It had been a long time since North Bergen crowned a state sectional champion in track and field.
That was before last weekend, when the Bruins had two athletes earn gold medals at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championships at Randolph High School.
Alex Ortega claimed the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles, winning in 54.18 seconds. Ortega was also second in the 110-meter hurdles and third in the 400-meter dash.
Carolina Herrera won the 100-meter dash in 12.45 seconds and also finished third in the 200-meter dash.
Both North Bergen athletes are seniors.
What made Herrera’s gold-medal winning performance special is that she was third in the time trials, then came back to win in the finals. What makes it even more impressive is what Herrera has had to overcome in terms of injuries.
“I have torn muscles in both quads,” Herrera explained. “I also have three herniated discs in my back and two fractured ankles.”
When Herrera walks away from the finish line, she is all wrapped in ice and Ace bandages that she resembles something out of “The Red Badge of Courage.”
“I just try to push myself a little harder,” said Herrera, who also plays basketball for the Bruins during the winter months. “I came here with the mindset that I don’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to win. I just ran.”
Herrera was amazed holding on to her gold medal.
“It’s unreal,” Herrera said. “Last year, I was sixth and this year I’m in first place. I didn’t know I won until my teammates told me. I got to the line and didn’t know.”
And how about making it through all the injuries?
“I guess my perseverance is good,” Herrera said, with a shrug.
Ortega said that he felt he had a chance to collect the gold medal in the race he won.
“I was actually confident in the 400 hurdles,” Ortega said. “I had a lot of confidence there. But I thought the other guy [Stephen Nalbach of Randolph] had won. My humbleness took over there. Whenever there’s a situation like that, I like thinking that the other guy wins, so if I do win, then it’s a big surprise. I like the competition here. It’s a great feeling. I’ve been in this program for four years and I spent so much time trying to win a state medal. I’m really excited.”
Ortega will run next year at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. He actually joined the North Bergen track team as a favor to his friend Christian Navarro, who has since left track and concentrated on wrestling.
“I was a little reluctant to try it at first,” Ortega said. “But Christian pushed me to do it and look what has happened. That part was totally unpredictable.”
Needless to say, two of the least likely state champions North Bergen have ever produced…
Memorial’s Jhonathan Matamoros finished second in the 800, fourth in the 1,600 and was part of the Tigers’ 4x800-relay team that finished second, so he earned three medals at Randoph. Teammate Kelvin Almonte finished third in both hurdles races. Fellow Memorial athlete Jonathan Ramirez looked like he was headed to a rare double in the javelin and 100-meter dash, when he pulled a hamstring, ending his day…
Secaucus’ Carleisha Forteau won four medals at the North 2, Group I meet at Ridge, placing second in the 200-meter dash, third in both the 400-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay and fourth in the high jump…
The Hudson Catholic boys’ track team, under new head coach Gerry McCann, the former Jersey City mayor, had an impressive showing at the Non-Public B meet.
McCann, an alumnus of Hudson Catholic who took over after the retirement of long-time coach Sal Cassaro, guided the Hawks to 83 team points, five shy of topping Newark Academy for the team title.
Evander Pierre won the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes and was fourth in the high jump. Freshman Kwashan Decker won the 100-meter dash and was part of the 4x100-meter relay team that won gold. Trajan Chapman won the high jump. The Hawks also took third in the 4x400-meter relay. It was definitely the best team effort the Hawks have enjoyed in ages…
St. Peter’s Prep saw football standout Minkah Fitzpatrick finish with three medals in Non-Public A. Fitzpatrick, headed to Alabama in 2015 and not Ohio State as reported last week, was second in the long jump, third in the 100 and third in the 200.
The Marauders won the gold in the 4x800-meter relay…
And then there were four. St. Peter’s Prep, Hudson Catholic and Marist all won their respective first round playoff games in the Non-Public baseball brackets and will see action in the sectional semifinals this weekend. Secaucus, as mentioned in Scoreboard, will vie for the state sectional title.
All of the area’s softball teams have been eliminated in the state playoffs, ending a very bizarre year for local high school softball. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.