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Super Post-Penn Encore for Forys, Higginson

May 18, 2007

By Ed Grant

As if their performance at the Penn Relays weren’t enough, Craig Forys and Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck went on a record rampage in the two weeks following, as well as helping their teams achieve some long-standing goals.

In separate meets on May 4, both broke state records, Forys getting three in one race as he won an invitation 2M at Henderson High School in Westchester, Pa., in 8:48.99, breaking a 28-year-old mark set by Charles (Bucky) Logan of Bernards at the Golden West meet. En route, Forys was also timed at 8:15.5 for 3K and 8:46.04 at 3200M, the distance most commonly run at high school meets since it was invented in 1981.

The race had all the trappings of a record attempt, even to the point of two Henderson runners serving as “rabbits” over the first three laps. Their role proved inconsequential, however, as the race was run with negative splits, 4:27 for the first mile, 4:21 for the second. More important was the presence of Paul Springer of Unionville, Pa., who shared the pacesetting task with Forys until Craig took off in typical fashion with two laps to go. Springer ran 8:52.86.

Higginson settled for one record that night when she won the 2K steeplechase at the Rowan Invitational in 6:50.39, taking some 36 seconds off the mark set by Kate Willever of Hopewell Valley. She also broke the meet record set in 2005 by Danielle Tauro of Southern Ocean, who was also at the Rowan meet, but ran the 3K, winning in 9:47.10, as well as anchoring a 19:35.16 state record in the seldom run 6KR.

The next event in a momentous fortnight for the Cougars came the following Monday when they ended CBA’s 77-meet dual winning streak by a healthy margin. This was only the second such loss for the Colts in 33 years, the previous one having been inflicted by Middletown South whose coach at the time, Karl Torchia, is now part of the CBA staff.

Finally, there was the Monmouth County meet on May 10 and 12 at Neptune. Here Forys confined himself to the 1600, winning in 4:13.88 as Monmouth ran away with team honors, while Higginson led Colts Neck to a repeat victory, tripling the distances in 2:15.32, 4:55.21 and 10:57.66. Tauro was also in action there in the Ocean County meets, but, like Forys, ran only one individual race, defeating teammate Jillian Smith in the 800 in 2:13.15, then anchoring a 3:58.43 win in the 1600R.

Monmouth bolstered its hopes for a clean sweep of Gr. III honors this spring with its 86-76 win over Colts Neck. The Cougars, of course, could have won by tripling Forys and will likely be a stronger contender this weekend in the Shore Conference meet. Charles Cox had a 200/400 double for Monmouth in a windy 21.27 and 48.15, but lost the 100 to Kerone Rhoden of Red Bank Regional in Little Silver, who also had wind assistance in his 10.72 victory.

Rhoden’s was one of several new names to pop up in last week’s heavy conference and county action. The list was perhaps headed by a Paul VI basketball player, Pauline Frederick, who came off a prom night to win the HJ at the Camden County meet at 5-9 ¼, matching the South Jersey record. It also included football star Dejaun Miller of Metuchen, who upset Allan Lunkenheimer of Old Bridge in the Middlesex County 200 in 21.7; Anthony Della Vecchia of Absegami, who won the Atlantic 400 in 48.5 and DaMon Merkerson of St. Mary’s, Rutherford, another football star who won four events at the Bergen County Scholastic League National meet and earlier ran a 49.2 400 at the County Seat Invitational.

But some familiar names also shone in the local action. Leslie Njoku and Reggie McLeod of McNair Academic won seven events between them at the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic Association meet as their team. The McNair girls couldn’t quite end St. Dominic’s domination in Hudson County, but indicated that they will be serious challengers for Gr. I honors on the state level.

Jason Apwah of Roxbury and Gigi Gibilisco of Notre Dame, thwarted in their bid for all-group 800 honors indoors, ran almost matching races, Jason taking the Iron Division race in the iron Hills meet in 1:52.30 and Gibilisco the Mercer County crown in 1:52.50 with his freshmen brother Jamie placing second in 1:58.27. Chris Gonzales of Franklin had a string of 800 wins in the Skylands Conference at 1:57.45, the Bernards Invitational at 1:56.67 and the Somerset County meet at 1:55.49, adding 1600 victories in the county and conference meets as Franklin easily won both titles. Indoor national long jump champ Hanif Kendrick scored 36 points in one meet and 34 in the other.

Franklin and Old Bridge, an easy winner in Middlesex County, pose obvious threats to Trenton in Gr. IV, particularly if Devon Bond does not return to action for the sectionals next weekend. But the Tornadoes won at the County Seat Invitational and the Mercer County meet without him as Dean McCleese, Tykeen Fulton and Frank Thompson took up the slack. McCleese tripled the sprints at the Mercer meet in 10.77, 21.70 and 48.35 and Fulton swept the hurdles in 14.30 and 53.57.

Despite all his heroics, Forys does not have the individual 1600 leadership as the season moves toward the state championship phase. That honor belongs to Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian, who ran 4:13.07 at the International Christian School championships in Bangor, Pa., on May 12. He followed that with a 4:14.26 at the Morris County meet. His rival for Parochial B distance honors, Doug Smith of Gill-St. Bernard’s, made his first appearance of the Spring at Bernards, winning the 1600 in 4:21.12, took the Somerset 3200 in 9:21.99, then doubled the 1600 and 3200 at the state prep B meet.

Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s came back at the New Jersey Catholic Track Conference Relays, after missing Penn and the Essex County relays with a slight injury, then showed he was in top form with a 9:09.48 3200 victory at the Glenn Loucks Invitational. He also doubled at the state prep meet, his last but one individual appearance in New Jersey since he is not eligible for that Parochial B race.

Also starring for Notre Dame at he Mercer County meet was Kristen Mahon, with a 400/400H double at 55.17 and 1:01.65. Her probable rival for the all-group 400 flat title, Symone O’Connor of Franklin, won the event at Bernards in 55.46 from Middlesex champ Nicole Ragucci of Monroe after tripling at the Skylands meet in 12.26, 24.95 and 56.64. She skipped the Somerset meet.

Indoor all-group 55M and 400M champ English Gardner of Eastern was beaten badly in the 100 and 200 at the Rowan meet by Shavon Greaves of Lakewood, who ran 12.14 and 24.26, but came back to double in the Camden County meet in 11.7 and 24.9, both hand-timed. Greaves went on to triple at the Ocean County meet in 12.05, 25.08 and 56.15.with possibly wind-aided heats of 11.73 and 24.35 two days earlier.

Kim Standridge continued her hot running for Randolph with a double at the Iron Hills meet in a record 4:55.93 and 10:51.63, and then ran just over 4:56 in windy conditions at the Morris County meet, her last lap in 66 seconds. Freshman teammate Molly Higgins took the Iron 800 in 2:15.91. (She is a niece of the Stickle brothers who starred for Roselle Catholic under Frank Gagliano.)

Young Gibilisco was not the only frosh to catch the eye in the May 12 action. Haddonfield had two freshmen win distance titles at the Camden County meet, Colin Baker the 1600 in 4:26.4 and Jon Vitez the 3200 in 9:53.2, maybe the first time this has ever happened in the state. Baker, the son of longtime Haddons coach Nick Baker, had missed almost all of the cross-country season and much of indoors with a leg injury, but is now showing the form he promised as a junior star.