New Jersey Week by Ed Grant

May 20, 2004

New Jersey vaulters lead the nation

As a great comedian used to say, "Who would have thunk it?"

Who could really have imagined, back in September, that the spring would see a pair of New Jersey athletes leading the nation in the pole vault? But that became the simple fact last week when Danielle O'Reilly of Shawnee cleared 13-3 at the Olympic Conference meet on May 12 and Adam Sarafian of Ocean Twp soared over the bar at 17-4 1/2 in the Shore Conference meet on May 15.

The marks, of course, did not entirely come out of the blue. O'Reilly has been the top vaulter in the state since her freshman year and, this winter, broke the national indoor mark by clearing 13-5 at the New York Armory. Sarafian had a 15-0 mark last spring and, this past winter, twice cleared marks of 16-0 or better, continuing to do so in early outdoor meets. But his most recvent effort was a foot over his previous best and broke the long-standing state record of 16-6 set by Bill Lange of Bridgewater East at the height of New Jersey's "Flying Circus" period which lasted, roughly, from 1975 to 1985 under the guidance of Paul Richards.

But neither athlete looks the part of a pole vault champion. Compared to the likes of Stacy Dragila, O'Reilly is built more on the lines of a distance runner. And Sarafian, at 5-8 and 135 pounds, is a throwback to Joe Dial, a contemporary of Lange's, who was often lost in the crowd when he mingled with his rivals. Sarafian is unique in another way; he wears spectacles while vaulting.

Their feats naturally took center stage in the final week of local competition before New Jersey plunges into its three-stage state championships this weekend. Public school sectional meets will be held at eight sites May 21 and 22, the top six athletes in each event to advance to the group champions one week later. The two Parochial divisions have no official sectionals, but most of them will gather at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville this Sunday for the 47th New Jersey Catholic Track Conference championships, while a meet for South Jersey schools will be held two days earlier.

In a change to an old format, the group meets will be held in sets of three this year: Groups II, III and IV at Egg Harbor May 28 and 29, while Group I joins the two Parochial groups at Notre Dame those two days. The top six athletes in all of these events qualify for the non-scoring all-group championships June 2 at South Plainfield.

While county and conference competition dominated the past week, there were also the competing open relay meets at Morristown and Willingboro on May 17.Oddly, the highlight of that evening came from a visiting team from West Side, South Carolina, which lowered the national shuttle hurdles mark for boys to 56.32.

The most unfortunate result of the conflicting meets came in the two sprint medleys which were anchored by the boys who, coincidentally, won the 800 meters at therival National indoor meets in March. Greg Gomez, the New York winner, anchored Franklin to a five-yard win over Winslow Twp at Willingboro in 3:31.67. Mike Carmody, the Landover champ, had a 1:50.9 anchor leg as Berkeley Heights won from the second-seeded section at Morristown in 3:31.18.On May 23, Gomez has run 1:54.3 winning the Simerset County 800, while, two days later, Carmody exactly matched that at the Union County meet. (Under the state meet formula, the two will not meet undtil the all-group meet.)

The state's two outstanding all-around athletes----future teammates at Penn---won four events apiece in their respective meets. Kyle Calvo of Somerville led his team to the Somerset title by taking the 200 in 21.6, the HH in 13., the HJ at 6-8 and the LJ at 22-9 1/2. His hurdles win came at the expense of Jamil McClintock of Pingry, current favorite for the all-group title. David Whitehurst of Lawrenceville, who has beaten McClintock twice this spring, won his four at the Middle Atlantic Prep League meet at the Hill School with a 6-8 in the HJ and a 14.0 in the hurdles. (Whitehurst has hand-timed of 13.2 and 13.7, but has not yet run an auto-timed race and probably won't until the Nationals at Raleigh.)

Consandria Walker of Hackensack, who had won four events twice this year, had to settle for three in leading Hackensack to the Bergen County Gr. IV title. She won the 200 and triple jump on Friday, but suffered a twisted knee while taking the TJ at 38-8 on Saturday and had to scratch from an almost certain win in the 100. Her condition for the sectionals (and Monday's Bergen County Meet of Champions) is doubtful at this stage.

The week saw a number of reversals in finish for some of the state's top girls' teams. Hillsboro defeated Franklin in the Somerset County meet after losing to its rival in a conference meet the week before, mainly due to 36 points scored in the hurdles, jumps and shot put by Jeninah Melendez. Randolph and Columbia, which had trailed a deadlock between Mendham and East Orange at the Iron Hills meet, reversed those finishes in the Morris and Essex County meets, respectively.

Reuben McCoy, who ran 46.0 in his winning anchor leg for Winslow Twp at Penn, finally got around to running all out in his top event, the intermediate hurdles, at the Olympic Conference meet and turned in a 52.4. He also anchored Winslow to a 3:17.6 win over Camden (third in the Penn race), but was absent when Camden reversed that finish at the Willingboro relay meet, In his team's bid at the sectionals and group meets, McCoy will probably run the 200, 400 and both hurdles and not join the team again until the all-group race. Camden hopes to have anchor Sherron Bullock back by then; he has missed the past week or so with a leg injury. Camden doubled the 400 and 800 relays at Willingboro in 41.98 and 1:27.09 without him.

Ed Grant


DyeStat New Jersey


is published by
John Dye

Baltimore MD