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Smith's 2:07.26 800 Leads Pre-State-Group Action

May 29, 2008 - By Ed Grant

The time had come for Jillian Smith to assert her position as New Jersey’s No. 1 distance runner and that is just what the talented Southern Ocean junior did in a big way at the South Jersey Gr. IV championships last weekend at Egg Harbor Twp.

With the exception of her record anchor 1600-meter leg at Penn, Jillian had been in a low profile this spring, content to win her few open and championship races with no concern for the clock. And even in her four-gold-medal performance this time, she has yet to break 5:00 for an individual 1600M race or 11:00 for the 3200.

The 800m, however is a different story. In what was surely the top race of a busy weekend, Jillian won in a meet record time of 2:07.26, barely missing the state junior class record of 2:07.10 held by Janine Davis of Queen of Peace and, before that, by no less than four-time Olympian Joetta Clark. The first six finishers in this one ran faster than any of the winners at the three other sectional meets last Saturday.

Smith began on Friday with a 5:00.84 1600 win over Caitlin Orr of Lenape, which waged another torrid team battle with Southern Ocean, before bowing, 83-½ to 80. She also took the 3200 on Saturday, again from Orr, in 11:09.00 and finished up with the anchor leg in a 3:51.59 relay victory that clinched the title---Lenape had led by half a point going into the event.

The two teams will go at it again this weekend for the group title at Egg Harbor, the other sectional winners simply not having the firepower to come close to the South Jersey powers. Lenape hopes for a repeat of the indoor scenario, when Southern Ocean also won the sectional title, but lost the group battle. However, that meet was a one-day affair and the time schedule made a four-way appearance by Smith impossible.

The Gr. III meet at South Plainfield looks like a three-way affair among North Jersey 2 winner Voorhees, Central Jersey champ Hopewell Valley and South Jersey titlist Camden. HoVall has the best all-around team, but may lose valuable points in the distance races which feature such stars as all-group cross-county champion Melanie Thompson of Voorhees, National 5K indoor winner Chelsea Ley of Kingsway and the members of Roxbury’s Penn distance medley champs: Ariann Neutts, Ashley Cromartie and Lauren Penney.

All of them had great meets last weekend. Thompson swept the distances at South Plainfield in 5:01.37 and 10:53.69; Chelsea scored in the South Jersey meet at Buena in 5:00.24 and 10:42.84 (fastest of the day); and each of the Roxbury girls won at the North Jersey 1 meet at Hackensack, Neutts taking the 800 in 2:16.04, Cromartie the 1600 in 4:56.31 and Penney the 3200 in 10:57.50.

Camden may profit from all this internecine warfare as its points come from the sprints, hurdles and jumps. In SJ, Kamice Smalls was winning the 400H in 1:02.45 and placing 2nd to indoor AG champ Samantha Sharper of Wilson in the 100H; Assante Johnson was taking the LJ and unrelated Ryan Johnson the TJ and the 1600R, running a close 2nd to city rival Woodrow Wilson in the 1600R in 3:54.27.

The Gr. II meet at Egg Harbor could also go southwards with Haddonfield dominating the distance races with sectional winners Greta Feldman in the 800, Marielle Hall in the 1600 and Mia Spinelli in the 3200. Two of the other sectional meets couldn’t have been closer, Rumson and Clark tying at 82 points in Central Jersey and Hanover Park edging next door neighbor Madison by half a point in North Jersey 2.

Five teams have a shot at winning the Gr, I title at Egg Harbor. Palmyra seems assured of 38 points from Rajeana Marigna, who won four events in the South Jersey meet, the three sprints with easily the fastest times of the day in that group. But the other four---New Providence and Robbinsville, who tied in Central Jersey at 120 points, and Verona and Waldwick, who ran 1-2 in North Jersey 1, could all finish between 40 and 50, if not higher. The CJ pair had a triple winner apiece, Amber Scott for Robbinsville in the 100, 200 and 100H and Olivia Clyde for the Pioneer in the distances. Verona and Waldwick depend more on a balanced attack, with the potential to score in as many as eight events apiece.

There were no sectionals for the two parochial divisions, which will fill out the South Plainfield card this weekend. Pope John, the defender in A, won big at Sunday’s New Jersey Catholic Track Conference meet at Notre Dame, but faces an almost impossible task against Immaculate Heart Academy. Immaculate’s only entry there, Shannon Sullivan, swept the three weight events with a season’s best of 140-9 in the DT and followed that by taking the SP and DT at Tuesday’s Bergen County Meet of Champions in Hackensack, where teammate Sarah Pagano won the 1600 in 4:56.56. Holy Cross won big at the South Jersey Parochial meet on Saturday at Stockton State College and could tend Pingry’s domination of the B meet.

With possible aid from wind in some cases, the top girl sprinters had a big weekend. English Gardner of Eastern won in SJ Gr. IV in 11.79 and 24.27; Audrey Wilson of Deptford in SJ Gr. III in 11.81 and 24.21; and Janay Mitchell of Teaneck in NJ Gr. III in 12.05 and 24.42. In the NJCTC meet, with no wind help, Dominique Booker of Immaculate Conception ran 11.81 and 24.92.

The AG 400-meter field also heated up as indoor champ Nijgia Snapp won in SJ Gr. IV in 55.15, Michelle Brown of Seneca and Wilson ran 1-2 in Gr. III in 55.25 and 55.85, and Amy Salek of Ramapo set a meet record of 55.35 in the Bergen MC.

The Bergen meet provided the outstanding boys’ performance of the past week when Chris Phipps of Lodi, who had doubled the North Jersey 2 Gr. II horizontal jumps at Parsippany on the weekend, stepped things up a bit with a 23 6 1/4 in the LJ and a state record of 50-5 in the TJ. He added a 2nd place 6-4 in the HJ for good measure.

The top sectional team battle came in the CJ meet Gr. IV meet at Hillsboro, where Trenton defended its title in an epic battle with Old Bridge, 81-75 – thanks to a sprint double from Aramis Wiggins, a 13.88 HH win from Devon Hill and a 47-2 TJ victory for Rolston Braithwaite. This established the Tornadoes as a solid favorite to also win again in the group meet at South Plainfield against challenges from Franklin and Irvington, the 1-2 finishers in North Jersey 2, and Absegami. The latter took its first South Jersey Gr. IV title, thanks to Geoff Navarro’s sprint triple in 10.72, 21.97 and 48.55, a season’s best 400H by Demetrius Rooks and their collaboration in a 3:17.27 1600R win over indoor AG champs Winslow Twp.

Group III remained as much a mystery as before with close competition for all the sectional titles and no team showing the kind of up-front power which prevails in group meets. Morris Hills edged Teaneck in NJ 1, despite losing hurdler Bill Baird to a false start in the HH; Morristown scored over Millburn in NJ 2, even though frosh SP star Nick Vena was beaten by Mike Alleman in the SP, 63 11 1/2-63-9 (both boys beating Bruce Heide’s 35-year-old meet record); West Windsor North’s awesome distance strength prevailed over Neptune’s speed in CJ; and Timber Creek won its first sectional crown over Delsea.

Another tie featured the Gr. II, Somerville and Ewing finishing with 65 points apiece in CJ with Roselle just one point behind. Ewing and Roselle could be the teams to beat this weekend and it might come down again to the 1600R, which settled the sectional meet. Ewing gained two points there for the tie as Roselle’s 3:17.44 just failed to gain it a share of the crown.

Metuchen is a clear favorite in Gr. I, the return to action of sprint star DeJuan Miller heading a 139-point performance. Miller repeated his 2007 wins in the 200 and 400, while running under wraps after missing the greater part of the season due to injuries.

Don Bosco split its action between the NJCTC and Bergen MC meets, showing well in both, and will be the Parochial A favorite over Msgr. Donovan, which won the former meet. Holy Cross took the South Jersey Parochial meet and seems to have no real rival for a Parochial B sweep.

Among those missing from all this action were the AG 3200-meter favorites, Doug Smith of Gill-St. Bernard’s and Nike 3200M winner Katie McCafferty of Oak Knoll. Smith had no meet to run in, while McCafferty skipped the NJCTC affair.

The NJCTC meet also had one interesting feature in the 1600 and 3200. Brian Siemann of Notre Dame, who has won 12 for 12 in AG wheelchair competition the past three years---and undoubtedly will add four more this year---was on the track in both events. He started both behind the runners, stayed to the outside lanes until he had a sufficient lead, then moved in and acted almost as a “rabbit” for Bob Molke of Don Bosco, who won the 1600 in 4:18.77, and Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s, who returned to action to win the 3200 in 9:10.70. Brian’s times were 4:17.06 and 8:57.76.

Just as the 800 provided the feature of the girls’ individual action in the sectionals, so did the boys’ 800 in the CJ Gr. IV meet head the boys’. This one matched the 1-2 finishers in the indoor AG race, Robby Andrews of Manalapan and Monroe Kearns of Jackson with Jason Walton of Hillsboro, who had a 1:51.8 anchor leg at Penn. Andrews had won a slow-paced 1600 on Friday and the 800 also dawdled with a 58-scond first lap. Walton took off with 300M to go, opened a big lead and apparently had the race won until Kearns mounted a charge off the final turn and caught him 30 meters before the finish to win in 1:54.25 with Andrews a distant third. It may be a lot different this weekend, however.

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