6th.
1600 meter runner up Alyssa Aldridge returned with avengence in the 3200 where she lapped the field and ran meet and school records with a time of 10:47.06. After running 5:12.55 for the open 1600, Aldridge blew the race apart with a 5:14 first 1600 of the 3200. Creek’s Condell returned for 2nd in 11:29.14, while Triton’s Cummings finished 3rd in 11:37.23. Amanda Bakley from Pennsauken finished 4th in 11:48.83. Ashley Ranere became the first Hammonton girl ever to qualify for the Indoor State Meet with her 5th place finish in 12:00.91 and Seneca’s Jessica Sprague rounded out of the qualifiers with a time of 12:05.65.
Highland Junior Donjai Upshaw won the 55m dash in 7.34 seconds. Brianna Bryan of Pennsauken was second in 7.48 seconds and Winslow’s Ahiarakwe placed 3rd in 7.49 seconds. Other South Jersey qualifiers included Freshman Tionna Tobias of Winslow in 7.56 and Timber Creeks Adia Starnes in 7.59 seconds.
Seneca’s pole vault phenom Brittney Raffo continued her skyscraping with a meet record vault of 10 feet, 8 inches. Her teammate Rebecca Bohi finished 3rd with a clearance of 9’6. Sarah Polistina was 4th on misses. She also cleared 9’6. Mainland’s Rachel Thornton was the other SJ qualifier in the pole vault. She finished 6th when she cleared 8 feet for the first time this season.
Timber Creek Junior Kai Starnes defeated Absegami Senior Mariah Hubbard on misses in the high jump. Both athletes cleared 5 feet 2 inches. Hubbard’s teammate Leah Gaston turned the tables when she beat Creek’s Azhanee Johnson and Winslow’s Tionna Tobias on misses. All three athletes cleared 5 feet. Seneca’s Susann Foley was the last South Jersey qualifier with a 4 feet 10 inch clearance that earned her a tie for 6th.