The Internet Home of Track & Field

NJ Report

The Smiths, Vena Again Making Headlines

February 7, 2008

By Ed Grant

The unrelated Smiths - Jillian and Doug - and freshman shot put star Nick Vena, featured the last week of action in New Jersey before the opening of the state championships with the newly-created sectional meets at the Jersey City Armory and the Bennett Center in Toms River.

The two Smiths opened the week with their appearance in the high schools miles at the 101st Millrose Games last Friday at Madison Square Garden.  Jillian, as expected, ran away with the girls’ event in 4:50.87, while Doug was fourth in the boys’ event.  Doug’s race, however, was a prelude to his nation-leading 9:06.05 3200 at the state prep meet on Wednesday at the Lavino Field House in Lawrenceville.

Jillian ran the same kind of race that had won her the Boston Indoor Games mile a week earlier at the Reggie Lewis Center.  She followed closely the pace set by Kristin Reese of Carmel, NY, then moved into the lead with two laps left and gradually opened a 25-yard lead over Cory McGee of Pass Christian, Miss.  Smith was so far ahead, and so little pressed, that she had time to collect herself and return to the finish line to shake McGee’s hand as she finished.

Bobby Andrews of Manalapan, who was the state’s No. 1 entry in the boys’ event, followed the pattern that had won him the New Balance mile a week earlier, but this time he found it impossible to catch Kyle Merber of Half Hollows West, who took off with two laps to go.  Merber won by five yards in 4:13.86 with Andrews second at 4:14.60 and Smith finishing in 4:15.76.

Camden had an even break in the Suburban 1600R at Millrose, winning the girls’ event from local rival Wilson in 3:59.49 and losing a literal photo finish to Ramapo (NY) in the boys’ race in 3:28.57.  Morris Hills led the NJ contingent in the new Border Clash 3200R, running 8:04.84.

Vena made his big move at the Varsity Classic on Monday at the New York Armory Center.  Pitted against defending all-group champion Mike Alleman of Scotch Plains, he spun one out 61 feet and change on his first try, and then added almost 18 inches to his national frosh record with a 63-2 3/4 on his second effort.  It was his first victory over Alleman in several meeting this winter; Mike himself had a personal best at 62-1.

New Jersey athletes scored 18 victories all told that night, with several other season-bests among them.  Dominique Booker had two of them with a hand-timed 6.8 in the 55M and a 24.2 in the 200, where she defeated Suffern star Jen Clayton.  Ariann Neutts of Roxbury had a 2:14.3 in the 800, exceeding the 2:15.7 run by Emily Carrollo of Pope John a few days earlier in the Last Chance meet at the Jersey City Armory.  Carrollo chose the 400 at the Varsity Classic and ran third in 55.6, just behind English Gardner of Eastern who posted a 55.4.  Both marks are among the 10-best all-time in the state.  Another double winner was Evana Edwards of Hackensack, who took the 55H in 8.1 and the triple jump at 37-5 1/4.

Like Gardner in the 400, the Voorhees distance medley team had a season’s best in defeat as it finished second to Suffern in 12:03.8 with Immaculate Heart Academy third in 12:04.6.  State cross-country champ Melanie Thompson anchored Voorhees in 4:55.  Only two days before, the talented Lenape team had run 12:23.8 at the Ed Poreda Invitational at Lawrenceville.

In the boys’ action, David Butler of Teaneck posted a 21.8 in the 200 and Marcos McKenzie of Paterson ES matched two earlier efforts with a 6-8 in the HJ.  Jermaine Coore ran a 4:19.5 anchor to give Franklin a 10:28.4 in the DMR, exceeding the 10:31.15 run by St. Benedict’s on Saturday at the Poreda meet, where Brandon Jarrett anchored in 4:18.6.

Doug Smith and Jarrett led in the 3200 at the prep meet, but Brandon was a distant 2nd in 9:26.38, perhaps saving something for his later 4:27.33 victory in the 1600.  Brian Bucknor added a fast double in the 200 and 400 at 22.13 and 50.38 as the Gray Bees ran away with team honors, 125-50, over long-time rival Seton Hall.

Another highlight of this meet was the return to action of cross-country Foot Locker finalist Katie McCafferty of Oak Knoll, who won the girls’ 1600 in 5:05.93.

A heavy conference schedule over the weekend kept many Jersey athletes from the Varsity Classic.  On Friday, there was the Middlesex County meet at the Jersey City Armory where the Old Bridge boys and South Brunswick Girls repeated as team winners.  Parochial A cross-country champ Ted Brinkofski of Bishop Ahr doubled the distance races and Doug Fischer of East Brunswick followed his father as a sprint champ in this meet in 6.62.  Brian Barlow, who would finish third in the Colgate Games 55H the next morning at Madison Square Garden, doubled that event with the 55 dash in 8.30 and 7.22.  Sophia Ginez led South Brunswick with a 2:20.69 win in the 800 and a 5:31.08 in the 1600.

On Saturday, it was the Shore Conference meet at the Bennett Center where, of course, Jillian Smith and Andrews were among the absentees, as was Brick Memorial distance star Andy Brodeur and the state’s top two female shot-putters, Maureen Laffan of Toms River North and DeAnne Hahn of Brick.  With Brodeur out, Christian Brothers had a 1-3 finish from Ben Horel and Vin Ferrer in the 3200 to key a 46-40 win over Jackson, Toms River North and Toms River East.  Demier Johnson of Long Branch even his score with Mike Peavey of Neptune in the 55 and had a season’s best of 6.42 to boot.  Monroe Kearns of Jackson won the 800 in 1:57.98 and Rich Villanova of TRN again cleared 14-8 in the PV.  Tyquan Brown of Neptune doubled the 200 and 400 in 23.09 and 51.17.

Jackson took the girls’ meet, 58-40, from Marlboro with Samantha Brady winning the PV at 11-0 and Shannon Watt the SP at 43-3.  Ada Unachukwu tripled for Marlboro, winning the 55 in 7.19, the 200 in 25.75and the 400 in 58.02.

A day later, the Mercer County meet at Bennett saw Hopewell Valley run up 133 points in the girls’ meet, tripling the score of its nearest rival, while Trenton had a more modest 73-59 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro North among the boys.  Both were repeat winners.  Julie Alexander doubled the 400 and 55H for HoVall in 58.47 and 8.57, Devon Hill took the HH in 7.43 for Trenton, anchored a 3:28.28 relay win and was second in the 300 and 400.  Brian Leung doubled the distances for West Windsor-Plainsboro South in 4:19.40 and 9:24.34.  Jamar Lim topped 6-6 in the boys’ HJ, Sam Howell of WWPS 5-6 in the girls.

South Jersey had a pair of championship meets at Bennett on Tuesday and Wednesday, but many of the region’s top athletes either skipped the meet entirely or limited themselves to relay action.  Exceptions were Lindsey Walsh of Lenape, who won the large school 55H and HJ on Wednesday to lead a 65-50 win over Camden and Dan Batdorf of West Deptford who cleared 15-4 in the PV at Tuesday’s small-school meet.  Highland won the boys’ title in the latter; like Lenape, they hope to add a state crown next weekend.

A final note: Amber Allen of Passaic Tech lost her 400 race at the Colgate finals, but had compiled sufficient points in earlier meets to easily take the overall title in the event.  Barlow finished third in the 55H race in 8.46 and was second overall.