The Internet Home of Track & Field

New Jersey Report

Jarrett leads XC stars; Kendrick, Smith, Gardner highlight indoor preview

Dec. 12, 2007

By Ed Grant

Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s put the cap on the New Jersey 2007 cross-country season last Saturday when he finished sixth in 15:16 in the Foot Locker Finals at Balboa Park, San Diego. He also, for a second year in a row, embarrassed the state’s “leading” newspaper which a few days earlier again omitted him from its “all-state” team.

Jarrett was also the top runner for the Northeast team, finishing two places ahead of Donn Cabral of Glastonbury, Ct., who had set a record for the Van Cortlandt Park 5K course two weeks earlier in the regional trials, a race where Brandon had set a fast pace only to slip from second in eighth place in the homestretch. He took no chances this time, laying back around 10th place before kicking past Cabral and three other runners in the final 440 yards.

Brian Leung of West Windsor-Plainsboro South, the state’s all-group champion, finished 15th in 15:47, while Andrew Brodeur of Brick Memorial was back in 38th spot in 16:17. In the girls’ race, sophomore Chelsea Ley of Kingsway was 18th in 18:04 and Katie McCafferty of Oak Knoll 28th in 18:36. All-group champion Melanie Thompson of Voorhees was absent, having run a week earlier in the national team race at Portland, Ore., placing 13th in 19:36 over the usual muddy layout.

Voorhees wound up a disappointing 13th in the team standing at NTN as Chris Curtis fell some three minutes off her all-group team while her teammates lost about 90 seconds to the sub-par conditions. The Vikings had no one to pick up the slack. Don Bosco, which had qualified for the boys’ race as a wild card, was satisfied with its 10th-place finish, led by Robert Molke, who finished 21st in 16:40.

Jarrett’s absence from the Star-Ledger all-state team is nothing new for the St. Benedict’s star. He was left off the Star-Ledger all-state and all-county teams last year in all three seasons and will face the same treatment no matter how fast he runs the 1600 and 3200 indoors and outdoors this year. Last spring, for example, he ran 4:13.06 for 1600 and 9:08.48 for 3200 without gaining more than first team recognition in the “prep” school category. He is, by the way, a true “scholar-athlete” who will enter either Penn or Harvard next fall after the regulation four high school years.

New Jersey athletes now turn their attention to the indoor campaign, which opens this weekend with a handful of invitational meets, notably the Bishop Loughlin Games on the superfast New York Armory track. There is also the Leon Bailey Invitational on Friday at the Jersey City Armory, the Fairleigh Dickinson Invitational on the college’s new Mondo track in Hackensack all three weekend days and the Passarelli Relays of the New Jersey Catholic Track Conference at West Point on Sunday. For more hardy souls, two outdoor meets complete the slate, the Paul VI Eskimo Relays in Haddon Twp and the new Robbinsville Polar Bear Relays at that Mercer County school.

Here is a look at the way the various boys and girls events shape up this winter:


Graduation did a pretty fair job of wiping out the top echelon of last winter’s stars, but there is still some interesting talent around in several events, led by indoor and outdoor AG long jump champion Hanif Kendrick of Franklin.

Trenton was as hard hit as anyone with the departure of high jumper Devon Bond and hurdler Tykeen Fulton, but may still be the team to watch, led by sprinters Dean McCleese and Devon Hill and high jumper Frank Thompson. Irvington, now in Gr. III, could be No. 2.

But the really big news now is the addition of sectionals to the state program for the first time in indoor history. When we started covering the New Jersey scene some years ago, there were hardly enough winter programs to justify a state meet; now, things have grown so much that sectionals are deemed necessary.

This winter will also see the restoration of Parochial divisions for both the relay and group championships. It all adds up to 20 separate programs distributed between the Jersey City Armory (which will have all the relay action on the weekend of Jan. 13) and the Bennett Center in Toms River, which will share the burden of the group meets and be the site of the one-session boys and girls AG meet on Feb. 23.


Three boys are left from the top eight in last winter’s AG 60M final, led by Chris Church of Millville, who narrowly lost the race to Reggie Dixon of Plainfield. The others are McCleese, who finished 5th, and junior Shawney Kersey of Woodbury. Irvington will have two contenders in senior Leonardo Wright and soph Rashon Evans. Others to watch are Kendrick, soph James Owens of West Deptford and Bryant Fitzgerald of Highland Park, who lost last winter to a football injury after sweeping the Gr. I sprints in 2006.

Tops in the longer sprints may be Wright, Kersey, football star Damien Miles of Teaneck and Brian Bucknor of St. Benedict’s.


Graduation took all eight finalists from 2007, including the Cox twins who finished 1-2. Bucknor is the fastest returnee, but will, of course, not be in the state meet. McLeese will also be active here as will Fitzgerald, Kersey and Rashawn Bailey of Trenton. The event could be pepped up a lot with the presence of three of last spring’s stars, Clayton Parros of Seton Hall, Toddrick Darden of North Brunswick and DeJuan Miller of Metuchen.

The 600M action may be led by 800M runners as most of the 400 stars are converted sprinters. Brendon Pierson of CBA, who ran 1:24.92 in his sole outing at the distance last winter, and Steve Wexler of Don Bosco exemplify this situation.


This could just be one of the more exciting events of the winter. Bobby Andrews of Manalapan ran 1:52.56 as a soph last spring and is coming off an all-state cross-country season. Maxwell Bruno may finally pay off on his promise if he can avoid the various disasters which have struck him thus far in his career. Five other juniors had great yearling spring seasons: Ford Palmer of Absegami, Tom Pierson of Lacey, Matt Gonzalez of Lawrenceville, Sadiki White of Allentown and Danny Kirschner of Millburn. And CBA has its Pierson, plus Kyle Havard who had a 2:35.21 1K last winter.

Bruno and Andrews should also lock horns at that 1K distance, Maxwell having something to prove after his questioned (by some) state record of 2:27.2 last year.


Craig Forys may have graduated, but New Jersey still has at least one solid candidate for a Millrose berth this winter in Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s, whose best races last year were on relay legs. Andrew Brodeur of Brick Memorial had a 4:15.82 last spring and the other two CC leaders, Brian Leung of WW-Plainsboro South, Doug Smith of Gill- St. Bernard’s could also take a shot at the Madison Square Garden race.


It will be hard to match 2007 for depth in this event but the top echelon is very strong---three, after all, went to San Diego and Smith would have joined them but for his untimely illness at season’s end. And the second group isn’t bad either. It will be most interesting to see what super-frosh Joe Rosa of WW-Plainsboro North can do on the track.


The one to watch here may be Kamryn Austin of Ewing, a school that turns out top hurdlers with such regularity---think Dudley Dorival, Justin Lindsay, Kyle Matlock and Basil Campbell. But he will have competition from fellow 2007 AG indoor finalists Sean Schnarr of Franklin and Chris Rutherford of Toms River East, and outdoor placers Joshua Evans of Irvington and Gerkins Senesca of Roselle. (The Evans boys, by the way, are not brothers; Joshua is Rashon’s uncle!)


Thompson, a very versatile athlete, reached 6-8 last spring even while filling in on the 1600R and SHR teams and occasionally running individual sprints. His main competition should be Qaadir Tutor of West Orange, who cleared 6-10 last winter, but may be otherwise occupied this winter. This would leave Scott McCullough of Chatham, Adam Bergo of Westfield and Chris Thomas of Pope John as well as some possible converts from basketball.


The big question here is whether Dan Batdorf of West Deptford, the outdoor champ, will be on hand to contest Greg Stripe of Mahwah, who dominated the scene last winter until he had his lone bad day at the AG meet. Both should reach 15-0 or higher by next June. There was some good young talent last spring, headed by Highland soph Ed Zubrzycki of Highland.


Kendrick dominates this event with his tops of 24-3 3/4 at the Nationals last winter and a string of 23+ efforts in the spring. Chris Steliga of Cherokee and Ausar Walcott of Hackensack were over 22+ last winter and a half dozen more topped that mark in the spring, but their presence indoors is doubtful. The one boy who might give Kendrick competition this year won’t be present, basketball star Chris Phipps of Lodi.


Kendrick’s teammate, Mune Onyesiaka, heads the returnees indoors in this event with a 44-0 last winter, but the spring produced a 48-3 from Phipps and a 46-10 1/4 from Marcus Goode of Freehold Twp, son of one-time state HJ record-holder Milt Goode. Whether he will be on hand indoors is still a question, however. One boy who will is Chris Thomas of Pope John.


There will be an interesting year-long duel in this event between last year’s indoor and outdoor AG champ, Mike Alleman of Scotch Plains, and discus star Pat Park of Toms River South. Alleman will also be chasing the 60-0 mark, which eluded him so many times as a junior. Kwabena Keene of Washington Twp heads the rest.


Irvington, Teaneck and Winslow Twp should be the top three in the 800R with the usual suspects chasing them: Camden, Willingboro, Franklin, Trenton, etc. The top three will also be solid in the 1600R with a surprise addition, Union Catholic which ran 3:21.68 last spring with a largely underclass lineup.

Don Bosco and Jackson, tops in the 3200R last spring, will be strong again, but CBA, with Pierson and Havard, may reclaim their top spot in the event. Andrews and Bruno give their schools an edge in the SMR, but must come up with some speed up front. Ridgewood has a well-balanced foursome. Msgr. Donovan will join Bosco and CBA in the DMR and the SHR looks like a tossup right now.


Two girls promises to dominate the indoor season, English Gardner of Eastern in the sprints and Jillian Smith of Southern Ocean in the 800 and 1600, with perhaps some excursions into the 3200.

The addition of AG cross-country champion Melanie Thompson of Voorhees, and the return of Ariann Neutts of Roxbury and Emily Carrollo of Pope John from their soccer chores, will also spice up the running scene.

Gardner and Smith could make their teams the main contenders for Gr. IV honors, while Thompson will probably lead Voorhees to a clean sweep in Gr. III. Pope John should dominate the newly-restored Parochial A division. Hopewell Valley is still dominant in Gr. II and Haddonfield should repeat its CC boy-girl sweep, but this time in Gr. I.


This will be another strong season in all three sprints distances, with Gardner leading the way (hopefully she will run a 300M at the NY Armory this winter). But she has quite a group following her: Ogechi Nwaneri of Chatham, Audrey Wilson of Deptford, Kesi Irvin of Kent Place, Andrea Butler of Rahway, Assante Johnson of Camden, Tylia Gillon of North Brunswick, Briana Barlow of New Brunswick, Jordan Simmons of Bishop Ahr, Adaobi Unachukwu of Marlboro, Meghan Morris of Montclair and Dominique Booker of Immaculate Conception.


Gardner could well get the state record this winter if she runs the event at the NY Armory. But, again, she has lots of company, including five 2007 AG finalists, Carrollo, Jackie Dim of Washington Twp, Julie Alexander of Hopewell Valley, Ryisha Boyd of Brick and Nicole Ragucci of Monroe. Add in Kari Shoolbraid of Voorhees, Michelle Brown of Seneca. Kamice Smalls of Camden, Vicky Caruso of Wallkill Valley, Amy Sakel of Ramapo and, yes, Jillian Smith and you get an idea of how loaded the event is.

Of this group, Carrollo, Shoolbraid, Sakel, Ragucci and Smith have the top potential at 600M and, from the 800M crew, we have Neutts, Bry Bonavita of River Dell, Josefine Kvist of Ridge and Kris Crawford of Paterson Kennedy. A special at the Varsity Classic would be very interesting.


Smith is the obvious favorite here (and, even more in the 1K) after winning the outdoor AG race in 2:08.80 last spring. Others who broke 2:15 outdoors are Sue Martinez of Clifton, Kristen Smoot of Bernards, Bonavita, Miya Johnson of Lenape, Erin McKenna of Ramapo and Marielle Hall of Haddonfield. Neutts was 2nd in the indoor AG 800 at 2:15.64 and Kris Perrine of Brick Memorial 4th at 2:16.49. A nagging leg injury limited Kvist’s action both indoors and out, but her outstanding CC season indicates the Ridge all-arounder will have to be considered this year.


With a 4:46.87 1600 last spring, plus a couple of 3:30 opening 1200 relay legs, Smith looks a safe bet to repeat her 2007 indoor AG victory---if she chooses that event over the 800. There could be as many as a dozen others under 5:00, including Thompson, Katie McCafferty of Oak Knoll, possibly three Roxbury girls, headed by Lauren Penney, McKenna, Chelsea Ley of Kingsway, Alyson Moskal and Jamel Parker of Freehold Twp and Brianna Jackucewicz of Colts Neck.


It’s pretty much the same lineup here, led by Thompson, Ley, McCafferty and, perhaps, Smith. Some additions to the above list are Clare Buck of Hopewell Valley, Sarah Cariati of Pope John, Sarah Pagano of Immaculate Heart Academy, Hall, Katie Kellner of West Windsor-Plainsboro South, Katrina Spratford of Voorhees and frosh CC stars Casey Doyle of Shawnee, Joelle Amaral of Randolph, Megan Venables of Highland and Mary Migton of Roxbury.


This is one event where, like the boys, most of last winter’s AG finalists have graduated. But there are a number of girls who should keep up the standards, led by Kvist, New Brunswick soph Briana Barlow, Randolph junior Briana Feldhaus and Summit senior Susan Scavone, who finished 6th in the AG race last year. Others to watch are Samantha Sharper of Wilson, Ashley Battle of Union, Michelle Martin of Washington Twp and Stefanie Zabilowicz of Lacey.


Despite the loss of such stalwarts as AG indoor champ Lataya Dixon of North Edison and Anna Cook of Florence, there is promise of an interesting season in this event. The returnees include three of the top eight from that competition, Bianca Stewart of Columbia, Lauren Burke of Morris Hills and Yasmin Parks of North Edison, plus Lindsay Walsh of Lenape and Samantha Howell of WW-Plainsboro South.


Chrissy Finkel of Montville, the dominant figure last year (until the outdoor AG meet, that is), will be aiming at the 13-0 level this time after topping 12-4 1/2 last spring. But the competition will be intense, led by the surprise outdoor AG champ, Jen Holly of Barnegat, indoor runner-up Natalie Parkes of Hunterdon Central, Samantha Brady of Jackson, Nicole Pompei of Hanover Park and Ashley Aquilante of Manasquan.


Josephine Kvist of Ridge and Ryisha Boyd of Brick both topped the 18-0 mark last spring and should give NJ fair representation at the NY Armory this winter. (Josephine will also be able to show her style in conference and county meets at Lehigh.)


As usual, competition in this event will be infrequent (and practice almost impossible), but, when it is available, Ada Unachukwu of Marlboro, Ebony Young of Hillsboro and Evana Edwards of Hackensack will usually be on hand to give the New Yorkers some competition.


With Taryn O’Connor graduated, Deanna Hahn of Brick should have this event to herself with the 50-0 mark her main challenge. There will be a fair number of 40-footers seeking the No. 2 spot, including her junior teammate Lisa Stuto, Rebecca Misko of Madison, Sarah Bella of Mendham, Shannon Watt of Jackson, Maureen Laffan of Toms River North, Shamira Rothmiller of Glassboro and Genevieve Rybicki of Our Lady of Mercy.


Camden, Wilson, Pope John, Union and Montclair have sub-1:45 potential in the 800R this winter as 2007 leader East Orange has to fill the big gaps left by the graduation of Porshe Giddings and Racquel Vassell. Pope John, which had the fastest time in the 1600R last winter after losing the AG race to EO, looks like the clear favorite this time with Emily Carrollo and Sarah Bieganousky returning. The two Camden schools, Rumson and Southern Ocean will provide the competition.

The 3200R looks very strong, led by Roxbury, Southern Ocean, Lenape, Millville, Ridge, Haddonfield and Red Bank Catholic and Pope John, which had a state record of 9:05.97 last winter, but has to replace Lara Heigis and Lauren Bariexca to go with Carrollo and Sarah Cariati. The SMR rivalry of Pope John and Southern Ocean will be something to watch if they ever get in the same race.

It will be another banner year in the DMR with defending National champ Southern Ocean having three returnees, Smith now moving to the 1600 anchor and perhaps Chelsea Cox to the opening 1200 after a solid CC campaign. Roxbury, Jackson, Pope John and Freehold Twp and RBC should all be under 12:20.

Union, Ridgewood and Hillsboro, last spring’s leaders, head the SHR with Jackson,, Lenape and South Brunswick close behind.

Northeast Region Index