Ed Grant's Report

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Review of NJSIAA/The Star Ledger New Jersey Group Championships ...
and Meet of Champions Preview

New Jersey's two outstanding distance runners, Danielle Tauro of Southern Regional and Craig Forys of Colts Neck dominated a sometimes rain-drenched group champions last weekend, leaving much anticipation about their plans for this Wednesday's all-group meet at South Plainfield.

Tauro escaped most of the rain in the Group I, II and IV meet at Egg Harbor where she won the IV 1600 on Friday in 4:48.40 and came back the next day to take the 800 in a personal best of 2:09.54. Forys, however, has to dodge the drops as he won the Gr. III 1600 at South Plainfield in 4:15.58 and the 3200 in 9:14.85. In both cases, it was not what Forys ran that caused eyebrows to raise, but the way he did it. His 800 splits in the 1600 were 2:14 and 2:01; in the 3200, 4:45 and 4:29.

Tauro was followed over the line by freshman teammate Jillian Smith who, in the process, set a pair of state class records, 4:51.48 and 2:12.16. (Tauro had held the 1600 mark; Smith herself had broken Giselle Harris' 23-year-old record 800 record earlier this season.)

These two 1-2 finishes put Southern Reigonal right into the team picture and the Rams would probably have won had Tauro entered the 3200, where a fifth-place finish would have done the trick. But it had been decided months ago that she would run only the 1600 and 800 individually and come back in the 1600-meter relay where she anchored a sixth-place finish at 3:55.77 with a 57-second leg.

This gave Jackson, which has had the state's best all-around team for the last five years, its first outdoor state title. The hero of the victory was Nicole Castronuova with a pair of seconds in the sprints at 12.37 and 24.88 and a third in the 400 in 57.44, her 22 points exactly matching her contribution a week earlier in the sectional meet.

Two other girls' battles were equally close. Wilson was trailing by eight and a half points in Gr. III with only the 1600R left, but pulled out a 3:53.75 win over neighbor Camden, while defending Hopewell Valley fell two-tenths of a second short of gaining the fifth place which would have given it a repeat victory. In gr. II, Celeste Holder carried Parsippany to victory, 36-33, over Rahway, winning the 400 in 56.50 and the long jump at 18-5 1/2, placing second in the triple jump and bringing her team from nowhere to third place for the winning points in the 1600R. Lashonda Carter and Andrea Butler scored all of Rahway's points, but a bruised heel forced Lashonda to scratch from the high jump, an event in which she won the indoor all-group title.

The other victories wre a lot easier. Pascack Hills got 16 points from Julie Haledjian in the SP and DT and 14 from Kim DeLoreto in the 800 and 1600 as it defeated favored Palmyra and Butler in Gr. I, 61-43. The Parochial divisions were, as expected, no contest at all with Pingry taking a sixth straight B title, 117-67, from Mater Dei and Pope John, the state's second best all-around team, its first A crown (it won seven straight B titles from 1984 to 1990), 129-64 over defending Bishop Eustace. Old Bridge ran to form as it defended its boys' Gr. IV title, 77-39, over Ridgewood with Bryant McCombs doubling the 200 and 400 in 21.80 and 48.36 and anchoring a 3:19.60 relay victory. Jamaar Figueroa weighed in with 16 points in the SP and DT, but not the way it was planned. He finished only 3rd in the discus, an event in which he leads the state this spring, but won the shot put with a PR of 55-9 1/2.

Monmouth also had some detours on its way to its first state title since 1980 (when computer maven Ed Scullion was the coach). As a result, Delsea, with Josh Butler and Will Washington scoring 35 between them in the hurdles and jumps, held the lead most of the way, only to have Monmouth strike back in the last two events, placing second in the 1600R in 3:25.15 to get within five four points and then having Andrew Brown win the PV with a PR of 14-4.

Bridgeton ended a three-year reign by Somerville in Gr. II, defeating Indian Hills, 66-46, with Aaron Holden and Darnell Lamar sweeping the hurdles in 14.41 and 54.46 and Joe Bunton taking the HJ at 6-6. And Metuchen took Gr. I, 44-34, from Pennsville with Kyle Edmonds scoring 16 points in the hurdles and running the anchor leg in a 1600R which broke a 34-34 tie. Don Bosco won its first Parochial A title in 45 years, 76-48, over Msgr. Donovan, winning only the 1600R, but scoring in eight other events with a 15-point bag in the pole vault, The Parochial B battle was close all the way with Mater Dei outlasting DePaul, 77 1/2-72, thanks to a strong weight contribution led by SP winner Ryan Lino.

The meet had only one triple winner, Leslie Njoku of McNair Academic in girls' Gr. I and she could have had a fourth for the asking in the 400, but for leaving early on Friday for a prom date. She won the 200 in 25.39, the 800 in 2:14.08 and the 400H in a record 1:01.18, best time of the weekend. She might also have won the 100-meter hurdles, but the group time schedule makes an 800/100H double almost impossible.

Now for a look at the all-group events.


100M: Jamil Benjamin of Cumberland, the Gr. III champ, appears the class of the field in this one. he ran 11.61 in the trials on Friday and came back with a 10.71 in the finals, running in a downpour. The other winners were Bob Darby of Pennsauken in Gr. IV and A.J. Bunton of West Deptford in Gr. II, both at 10.85, frosh Bryant Fitzgerald of Highland Park in Gr. I at 11.00, Maurice Anderson of Holy Cross in PA at 11.10 and Donald Lee of St. Mary's, Rutherford in PB at 11.17.

200M: The question here is always who will run the race as many sprinters scratch to run the 1600R. McCombs, the indoor champ, was the fastest group winner at 21.80. Rashad White was an upset victor in III at 21.97 over Paul Fay of Central Ocean and Charles Cox of Monmouth, Bunton doubled back in II at 21.87, Orion Woodard of Pompton Lakes took I and Garrett Ellis of Union catholic PA, both at 22.43 and Lee also doubled at 22.44.

400M: Cox was the fastest group winner in III at 47.73 with McCombs running 48.36 and Garrett Kroner of Indian Hills hitting 48.46 in II. A side issue here will be the battle of the two freshman winners, Bryant Fitzgerald of Highland Park in Gr. I at 49.35 and Clayton Parros of Seton Hall in PA at 49.10. They should meet for the first time in the next-to-last section. Damon Markeson of St. Mary's rounded out the group winners at 51.98.

800M: This should be one heck of a race with Jason Apwah of Roxbury the favorite off his several recent sub-1:54 victories, including a 1:53.95 in Gr. IV. But he will get plenty of competition from Gr. III champ Chris Behre of Mt. Olive and runner-up Tom Friscia of Red Bank, the indoor champ, who ran 1:55.06 and 1:55.83., sophomore Maxwell Bruno of Indian Hills, who took Gr. II in 1:54.39, Ryan Malloy of Bound Brook, the Gr. I champ at 1:56.25, and Gigi Gibilisco of Notre Dame, the PA victor at 1:56.49. Nick Miehe of DePaul, better known as a 1600M man, won PB in 2:00.18.

1600M: This race would seem to be Forys for the asking and, since he plans to run the 2M in Greensboro, he almost certainly will run it (and maybe the 3200 as well). His potential competitors include cross-country rivals Ben Massam of Chatham, who won Gr. II in 4:17.14, and Jeff Perrella of Westfield, who won IV in 4:18.66, and PA champ Anthony LaMastro of Pope John who won a slow-paced race in 4:22.03. Parochial B winner Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian (at 4:22.91 with a 2:03 last 800) is like to choose the 3200, as is Gr. I champ James Bulnicky of Maple Shade who scored his unprecedented second straight distance double.

3200M: Forys, Perrella (9:18.41 in IV) and Massam (9:14.55 in II) seem to outclass the field here, but Chris Horel of CBA and Hanko had impressive wins in the Parochial divisions at 9:24.29 and 9:28.63. Given the right kind of weather, it could go below 9:10.

HH: A repeat of the close indoor duel between Cory Nelms of Neptune and Will Brown of Palmyra disappeared when Cory false-started in the sectional trials, Brown set a Gr. I record of 14.18, but Randy James of Irvington shaded that with his 14.15 in Gr. IV. Kevin Gauntt gave Seneca its first group winner in III at 14.55 and Aaron Holden became Bridgeton's umpteenth champ in II at 14.41.Justin Chukumba of Notre Dame took PA in 15:05 and Rodney Oscar of Immaculate Conception repeated in B at15.27, both running in the rain.

IH: With Shaquan Brown out of this event, the field is wide open as the winning group times would indicate. Tykeen Fulton of Trenton took IV in 53.87, Will Washington of Delsea II in 53.22 with Ray Davis of Monnmouth at 53.38, Darnell Lamar of Bridgeton, as already noted, ran 54.46 in II and Brown began his double in 53.71. Chukumba also doubled in 55.41 and Matt Ratajcak of DePaul won PB in 57.94.

HJ: The elusive 7-footer is still elusive, though Justin Oliver of Pennsauken won Gr. IV at 6-10 with Marshall Akins of Egg Harbor at 6-8, and indoor champ Josh Butler cleared 6-8 in the rain to defeat defending outdoor champ Justin Frick of Freehold Boro in III. There were a slew of jumpers over 6-6, including Gr. II winner Joe Bunton. The other titles went rather cheap, Mark Jones of Lindenwold in I and Rick Simnor of PA at 6-2 and Greg Gillespie of DePaul in PB at 6-0, the last two also in the rain or off a very wet runway.

PV: Devon Purves of Haddonfield was a foot better than the rest as he won Gr. II from soph Greg Stripe of Mahwah and Matt Mancini of Cinnaminson at 15-5. Brown, as noted, won III at 14-4, Mike Salera of Washington Twp won IV on misses from two rivals at 14-0, Eric Hutchinson of Pennsville took I at 13-0, Chris Favalaro was over 13-6 again for St. John Vianney in PA and Dan Yablonsky won PV at 9-6.

LJ: Only five boys hit 22-0 or better including Gr. IV winner Hanif Kendrick of Franklin at 22-9 1/4 and Gr. III champ Alex Bowers of Central Ocean at 22-1 1/2. Kyle Hayes of Pt. Pleasant Boro won II at 21-1 1/2, Brandon Bowers of Boonton took I at 20-7 1/4, and the Parochial titles went to Nick Crosta of Msgr. Donovan at 21-7 3/4 and Brandon Bullock of Montclair Kimberley at 19-10 1/2.

TJ: Kyle Lindsey of Paterson Eastside, the indoor leader who has been coming back gradually from an injury, really exploded one here, winning Gr. IV at a MR of 48-2 1/2. Gr. III had four boys within five inches of each other with Ted Lesher of Northern Highlands winning at 46-1. Corey Rosenbaum of Iselin also had a record in gr. II at 45-2 3/4 and Antonio Bundy of Penns Grove took Gr. I at 44-3. Both Parochial winners were also past 44-0, Greg Francois of Holy Cross at 45-6 3/4 in A and Malik Brown of Immaculate Conception with a record 44-3 1/4 in B.

SP: Figueroa was not the only discus thrower to win a title in this event. Vinnie Elardo of Lacey finished only fifth in his specialty, but won the SP in Gr. III from soph Mike Alleman of Scotch Plains at 56-1. Steve D'Arcy of Hanover Park took back the state lead at 58-4 in Gr. II, Geoff Goidell of Pascack Hills had the final word in his season-long battle with Jeff Seidel of Hasbrouck Heights in I at 55-4 3/4, Eric Plummer of St. Joseph, Metuchen, won PA with a sub-par 50-9 and Lino took PB for Mater Dei at 46-6 1/2.

DT: George Abyad of Passaic Valley topped the weekend in Gr. III at 170-1 over Chris Pantale of Wayne Valley, who had the nest best mark of 166-6, followed by Will Hendrix of Hamilton at 165-1. Soph Pat Park won IV at 163-5, James Stathopoulos of Mahwah took II at 153-7 and John Clark of Pennsville won Gr. I at 161-11. The Parochial titles went to Mark VanOrden of Delbarton at 152-7 and Steve Hyatt of Immaculate Conception at 138-4.

JT: Sean Biehn of Burlington, who had topped 200-0 at the sectionals, won his third straight in Gr. I at 199-11, with Penn Relays champ Jeremy Pennino of Watchung Hills taking Gr. IV at 195-6. Football star Joe Martinek won in II at 181-4 and Gary Johnson of Hamilton repeated in III at 175-7. John Zimmatore of Bishop Eustace defeated state leader Mark Paski of Delbarton in PA at186-8 and Mike Deatherage of Montclair Kimberley took PB at 154-9.

1600R: Of course, relay performances at the group meet give little clue as to what may happen in the all-group meet where the event takes front (or last) and center. But Old Bridge will be heard to beat as chief rival Irvington is one man down following Jaymark Bailey's injury in the sectional race. Winslow Twp, chasing Old Bridge, had the next fastest time last weekend at 3:20.41 with Vineland at 3:21.81. Willingboro won Gr. III at 3:24.55 with Wilson being d/qed and thus out of the AG race. Bridgeton took II at 3:23.40, Metuchen won I at 3:24.09, while Don Bosco and Mater Dei were the Parochial champs at 3:25.55 and 3:38.42. Seton Hall, which has run near 3:20 this year, did not qualify.


100M: This could have been a rematch of the first five finishers from last year's race, won by Ogechi Nwaneri, then at Columbia. But second-place Shavon Greaves of Lakewood was sick on the first day of the sectionals and couldn't run, while fifth-place Racquel Vassell of East Orange pulled up in the NJ 2 Gr. IV race. This leaves Nwaneri, who won Gr. II in 10.96, third-place Carter who was second in that one at 12.02, and fourth-place Georgina Nembhard of Ocean Twp who won Gr. III at 11.91 from frosh ace Audrey Wilson of Deptford. Porshe Giddings of East Orange stepped in for Vassell---with whom East Orange would have walked away with team honors---to win Gr. IV in 12.11. Kim Moody of Woodbury took Gr. I at 12.27, Morgan Dennis of Holy Cross PA at 12.53 and Kathryn Stanley of Pingry repeated in PB at 12.56.

200M: There were two big races here, one in Gr. III where Nembhard defeated Greaves in 24.24 and the other in Gr. II where Nwaneri broke Amandi Rhett's record by a hundredth of a second in 24.39, defeating Nia Ali of Pleasantville. Symone O'Connor of Franklin completed a double in IV at 24.63, Njoku took I in 25.39, Jen Seniszyn of Union Catholic won PA in 26.33 and Stanley completed her double in PB at 26.07.

400M This one will have three of last year's top six, but missing will be indoor champ Kristen Mahon of Notre Dame who couldn't make it back from a mid-season injury. Defending AG champ Tiffany Grant of Ocean Twp won III again in 55.41. O'Connor took IV in 55.47, Holder, as noted, scored in II, Regeana Marigna of Palmyra took I at 58.88. Alex Elkas of Holy Angels won PA in 59.01 and Kesi Irvin of Kent Place PB in 59,37, 69 years after great-uncle Montre had tripled the Gr., III weights with a state JT record of 192-8.

800M: This could be the most competitive race of the entire meet even if Tauro runs just the 1600. The field would include the four girls who trailed her in Gr. IV, all undr 2:13, lef by teammate Smith, as well as Libby Bliss of Princeton, who upset Gr. III defender Renee Tomlin of Ocean City in 2:11.78, Tomlin herself, aching the revenge, Njoku, who ran 2:12+ indoors, and Gr. II champ Maggie Lupinski of Haddonfield, who ran 2:16.67.Pope John had a 1-2 finish in PA from Lauren Bariexca (2:17.81) and Alex Bush and Erin Toner took B in 2:22.90.

1600M: No less than a dozen girls broke 5:00 in the Gr. IV and III races, led, of course, by Tauro. Tomlin led from start to finish in III, just nosing out Kesley Ramsey of Ramapo in 4:56.34. Lara Heigis of Pope John ran a 5:04.46 PB with Elizabeth Campbell of Mt. St. Mary's right behind her and frosh Marie Walsh of Mater Dei had a 5:09.96 in PB. Lindsay Ritchings of Pt. Pleasant Beach took I in 5:05.,55 and Allison Tetreault of Cinnaminson won II in 5:14.34.

3200M: The big race here was in Gr. III, won by Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck from Megan Fitzpatrick of Hopewell Valley in 10:42.19 with the first seven under 11:00. Jenn Ennis of Roxbury was faster in IV at 10:40.74, but only two girls behind her broke the 11:00 standard. Alexis Weiner of Caldwell topped Nicole Briggs of Haddon heights in 11:13.87 in II, Amy VanAlstine of Midland Park repeated in I at 11:12.38, Heigis completed her double in 11:11.60 and Walsh did likewise in B at 11:25.36.

100H: Another corking race shapes up here after indoor champ Nia Ali won Gr. II in a record 11.95 and Ashley Adams of Plainfield took IV in 14.01. The others are well behind that with Janee Sharoer of Wilson taking III in 14.73, Lailah Pratt joining the long family list of state champs in Gr. I at 15.97, Annie Taft of Bishop Eustace repeating in PA at 14.87 and Kathy Gibson doing the same in PB at 15.81.

400H: With Krystal Cantey absent, this one looks like a four-way affair among Njoku, Gr. III champ Shaquanda Meylor of Wilson (1:02.16) and her runner-up, soph Josefine Kvist of Ridge, who ran 1:02.51 and Rolanda Bruce of East Orange, the Gr. IV champ at 1:02.34. Unfortunately, the late arrival of Wilson on Friday resulted in Meylor and Kvist running separate sections; a head-to-head meeting would probably have produced faster times for both. Alex Rosenberger of Ramsey took II in 1:04.00 and the Parochial races went to Laura Loechner of Pope John in 1:05.41 and Marissa Stock of Pingry in 1:07.76.

HJ: No one bettered 5-4 at the sectionals, the wet South Plainfield runway precluding better marks. Sammy Howell of WW Plainsboro South was an upset winner in Gr. IV at 5-4, Lisa Shepherd of Oakcrets took III at 5-2, Laura Chance of Bridgeton defeated defending AG champ Briana Gray of Haddon Heights in II at 5-2, Anna Cook of Florence matched her indoor title in I at 5-4, Tyler Teaton of Immaculate Heart Academy took Parochial A on misses from Priscilla Frederick of Paul VI and Kaity Eppinger of Union Catholic at 5-4 and Megan Hiller of St. Rose added the PB HJ to her PV crown at 4-10.

PV: Indoor AG champ Natalie Gengel of Princeton is the obvious pick here though the conditions at South Plainfield limited her winning Gr. III effort to 11-0. Cassie Wong of Ridgewood topped that with 11-6 in Gr, IV, Ashley Acquilante of Manasquan won Gr. II on misses at 10-6, Jen Holly gave Barnegat its first state champ in I at 9-0, Megan Mahon became a second generation champ in the event with a 10-2 clearance in POA and Hiller repeated in Parochial B at a record 9-7.

LJ: Marks in this event, as with the boys, were subpar all the way, Holder and Gr. IV champ Sheniqua Jones of Passaic (18-2 1/4) being the only ones to top 18-0. Of the other 19-0footers, Asia Washington of Piscataway skipped Gr. IV due to a prom date and Lashonda Carter was hampered by the heel injury that took her out of the HJ. Brittany Clybourn of Oakcrest won III at 17-4, Camille Dickerson of Salem took I at 16-6 1/4, Erin Vanderhoof of Notre Dame (another second generation champ) repeated in PA at 17-6 and Valerie LaBanca of St. Rose won PB at 15-7.

TJ: A great battle in Gr. IV even with Consandria Walker of Hackensack shelved by a late injury. Steohanie McIntyre of South Brunswick defeated Cora Dayon of Trenton at a record 39-7 3/4 with the first five over 37-0. Donna Alexander took III at 37-5, Alyssa Maier of River Dell topped Holder in II at 37-7 1/2. Cary Planker of Pascack Hills won I at 35-6, Hannah Rogers of Bishop Eustace PA at 34-7 and Amy Birkenstock of Pingry PB at 32-9 1/4.

SP: Soph DeAnne Han of Lakewood left little doubt of her command in this event with a 45-8 1/4 win in Gr. III. The At0lantic City pair of Kim Warren and indoor AG champ Mercedes Hicks went 1-2 in IV, Warren with a personal best of 44-8, Shamira Rothmiller of Glassboro also PRed with her 42-5 in Gr. II, Pat Tarpley of Paulsboro won Gr. I at 37-1/2, Stephanie Scaramella of Bishop Eustace was also at her best with a 41-9 1/4 in Parochial A and Tiffany Johnson of Immaculate Conceptio hit 34-4 3/4 in PB.

DT: Warren completed her double with a 138-1 win in Gr. IV with Jen Frank of Delsea taking Gr. III in 132-7, both repeat victories. Rothmiller also got double in II at 118-11, Jackie Philbin of Boonton won Gr. I at 120-9, Scaramella joined the doublers in PA at 104-4 and Danielle Conroy gave Sacred Heart, Vineland, a rare state title in PB at 105-6.

JT: Indira Morton of South Brunswick and Jaclyn Wypler of Ridgewood had big PRs as they went 1-2 in Gr. IV at 139-4 and 135-7. Melinda Levendusky of Butler was the only other one over 130-0, taking Gr. I at 130-4. Laura Champignon of High Point won III over a soggy runway at 121-6, Valerie Carney of Raritan won II at 127-6, Brianna Brennan of Holy Cross took PA at 105-7 and Angela Christina of Mater Dei PB at 98-1.

1600R: Piscataway got what it needed a week earlier when it won Gr. IV from Old Bridge, Franklin and East Orange in 3:51.31, but Washington's missing points in the 400 and LJ took the Chiefs out of the team race. Wilson's close win in III was also second best of the day at 3:53.75. Rumson won Gr. II in 4:01.67, Palmyra took I in 4:05.18, Pope John had a record 4:01.78 in PA and Pingry topped off its rout with a 4:11.51 in PB.

New Jersey Group Meet Index