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Bond, Apwah, Bruno and Vassell join Tauro in NJ headlines

Wednesday, February 7, 2006

By Ed Grant

The Danielle Tauro story goes marching on, but she now has some company at the top level of New Jersey indoor track and field as athletes await the opening of the state group championships on Feb. 15 at the new Bennett Center in Toms River – namely Devon Bond of Trenton, Jason Apwah of Roxbury, Maxwell Bruno of Indian Hills and Racquel Vassell of East Orange.

Tauro followed up her record 4:46.13 win at the Jan. 20 New Balance Games with routine victories at the Jan. 27 Boston Indoor Games and the Feb. 2 Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in almost identical fashion. In Boston she had a 1-2 finish with soph teammate Jillian Smith in 4:52.20 and, in New York, repeated her 2006 victory in 4:52.81.

The Boston race was virtually a repeat of the New Balance race as Tauro took the lead from the gun, with the rest of the field dutifully following in step until she gradually pulled away in the final 440. In the Millrose race, she was passed on two occasions, but soon was in the lead again and a 67-second last quarter left young Cory McGee of Pass Christian , Miss., and Chanelle Price of Easton, Pa., to battle for second with Smith finishing 4th.

Tauro and Smith skipped the Ocean County meet the next day and were also absent at the Varsity Classic on Feb. 5 at the New York Armory, where Apwah and Bruno battled to a near-deadlock in the invitation 1K race. Apwah got the nod as both broke Steve Schadler’s 23-year-old state record with a pair of hand-timed 2:27.2s. Bruno’s mark broke the national junior class record. Four other boys were under 2:32.0, including Kyle Soloff of Morris Hills, who had finished 2nd in the Millrose boys’ mile to Jason Waller of Boyertown, Pa., in 4:17.99.

Bond continued his jumping feats, extending his national lead in the triple jump to 48-8 ½ at the Feb. 3 Poreda Invitational at Lawrenceville and winning the HJ at a record 6-10 at the Varsity Classic. He did suffer his first defeat in either event at the latter meet, losing the TJ to Semai Spencer of Glen Mills, Pa.

Vassell had an extraordinary quadruple at the Essex County meet on Feb. 4 at Seton Hall, giving her team a 74-64 win over longtime rival Columbia in the girls’ division. She set records of 7.12 in the 55M, 25.98 in the 200 and 8.15 in the 55H, and also won the 400 in 58.5.

The Millrose Games also saw Camden win the Suburban 1600-meter relay in 3:26.87. The next day, the Purple Knights came back in the New Balance scholastic 1600R with a second-place finish to Newburgh Free Academy in 3:21.01, but a collision with Trenton in the 800R put both teams out of the running. There was no 800R at the Varsity Classic, but Trenton gave a hint of what that New Balance race might have been like when Tykeen Fulton and Dean McCleese finished 1-2 in the individual 200 in 22.0 and 22.2.

Another team that seems ready to run well below 1:30 in the event is Irvington, which had three boys under 23.0 in the auto-timed Essex meet on the sharp-turns of the Seton Hall track. Leonardo Wright doubled the sprints for the Camptowners in that meet in 6.44 and 22.42, both meet records, while Jaymark Bailey ran 2nd in the 55 in 6.50 and 4th in the 200 in 22.74. The putative fourth leg for the relay is Josh Evans, who took the HH in 7.99.

Despite all this, Irvington saw its hopes for a second-straight team title vanish as distance star Brandon Jarrett led St. Benedict’s to an 84-63 triumph, doubling the 1600 and 3200 in 4:29.84 and a record 9:35.32, and also finishing 2nd in the 800. This followed a victory for the Gray Bees in the 50th New Jersey Catholic Track Conference meet on Jan. 27 at the Jersey City Armory, where Jarrett also doubled the distances in 4:20.85 and 9:22.23. Easily the best small-school team in the state, St. Benedict’s will not be part of the state meet next week, but was expected to complete its own “hat trick” in the Feb. 7 state Prep meet at Lawrencevlle.

Last weekend saw a flock of county and conference meets. On Friday night, the Middlesex meet at the Jersey City Armory saw Old Bridge repeat on the boys’ side, 75-39, over South Brunswick with cross-country star Matt Ciambriello ending his layoff with a distance double in 4:31.04 and 9:57.44 and Allen Lunkenheimer winning the 400 in 49.81. South Brunswick defeated North Edison, 57-39, for the girls’ title, with only one gold from Sophia Ginez in the 1600. Individual fireworks came from Tylia Gillon of North Brunswick at 7.28 in the 55, Brian Barlow of New Brunswick with an 8.17 55H win and a 7.19 second in the 55 and Tiona Long, also of New Brunswick who set a record of 42-1/2 in the SP.

The same night, Franklin won the boys’ title and Hunterdon Central the girls in the Skyland Conference meet at Lehigh University. Hanif Kendrick, last spring’s outdoor all-group long jump champ, didn’t have his favorite event in the meet, but won the 55, 200 and HJ to lead a 93-77 victory over Hillsboro. Rachel Villa doubled the 55 and 55H, finished second in the 200 and anchored the decisive victory in the 1600R as Hunterdon central upset Ridge, 78-75. Symone O’Connor returned to the Franklin team and doubled the 200 and 400, the night before clinching her 400 title in the Colgate Games finale at Madison Square Garden.

The next day, it was the Monmouth-Ocean doubleheader at Bennett Center. With Tauro and Smith missing, Jackson defeated Msgr. Donovan and Southern Ocean, 68-39-35 2/3, to continue its long winning streak in the Ocean girls’ meet.  Jackson doubled with a 63-1/2-39 victory over Donovan in the boys’ affair, Kris Carle taking the 1600 in 4:26.24 and 9:30.25. Manny Mayers of Lakewood also doubled in the 400 at 50.84 and the HH at 7.67.

The Cox twins headed a 54-33-32 win for Monmouth Regional over Colts Neck and Christian Brothers in the Monmouth boys’ meet and Colts Neck ran away with the girls’ title, 76 ¼-34 ¼, over Ocean Twp. Charles Cox, outdoor all-group 400 champ, won that event in 49.88 and added the 55 in 6.63. Chris was second in the 800 and joined his brother on a 3:27.09 relay team. Ashley Higginson doubled the 800 and 3200 for Colts Neck in 2:16.35 and 11:07.75 and Briana Jackucewicz took the 1600 in 5:07.70.

Jackucewicz was part of a unique double at the Varsity Classic. She won the 3200 in 10:55.4 just after her cousin, Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian, had set a meet record of 9:09.6 in the boys’ event. Vassell came right back from her Essex feats to win the 200 in 25.1, Taryn O’Connor of Hillsboro had a meet record of 47-6 in the shot put and Stephanie McIntyre, outdoor all-group triple jump champ, won that event at 39-0.

Three New Jersey teams were well under 8:00 in the 3200R over the weekend. On Saturday, at the New Balance meet, Don Bosco ran second to Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland in 7:53.90 and Pleasantville was third in 7:54.76. Notre Dame won the Varsity Classic race in 7:56.7 with Gigi Gibilisco anchoring in 1:54.7. (Gibilisco had run the 1K at the New Balance meet, finishing sixth in 2:29.86.)

Ciambriello came back from his Middlesex County double to catch Carle at the finish of the Varsity Classic distance medley with Old Bridge running 10:20.1 and Jackson hitting 10:20.4. The girls race saw Pope John outrun Suffern by 30 yards in 12:09.5, the fourth New Jersey team under 12:10 this winter. The Lions also won the 1600R in 3:59.8 and finished third in the 3200R in 9:29.1.

Hanko had won the 1600 at the Jan. 31 Metropolitan Invitational in a meet record 4:16.6, while Gibilisco had defeated Bruno in the 800 in 1:53.9. Greg Stripe of Mahwah took the PV at that one at 14-6 and Qaadir Tutor of West Orange the HJ at 6-8. Erin McKenna of Ramapo won the girls’ 1600 in 5:06.0.

O’Connor took the Colgate final in 58.49 to easily take top honors in the event. Long won the shot put over Ashlei Alexander of Flushing at 40-2 to take the title, 78-73. Gillon was 3rd in the 55 in 7.33, but finished second overall in the event Barlow was seond in the 55H in 8.44 and also second overall.