NJSIAA/The Star Ledger NJ Meet of Champions
Thursday, June 8, 2006 - Frank Jost Field, South Plainfield NJ

Boys Results - Girls Results - Highlights - NEW 6/11 Ed Grant's Report

Results from mctrack.org - FAT, with wind readings

Danielle Tauro (531) prepares to take charge in the girls 1600. Open Photo

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Ed Grant's Meet Report

Junior distance stars Danielle Tauro of Southern Regional and Craig Forys of Colts Neck gave their future national rivals something to think about with their performances at the New Jersey all-group championships last Thursday at South Plainfield.

Tauro won the 1600-meter run for the third year in a row in 4:49.17, took the 800 from a strong field in 2:10.88, and wound up the evening with a 56.0 anchor leg that gave her team a totally unexpected fifth-place finish in the 1600-meter relay in 3:53.72. Forys set the only meet record of the evening in the 3200 at 8:56.14, running his final four laps in 4:17 and his last 600M in 1:29.5.

The meet was delayed one day by heavy rains and was held in 60-ish degree weather with occasional sprinkles, ideal for distance runners, but not for the sprint crew which had already been decimated by a series of injuries. A dozen top stars were on the sidelines, among them indoor national 600-meter record holder Shaquan Brown of Paterson Kennedy and 2005 national 400-meter hurdle titlist Krystal Cantey of Winslow Twp.

Brown, who intends to run the intermediate hurdles next Saturday in Greensboro, had to watch that event won by junior Emmanuel Mayers of Lakewood in 52.78 and a close 400-meter flat race which saw Charles Cox of Monmouth Regional upset Bryant McCombs of Old Bridge in 47.10. In the girls 400 hurdles, Leslie Njoku of McNair Academic of Jersey City matched the meet record of 59.48.

The depleted sprint ranks did post some outstanding marks, however. Leslie's cousin, Ogechi Nwaneri of Chatham, repeated as 100-meter champ in the girls' 100 in 11.66 and also took the 200 in 23.96. She thus shares with Tauro the chance of winning an all-group title four years in a row, something that has been accomplished only by such past legendary figures as Joetta Clark (800)), Carol Lewis (LJ), Jodie Bilotta (3200) and Christine Engel (1600), who was on hand to watch Tauro's runaway victory in her present role as coach at the University of San Francisco.

Tauro's relay leg may have been her most impressive outing of the night. The 1600 was conceded to her before the race began. Her chief 800 rivals, freshman Ariann Neutts of Roxbury and Georgetown-bound Renee Tomlin of Ocean City, both usually front runners, allowed Danielle to take the lead from the gun and respectfully ran behind her through a 65+ opening 400 which gave full rein to her devastating kick.

But in the relay, Tauro was touched off about four yards ahead of the runner-up in the earlier 400-meter race, Symone O'Connor of Franklin. O'Connor passed Tauro on the backstretch, but Danielle came back to finish five or six yards to the good in a race won by Camden in 3:47.55.

The Roxbury girls, who at Greensboro will face the Suffern team which recently broke the national four-mile relay record, had a stunning night. Jenn Ennis and Kris Stevens ran 1-2 in the 3200-meter run in 10:31.93 and 10:37.78 ahead of indoor champ Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck. Neutts took the state frosh record away from Jillian Smith in the 800 at 2:12.08 as the Southern Ocean yearling saved herself for the 1600R after placing second to Tauro in the 1600 in 4:52.56. And Lauren Penney joined her four mates in the sub-5:00 1600 ranks, placing seventh in that race in 4:59.01.

The Gaels' didn't do badly in the boys' meet as well. Jason Apwah capped a great season with a 1:51.51 victory in the 800 and Doug Smith broke Bryan Spoonire's state frosh 3200-meter mark as he finished fourth to Forys in 9:14.61.

The 3200 got a great sendoff when Nicolai Naranjo of Montclair Kimberley Academy won the opening section in 9:20.52, a time that would have won the event eight times in the past. But the pace of the seeded race seemed slow as leaders Ben Massam of Chatham and Jeff Perrella passed the half mark around 4:38 with Forys a few yards back. But Craig took over soon after that and quickly distanced the field, winning by about 60 yards. Massam ran 9:07.28 and Perrella 9:08.16, with Smith coming from behind, just as he had indoors, to grab the fourth spot.

Jamil Benjamin of Cumberland, a novice to the sport, won the boys' 100-meter dash in 10.80 after a bad start, just catching A.J. Bunton of West Deptford who later took the 200 from Cox in 21.53. Benjamin had run 10.57 in his earlier trial, fastest of the season. He blamed his slow start in the final to "stage fright." He had only taken up the sport in April.

The girls' 100-meter hurdles went to indoor Nike 60-meter hurdle champ Nia Ali of Pleasantville in 13.78, while the boys' event was a runaway for indoor state champ Will Brown of Palmyra in 14.13. Indoor national winner Cory Nelms of Neptune had false-stared in the sectional trials and settled for a fourth place in the 100 meters.

The field competitors seemed more troubled by the weather conditions than the runners. Performances were generally down, but there were some exceptions. Penn Relays high jump champ Devon Bond soared over the bar cleanly at 6-10, but took no further attempts due to the rain. Devon Purves of Haddonfield, who had missed the indoor meet due to injury, won the pole vault at 15-0. Josh Butler of Delsea, the indoor high jump winner (when Bond was playing basketball) exchanged that title for a triple jump victory at 48-0 over favored Kyle Lindsay of Paterson Eastside. Favorites Steve D'Arcy of Hanover Park in the shot put and Jamie Figueroa of Old Bridge in the discus had their best marks of the season at 58-8 3/4 and 182-5, as did Steven Pierce of Ridgewood, whose surprise win in the javelin came on his final effort at 202-0.

The girls' winners included four heavy favorites in their events: indoor champ Natalie Gengel of Princeton in the pole vault at 12-3, Celeste Holder of Parsippany in the long jump at 18-11 1/2, Deanne Hahn of Lakewood at 43-10 in the shot put and Kim Warren of Atlantic City at 138-10 in the discus. Anna Cook of Florence topped a closely-matched high jump field on fewer misses at 5-6 and Julie Cohan of Northern Highlands upset Indira Morton at 129-6 in the javelin. Perhaps the most surprised winners of the meet were the Willingboro 1600-meter relay runners who broke 3:20 for the first time, defeating Vineland in 3:18.50. Favored Old Bridge was third, minus its usual leadoff man, Jeff St. Florant, and season leader Irvington scratched because of a conflict with its school prom.


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