Former Cherokee teammates Justin Kelly and Will Gross each won their first conference title Monday at the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships at Ocean Breeze.
Kelly, a Rowan junior, won the 3,000, and Gross, a Stockton senior, won the shot put.
Kelly won the 3,000 in a personal-best 8:37.89, finishing 10 meters ahead of Chris Anderson of Ramapo, who was 2nd in 8:39.74. Kelly was seeded 4th in the race with his season-best of 8:46.06 from two weeks ago at Ithaca.
Anderson led most of the race, with Kelly tucked in just behind him. Kelly took the lead on the 11th lap.
Kelly came through 2,200 meters in 6:29.11 before surging over the final 800 meters, closing in 2:08.76. He needed a strong finish because Anderson closed in 2:10.42 with a 61.78 final 400 and 29.27 final lap.
Kelly’s complete 200 splits: 34.19, 35.10, 35.39, 35.47, 35.62, 35.91, 36.22, 35.79, 35.19, 35.30, 34.93, 32.33, 32.11, 32.12, 32.20.
Gross threw 49-2 ¾ on his final attempt to snag the win from top-seeded John Griffithof Montclair State, who led through five throws.
Gross opened with a 44-9 throw, which was the early leader until Griffith hit 48-5 ½ on his second attempt.
Gross’s next two throws came up agonizingly short of Griffith – he threw 48-4 ¾ on his third throw and then opened the finals with a 48-5, just half an inch behind Griffth, before a 46-11 ¼ on his fifth attempt.
Meanwhile, Griffith – a graduate of Northern Highlands in Allendale, Bergen County – fouled on each of his final four throws, so going into his sixth and final attempt, Gross was half an inch away . But Gross came up huge with the 49-2 ¾ winner.
Griffith and Gross went 1-2 in the outdoor NJAC meet last spring at Ramapo in their only previous meeting. Gross began his career at Rutgers-Camden.