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New Jersey Report

Southern Region DMR, Colts Neck's Higginson lead NJ efforts

Friday, May 4, 2007

By Ed Grant

Mission accomplished and then some.

That would be the best way to describe the New Jersey performance at the113th annual Penn Relays last weekend at Franklin Field, a meet that saw an unprecedented double delay of more than two and a half hours on Friday, as well as the first Ivy League victory in a Championship of America relay in 33 years when Columbia scored an upset win on Saturday in the 3200R.

As expected, the Garden State effort was highlighted with two almost back-to-back victories on Thursday when Southern Ocean led a 1-2-3 New Jersey finish in the distance medley in 10:45.54, fifth fastest time in Penn history, and Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck in 9:37.91 for the 3k, ninth on the meet’s all-time list.

Sophomore Jillian Smith led off the DMR with a 3:33.5 1200 leg, second fastest in Penn history.  This gave Southern Ocean a 12-yard lead over Ramapo, which was quickly wiped out when Amy Salek ran a 56.1 400 for the Raiders.  But freshman Chelsea Cox put the Rams back in the lead with a 2:21.3 and, with Danielle Tauro on the anchor, it was simply a question of how fast the race would be.

Tauro, who set the state mile record of 4:39.25 a year ago at the Nationals, made no attempt to go for the Penn record of 11:40.51, set by Vere Tech in 1992, but was content to pump out four 72+ laps, saying afterwards: “My job was not to screw things up for everyone else.”  Ramapo held on to second in face of a severe challenge by Roxbury, both teams also going under 12:00.

It could well have been a 1-2-3-4-5 finish, had not Pope John chose to run the 3200R --- where it led the trials in 9:03.56 and was fourth in the finals at 9:07.49 — and had Colts Neck not scratched because of an injury to its usual 1200 leg, Brianna Jackuciewicz.

A year ago, the Cougars had hoped to double the DMRs at Penn with Higginson anchoring the girls’ race and Craig Forys the boys. They almost got the second half of that wish when Forys ran a 4:04.4 anchor 1600, making up a huge deficit, but failing to catch Coatesville, Pa., which won in 10:08.51.  His time exactly matched the classic mark which Marty Liquori turned in for the full mile distance in 1967 when Essex Catholic set the national record of 10:05.6.

Notre Dame’s boys team matched Pope John’s feat of leading the 3200R trials, running 7:55.18 in Friday morning’s pouring rain, the last race before the first delay of 90 minutes.  But it could not quite match that in the finals which was dominated by the Jamaican entry.  The girls’ race, however, saw Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland get the first half of a double victory which helped the U.S. score a 5-3 edge over the Islanders in their annual rivalry for the eight relay crowns.

The “and then some” mentioned above came in the individual program where New Jersey athletes scored three victories, even with Nike Invitational indoor high jump champ Devon Bond of Trenton still sidelined by injury.  Manny Mayers of Lakewood, the defending all-group intermediate hurdles champion, won that event in an upset from Kyle Rowbotham of Scotch Plains in 52.81, the two running in separate sections.

Mayers ran head-to-head with indoor national HH champ Johnny Dutch of North Carolina.  Dutch had a slight lead going over the final hurdle, but stumbled coming off after tipping the barrier and Mayers won handily.  Rowbotham had already won the first section in 53.11 and Aaron Younger of Delsea took the third in 53.45, finishing fourth overall.

On Friday, Mike Alleman of Scotch Plains had won the shot put at 58-5 ½, and, on Saturday morning, George Abyad of Passaic Valley took the discus at 179-8.  Indoor National long jump champ Hanif Kendrick of Franklin was only fourth at 23-4, but still earned his watch as the first three were all from Jamaica.

The girls had no field winners, but indoor all-group champ Chrissy Finkel of Montville came very close, losing the pole vault on misses to Abigail Schaffer of Easton, Pa., at 12-3 ¾.  Deanne Hahn of Brick, indoor Eastern shot put champion, was third in the shot put at 44-11 ½.

Essex County teams led the countless number of New Jersey 400R teams.  After two years of frustration, Irvington won the large school boys’ consolation race in 42.54 and the East Orange girls finished second in the girls’ large school consolation final in 47.39, then apparently won the Tri-State race the next day, only to be disqualified for exceeding the passing zone on the second exchange, Camden Wilson getting the gold.

Seton Hall coach Mike Mielko got his wish when his final Pony Pirate 1600R team qualified for the championship final, thanks to a 47.6 third leg by soph Clayton Parros, who had spent the winter warming the bench for the school’s JV basketball team.  The team ran second in the final morning class race in 3:17.92 and was seventh in the finals at 3:19.50.  Monmouth, the indoor all-group champions, just missed a berth at 3:18.31 in the previous race, despite a 47.0 anchor from Charles Cox.

Camden lost a hot South Jersey large school race by a shade to Delsea, which ran 3:20.34, but came back later in the Saturday program to win the Philadelpia Area race from Winslow Twp in 3:18.74.  Winslow, with two sophs in the lineup, hit 3:19.74 as Delsea finished fifth.

On Thursday, Washington Two had been a surprise winner of the South Jersey girls’ large school race over Wilson in 3:56.69 and, on Saturday, pulled an even larger upset, taking the area race in 3:52.88, both anchored by rising star Jackie Dim.

New Jersey alumni did very well in individual action over the weekend. Both discus titles went to Garden Staters, Jocelyn White of Delsea taking the women’s event for North Carolina at 171-7 and Adam Kuehl of Monmouth Regional the men’s for Arizona at 195-8 with Yemi Ayeni of South Brunswick second for Virginia at 192-7.  Michael Morrison of Willingboro made his final collegiate trip to Penn a winning one as he took the LJ for Florida at 25-1 ¼.

And the Olympic Development women’s race put on a final touch when, in a typical “devil take the hindmost” finish, Erin Donohue won from present North Carolina star Brei Feinagle in 4:35.70.  Rutgers grad Julie Culley, stepping down in distance, ran fifth in 4:38.96, giving New Jersey at least four active milers under 4:40. 

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