The 4-by-4 was over, everybody was packing up their bags and folding up their tents and a steady stream of cars was leaving Pennsauken after two long days of track and field.
The Group 1 scoreboard (if there was a scoreboard) read:
Saddle Brook 43, Audubon 43.
Was Audubon destined to share the state Group 1 title?
Everything on the track had finished, but over there at the pole vault pit, Audubon freshman Leo Davis was getting ready to jump. The pole vault always runs slow and is often the last event contested at major meets.
And with every other event done, Audubon’s chances of winning its first state title outright rested with Davis, who was competing in – get this – his 3rd lifetime varsity meet.
Davis ran XC for Audubon – he was the 3rd freshman across the line in the South Jersey Group 1 sectionals at DREAM Park – but his high school varsity pole vault experience consisted of a 9-6 in the Camden County Championships and an 11-0 for 3rd last weekend at the Group 1 sectionals.
Davis entered the competition at 10-0 and cleared 10-0 and 10-6 on his first attempt. He was one of 12 vaulters over the bar at 10-6 and one of eight over the bar at 11 feet. Saddle Brook didn’t have a vaulter entered.
Because Davis cleared 11-0 on his second attempt and not his third, he earned a tie for 5th with senior Tim Wanvig of Emerson. If he cleared 11-0 on his next attempt? He would have tied for 7th and earned no points.
But a two-way tie for 5th is worth 1 ½ points, and just like that, Audubon’s 43 turned into 44 ½, and the meet was over, Audubon had its first state title.
Davis missed three tries at 11-6 but it didn’t matter. Audubon was state champs, and a freshman whose first lifetime meet was four weeks ago was the hero.
Audubon is the 3rd South Jersey school in a row to win New Jersey Group 1, following Willingboro in 2019 and Clayton last year. There was no meet in 2020.
The big star for the Green Wave was senior Scott Hubbard, who won the 800 in 1:56.15 and the 1,600 in 4:17.54 for 20 huge points. He’s the first Audubon athlete to win a state title in at least 30 years. Probably ever. I’m still working on that.
Audubon’s 4-by-400 team also scored a huge win to finish the track portion of the meet and set up Davis’s heroics. Senior Connor Bilotta, sophomore Amauri Pimentel, senior Aaryn Myers and junior William Lindemuth ran for Audubon, which won in 3:26.65 – beating Saddle Brook by exactly a second.
If that 4-by-4 finish was reversed? Saddle Brook is state Group 1 champs today.
Also for Audubon, senior Makaio Kelii took 4th in the 800 in 2:00.70, junior Joseph Gaspari was 6th in the 3,200 in 10:03.36, Bilotta ran 57.72 for 5th in the intermediates, senior Brady Gilbert threw 135-8 for 6th in the discus and Lindemuth threw 147-1 for 5th in the javelin.
Audubon’s 3,200-meter relay team placed 5th with senior Clifford Gilmore, Kelii, sophomore Aiden Williams and senior Joshua Rossell, and their 400-meter relay team – with Bilotta, Lindemuth, Myers and sophomore Luke Hoke – also scored a big point, taking 6th in 44.71.
And every one of those points was huge.