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Metro staff Favorite 5

As the 2008-2009 high school competition year draws to a close, the Metro staff members who spend a great deal of their time at meets to look back over the last twelve months and select their five favorite events, moments, match-ups, interactions, observations, confrontations or celebrations. The things that stood out, stayed with them, stuck to memory long after the coverage was over and the headlines had faded. The only catch was that they had to actually have been there. Stunned by Anna Jelmini's throws double at her California sectional, but heard about it on the internet like almost everyone else? Doesn’t count. Head spinning when you got word of Albemarle's 4x800 battle against Morris Hills, but you were covering a meet elsewhere in the country? Not good enough. Five favorites you saw with your own eyes.

So, without further ado… a week’s worth of moments we were “in the house” to see.

Part 1 | Rich Bevensee

Lanie Thompson leading Voorhees High (Glen Gardner, NJ) to its second straight NJSIAA cross-country Meet of Champions title has to be on this list because Voorhees was not really expected to repeat as the state champion. Voorhees lost two of its top five runners from the 2008 team which finished 13th overall at the Nike Team Nationals in Oregon, and there were a slew of Jersey teams which came back with much stronger top fives, at least on paper. Yet when that frigid day at Holmdel Paerk arrived, Thompson stormed to her second straight individual title in 17:46.6, and when the dust settled, Voorhees defeated runner-up Ridge, 138-139, and Hillsborough finished third with 158. That’s an impressive 1-2-3 finish for the Skyland Conference. Never before had a single conference claimed the top three spots in the championship race at Holmdel Park.

Amber Allen (photo right by John Nepolitan) of Passaic Tech was a decided underdog going into the 400-meter hurdles at the NJ outdoor track M of C. Union senior Ugonna Ndu was the favorite with a U.S. No. 1 time of 59.36 from winning the state Group 4 title, and she was the only girl in the state to have broken one minute in the event.
Allen, who lost to Ndu at the state Group 1 meet, owned a personal best of 1:00.33 from the Penn Relays.
None of that mattered at the M of C. Allen, a junior, ran the race of her life and defeated Ndu, 58.44 to 59.35. Her time was a meet record, and she is the third fastest intermediate hurdler in state history.

Columbia sophomore Kayann Richards was thirsting for redemption when she arrived at Franklin Field in Philadelphia for the Penn Relays. Just a year ago as a freshman, Columbia was leading the Tri-State 4x100-meter relay final when she dropped the baton on the anchor leg. Columbia did not finish the race and was left to wonder what could have been.
Given a second chance with an entirely new foursome, Richards came through this time and brought Columbia across first in 47.52. It was a triumphant return to glory for the once-proud Columbia girls’ program, which had not won a girls’ relay title at Franklin since winning back-to-back distance medley relays in 1997-98.

Ashton Purvis, a junior at St. Elizabeth in Oakland CA, enjoyed the finest meet of her blossoming track career when she claimed gold in the 60-meter dash and the 200 meters at the 26th National Scholastic Indoor Championships on March 15 at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in New York. Purvis closed out her memorable weekend when she made up the stagger early in her seeded 200 meter heat and crossed unchallenged in US #1 23.37.  It was her second gold medal of the meet. Earlier that day, Purvis won the 60 dash in US #3 7.43.


Jillian Smith of Southern Regional (Manahawkin, NJ) closed out her track career in New Jersey by breaking her own outdoor track M of C record in the 800 meters and winning her third straight half-mile title in 2:04.67, No. 2 in state history and No. 25 in U.S. history, on June 3 at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield. The 800 meet record used to belong to none other than Joetta Clark, who ran 2:06.5 in 1980. Clark would go to enjoy an All-America career at Tennessee and compete on four U.S. Olympic Teams. In 2000 Clark was named The Star-Ledger’s Girls Outdoor Track Athlete of the Century. Smith, headed to Michigan where she will join former Southern all-America teammate Danielle Tauro, graduated with six individual M of C titles and eight overall, with two being 4x400-meter relays, one from the 2008 indoor season and one from the `08 outdoor season.