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NJSIAA Championships

Groups: May 30-31, 2008
Groups 1,2,4 at Egg Harbor - Group 3, Non-Public A&B at South Plainfield

Meet of Champions: Wed., June 4, 2008 - South Plainfield NJ

New Jersey Meet of Champions Previews

Boys by George Kochman Jr. - Girls by Matt Soja

Girls Preview

by Matt Soja

It’s the beginning of June in New Jersey, and that means one thing to all track fans – it’s time for another edition of the Meet of Champions, where the best athletes from all groups, public and parochial, come together to determine, head-to-head, who is best in the entire state in their particular events.

On the ladies’ side, this promises to be a particularly impressive edition of the all-group meet, mostly due to the stellar performances of national-caliber athletes like English Gardner in the sprints and Jill Smith in the distances. If weather cooperates and does not disrupt the competition with violent thunderstorms like last weekend at the group meet, this should be everything a track fan could ask for as a reward at the end of a long 2008 season.

Here’s a short event-by-event preview of what can be expected this Wednesday:

100m – English Gardner of Eastern HS is the overwhelming favorite here, having run a meet record and #2 in New Jersey history 11.49 at the Group 4 meet (although it was arguably wind-aided since there was no wind gauge at that meet). Windy or not, this should be the easier part of the sprint double for the supersoph as her nearest competitor, Tylia Gillon of Jackson, is seeded nearly four tenths of a second behind.

200m – Gardner is hoping for a double, having won the Gr. 4 meet in 24.19. Audrey Wilson of Deptford should provide the biggest challenge to Gardner’s quest for double gold, and so could another sophomore star, Michelle Brown of Seneca, if she opts for a 200-400 double.

400m – Brown has to be the favorite here after her sensational meet record and NJ #6 all-time 53.91 victory in the Group 3 meet. nBut Wilson, whom Brown beat by 0.7 seconds in that race, and Gr. 2 champion Nijgia Snapp of Oakcrest will make it a spectacular three-way battle.

800m – The only question here is whether or not Jill Smith will choose to defend her title in this event or rather focus on the 1600m. She will probably make the decision on race day, but even if she doubles back from the mile (which should be run about 90 minutes before this event), she should win this event handily. Her 2:08.23 at the Gr. 4 meet (part of an amazing distance triple) is still almost a second slower than her best time this spring and puts her more than four seconds ahead of the #2 seed, Ariann Neutts of Roxbury.

1600m – If Smith decides to run this event, she will have her hands (legs?) full with other stars in this very deep year for Garden State milers. Melanie Thompson of Voorhees won the Gr. 3 meet in 4:53.60, edging out Ashley Cromartie of Roxbury by one second, although the Voorhees star might opt just to run the 3200 as well as Oak Knoll’s Katie McCafferty. So it might come down to Smith’s kick versus the attempts by Cromartie and other to wear her out on the first three laps, which could produce a sub-4:50 race.

3200m – If McCafferty, Thompson, and Claire Buck of Hopewell Valley all decide to run only this event, all three should be able to run in 10:30s, as they all dipped under 10:45 in their second or third event last weekend. McCafferty should be considered the favorite – she fares well under pressure as evidenced by her Penn Relays 3000m victory.

100m hurdles – This will be a close battle between Woodrow Wilson’s Samantha Sharper (14.17 at groups) and the Union HS duo of Ugonna Ndu (14.19) and Ashley Battle (14.26), who took 1-2 at the Group 4 meet.

400m hurdles – Hopewell Valley’s Julie Alexander should take this event, which is not very deep this year – she had the only sub-62 clocking this weekend and should win by at least one second.

4x400m – It should be a South Jersey affair, with Millville, Southern Regional and Camden the top three seeds; probably only one of those three will dip under 3:50.

Long jump – This event, on the other hand, is dominated by Northerners, with two NNJIL stars, Shantal Athill of Montclair and Shanaie Herber of Kennedy, being the top two seeds. But do not forget Josefine Kvist of Ridge, who despite finishing third to them at the Group 4 meet still has the #1 jump in the state this spring at 18’7.5

Triple jump – Hillsborough’s Ebony Young unleashed New Jersey’s first 40-footer this spring at the group meet and this is her event to lose. Herber is the #2 seed and the only other 39-footer in the state.

High jump – There is no clear favorite in this one with three girls, Magan Kustera of West Deptford, Hannah Boyce of Ocean Twp, and Alex Rosenberger of Ramsey, clearing 5’6 last weekend, but only Rosenberger had cleared 5’7 this season, a week ago at the Bergen County Meet of Champions.

Pole Vault – With favorite Chrissy Finkel of Montville unexpectedly losing to Barnegat’s Jen Holly on misses at the Group 3 meet (both cleared 12 feet), this became a wide-open event with Hanover Park’s Nicole Pompei also staking her claim with a 12’1 victory at the Group 2 meet.

Shot put – Looks like a two-woman fight between Mendham’s Sarah Bella and Brick’s DeAnne Hahn, the only two 46-footers in the state. Bella has the superior seasonal best (46-5 to Hahn’s 46-0.5), but she only threw 43’5 at groups, making her vulnerable.

Discus – Here, on the other hand, is probably the easiest field event to predict the winner. Hahn has unleashed a 153-footer a couple of weeks ago, and even her toss of mere 136’5 to win the group meet is further than anybody else has thrown in New Jersey this spring.

Javelin – IHA’s Shannon Sullivan is the favorite after throwing a state-leading 143’8 at the Parochial A meet, but Hanover Park’s Alexandra Kelly is only 2 feet behind.

Boys Preview

By George Kochman Jr.

It’s the grand finale in New Jersey, and track aficionados are waiting to see who adds their name to the list of the all-time greats. Who is the next Nehemiah, Liquori, or Carl Lewis?

Much of the pre-meet hype centers on the middle distance races, where Robby Andrews of Manalapan, who owns the big kick, goes against Brett Johnson of Ocean City in the 1,600-meter run.

Expectations for Andrews have been so high that anything less than a super performance leaves viewers doubting. Three months ago, Andrews was THE man, but to the faithful, just winning may not be enough.

Will Johnson, or someone else, take advantage of Andrews’ tendency to run from way behind? Or will Andrews respond as he has done in the past, with big-time performances in big races?

There are several others in this fine field, including Jon Juleius of Pope John XXIII, Robert Molke of Don Bosco, and Doug Smith of Gill-St. Bernard ready to go.

The 800, with Jason Walton of Hillsboro will be a highlight. Jackson’s Monroe Kearns has improved each time out this spring, and seems to be a contender in every race he runs. And don’t count out Maxwell Bruno of Indian Hills.

There is also interest in freshmen- yes, freshmen. Kevin Byrne of Red Bank Catholic, son of the famed Georgetown star with the same name, has run 4:21 and 1:57. The question is, how low can he go?

The 9th-grade Rosa twins of West Windsor North are even more intriguing. Jim has run 9:15.24 for 3,200 meters, while Joe has run 9:17.76. Can they run with the likes of Andrew Brodeur of Brick Memorial, Tyler Udland of Millburn, and Smith?

Many will be crowded near the shot put circle, where a huge throwing duel is in the offing. Mike Alleman of Scotch Plains goes against Nick Vina of Morristown, with both over 66’ this year.

Robert Page of Kingsway and Geoff Navarro of Absegami are only inches better than a slew of contenders in the 100. Navarro, Barry Cephas of Winslow, Akheem Gauntlett of Roselle, and Damien Miles of teaneck appear to be the class of the 200 field, while Seton Hall’s Clayton Parros and Isaiah Gill of Plainfield will duel in the 400.

Devon Hill of Trenton appears to be in a class by himself in the 110-meter hurdles, while Demetrius Rooks of Kingsway is the 400-hurdles favorite.

Montez Blair of Timber Creek is the sole 7-footer in the high jump, and while 15-footers Dan Batdorf of West Deptford and Rich Villanova of Toms River North are at the top in the pole vault.

In the horizontal jumps, Dorian Evans of Timber Creek and Daniel Wu of Tenafly are the long jump favorites, as is new 50-footer Chris Phipps of Lodi in the triple jump.

Chris Pantale of Wayne Valley is favored in the discus, while Brian Florek of Old Bridge leads four 200-footers in the javelin.

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