New Jersey report - March 17, 2006

by Ed Grant

Seven gold medal performances and three state records, plus a fair number of other all-American honors represented a more than adequate result for New Jersey athletes at the two national meets last weekend in New York City and Landover, Md.

The majority of the state’s elite, as expected, chose the New York Armory Center for their final appearance of the 2005-06 winter campaign. It was there that Corey Nelms of Neptune took the boys’ 60-meter high hurdles in 7.90 and Celeste Holder of Parsippany the girls’ long jump at 19-5 1/2, while Camden Wilson set a state mark of 33.10 in the girls’ shuttle hurdles and Colts Neck did likewise in the girls’ 4-mile relay. Irvington picked up the fifth gold there in the boys; shuttle hurdles at 31.08. Roxbury got the third state record in the girls’ distance medley at 11:48.02 but had to settle for third behind Suffern of New York which narrowly missed the national mark at 11:35.74.

The only New Jersey winners at Landover were Nia Ali of Pleasantville who came within .03 of the state record as she took the 60-meter hurdles in 8.36, and the Southern Ocean DMR team which, thanks to a 4:50.1 anchor by Millrose winner Danielle Tauro, scored in 12:05.14. Tauro was returning to action after missing the state all-group meet with a stomach virus.

Non-winning performances were headed by Craig Forys’ who got Colts Neck home second on Friday in the distance medley in New York with his second sub 4-06 anchor in two weeks and then finished second in the two-mile in Landover on Sunday in 8:59.88, just missing Kevin Byrne’s 27-year-old state record. Next to this was the 2-3 finish in 1:52.81 and 1:53.24 by Eastern champ Mike Pachelle of Wallkill Valley and Jason Apwah of Roxbury in the 800 in New York.

Three New Jersey stars were missing from the weekend action. Brittany Sedberry, who had anchored Ocean City to a DMR win at Landover last year and this winter set a state record of 10:19.30 is preparing for the outdoor campaign, while Kristen Mahon of Notre Dame, who had won the all-group and Eastern 400s with a best of 55.49, was resting a minor but painful foot injury, and National outdoor 400-meter hurdles champ Krystal Cantey of Winslow Twp was out of action after pulling up at the end of the Eastern 200-meter dash.

Nelms’ victory followed his close losses to Will Brown of Palmyra in the all-group meet on Feb. 19 and the Easterns at the New York Armory on Feb. 28. He won by the narrowest of margins from Canadian star James Ryder. Ali, in contrast, had a clear edge on her rivals in the Landover race as she closed out a near-perfect season in her first New Jersey campaign after transferring from Philadelphia West Catholic.

Holder reversed her Easterns loss to New Rochelle star Lynne Layne with her third 19+ effort of a season which marked her as the state’s third best indoor jumper ever behind Carol Lewis and Claire Connor of Rahway, who was a three-time winner in the first National meet at Princeton 22 years ago. Now she hopes to join these two in the 20-foot class outdoors.

Wilson smashed the state record of 33.82 which it had previous tied this winter. The meet, however, was not a complete success for Ringo Adamson’s girls as the 1600-meter team failed to qualify for another joust with East Orange in that event’s final where the Essex County team had a season’s best of 3:49.50 in sixth place.

Colts Neck set up a dream match with Roxbury outdoors with its record win in the four-mile event, which was headed by Ashley Higginson. Whether it will come off is another matter, the only possible venue being the East Coast Relays on May 17 where the distance will actually be 6400 meters. The Gaels have individual marks this winter which add up to about 20:35.

Roxbury also had a second in the 3200-meter relay, again behind Suffern’s meet record of 8:59.37, and this without the services of its top two runners, Jenn Ennis and Kris Stevens. Jenn had run 4:56 in anchoring the DMR on Friday and tackled two individual races on Sunday, placing seventh in the mile in 4:55.29 and running 2:18.57 in the 800. Stevens is still recovering from a mono attack. But frosh Arianna Neutts, who led off the DMR in 3:36, stepped in with a sub-2:14 anchor leg to bring the team home in 9:12.81.

Bryant McCombs of Old Bridge, who had won the National 400-meter a year ago at the NY Armory, had to settle for eighth this time in 48.27 after a 48.11 heat. He came back to anchor his team to third in the 1600-meter relay in 3:18.38. Ridgewood, which had won the Eastern DMR, was fourth this time, just behind Colts Neck with Christian Brothers and Pope John---anchored in 4:12+ by Anthony LaMastro—also in the top seven, both under 10:23. CBA again ran without its top miler Greg Leach who did take part the next day in an 18:11.82 four-mile team.

An unusual statistical coincidence came out of Friday’s boys’ 5,000-meter run in New York when four state class records were set by sophomore Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s at 15:10.38, junior Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian at 15:17.52, senior Matt Mitchell of Haddon Heights at 15:24.43 and frosh Doug Smith of Roxbury at 15:51.71. Jarrett. who had defeated Hanko in the Eastern two-mile in 9:16.02, finished seventh.

Aside from Holder’s win, the individual field events produced only one other notable effort as the state’s top three high jumpers, Josh Butler of Delsea, Ryan Manning of West Orange and Justin Frick of Freehold Boro. all cleared 6-8 1/4 on Friday in New York, Butler getting a tie for second on misses. Frick then went to Landover where he cleared 6-6 3/4.

Swedish-born sophomore Josefine Kvist of Ridge was an impressive, if distant second, in the pentathlon in New York at 3,528 points with Rahway’s all-around star, Lashonda Carter, fifth at 3,363. Carter, the state high jump champion, also took time that day to place sixth in that event at 5-7, matching her personal best with a mark that could have added more than 100 points to her pentathlon effort where she managed only 5-3.

Two New York field event winners had strong New Jersey connections. Pole vaulter Mike Morrison is the grand-nephew of Dave Faherty, a longtime high school coach in the state and also a veteran of 50 or more marathons. And John McCree, who learned the hammer throw from legendary coach Tony Naclerio of Rutgers at Essex Catholic and later competed for St. John’s is the coach of the new national weight thrower record-holder, Walter Henning of St. Anthony’s.