Before he loaded his team on the bus to make the trip down the Garden State Parkway to the Bennett Center in Toms River last Friday, veteran St. Dominic Academy head track and field coach John Nagel told the Blue Devils that they had a chance to come away with the team title at the NJSIAA Non-Public B state indoor relay championships.
“We talked about it leading up to the meet,” Nagel said. “I said that we had to take advantage of the chance we had.”
In fact, the night before the state relay championships, Nagel spoke with his long-time assistant Patrick McMonagle about some strategic alterations that Nagel felt needed to be done.
“I said to Patrick that we could throw together an 800 relay [4-by-200 meters] that could actually do well,” Nagel said. “I think it came to mind around 9:40 p.m. the night before the meet.”
So sure enough, one of the strategic moves was to place senior Takara Scatliffe, junior Isabel DeBari and sophomores Suhayla Johnson and Troi-Elyse Nickson on the same relay for the very first time with no prior practice or experience.
That particular quartet managed to finish third in the 4×200 relay.
“They affirmed what I had been thinking,” Nagel said. “They went out and put it to play.”
Nagel said that he loves competing in relay events, because of similar strategy.
“Relays exemplify the meaning of it being a team sport,” said Nagel, who has been coaching at SDA for 41 years. “You put combinations together and it’s all up to what girls can do what together. Sometimes, the stars align and things occur in perfect symmetry.”
However, in the years that the NJSIAA has sponsored state championships in indoor track, dating back to 1983, St. Dominic had never won a championship. Or for that matter, nor had any Hudson County girls’ team.
But Nagel had a hunch that the Blue Devils were ready to create a little history.
“I don’t say it often, but this team is pretty good,” Nagel said. “They practice well. They work hard together. The plan was for them to be successful as they get older, but they’re good now. They’re pretty unflappable. They’re very coachable. They’re prepared and then they perform.”
The Blue Devils were very prepared last Friday and they certainly performed, winning the Non-Public B state indoor relay championship, becoming the first-ever team from Hudson County to capture the state relay title.
Incredibly, it was a good night for the locals, because St. Dominic had 48 points, followed by runner-up Hudson Catholic, who had 41 points. Pingry was third with 40.
But the county was without a state champion in the state relays ever – and then this year, two local squads run 1-2. Go figure.
Johnson, who competed on four relays and earned four medals (second in the 4×400-meter relay, third in the distance medley relay and the 4×200-meter relay and fifth in the sprint medley relay), wasn’t aware of the historical perspective involved.
“I actually had no idea,” Johnson said. “John said that we had a chance of winning, so I think we went to the meet confident. We believed we could do our best and get as many points as we could. And basically, that’s what we did. Once we finished the sprint medley, we heard we were in first place. That’s when it started to sink in that we had a chance.”
Senior Jessica Wisowaty had listened to Nagel’s pre-race pep talks many times over the years, but she also didn’t realize that this time, there was an actual goal in mind.
“The goal is always to win, but I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Wisowaty said. “When John said we had a shot, I said to myself, ‘Oh, OK,’ and basically that was it. For a while there, it was a battle between us and Pingry and then Hudson Catholic was in the middle of it. When we heard we won, we were all really excited.”
The Blue Devils won both the hurdles relay and the 4×800-meter relay. They were second in the 4×400, third in the distance medley, the high jump relay and the 4×200 and fifth in the sprint medley relay. That’s some team effort.
“We had 10 different kids score for us,” Nagel said. “They just went from one event to the next.”
Two of the top contributors were freshmen, namely sprinter and hurdler Milani Bethel and distance runner Kayla Sullivan. With a bunch of sophomores and freshmen leading the way, chances are that the Blue Devils are going to be good for quite some time.
“It means that in the future, the team will do very well,” said Johnson, who is obviously a major part of that bright future. “We were really excited once the meet was over.”
But on the bus ride home, the celebration came to a halt.
“We basically listened to music and fell asleep,” Johnson said. “We were all pretty tired.”
“It was after midnight, so we had a right to be tired,” Wisowaty said. “It was all pretty low keyed.”
“They’re having a ball right now,” Nagel said. “It didn’t matter if we were winning or losing.”
Winning certainly helps a lot…
The North Bergen football program suffered a big blow recently when it was learned that standout running back David Drouet, a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree, had transferred out of the school and has enrolled at DePaul Catholic in Wayne. Losing Drouet was the kind of setback that first-year head coach Ed Somick didn’t expect, because Drouet was only a junior and had another year to carry the ball for the Bruins…
In last week’s Associated Press College Basketball Top 25, the Hurley brothers of Jersey City were well represented simultaneously as head coaches for the first time.
Arizona State, coached by Bobby Hurley, remained in the poll at No. 21, while Rhode Island, coached by younger brother Dan Hurley, entered the poll at No. 24. So while the Hall of Fame coach father Bob Hurley might not be on the sidelines coaching this season, his two boys are certainly doing great things at their respective schools…
And we’ll have more about what Coach Hurley (the Hall of Fame coaching Hurley) is doing now in next week’s editions…
The North Bergen wrestling team owns a 9-2 record, which means that the Bruins have pretty much locked up a berth in the upcoming NJSIAA team sectionals. As it stands now, the Bruins should have a high seed and a home match in the opening round.
Right now, Yousef Salem has been doing very well, competing at both the 132 and 138-pound weight classes. Salem will have to decide which weight he will wrestle at for the remainder of the season. Salem just reached the 100-win plateau for his career, a fine milestone for the hard-working Salem.
Junior Darren Dwyer (106-113 pounds) and freshman Justin Cantor (126-132 pounds) have also been doing extremely well for coach Jerry Maietta and the Bruins…
The Bruins will prepare this week for next Saturday’s Hudson County Duals, which will be held at Union City High School. The Bruins will battle St. Peter’s Prep once again for the title…
On the boys’ basketball scene, Secaucus’ Gabe Sanchez had the best game of the week, going off for 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a win over Bergen Charter…
Lincoln’s fabulous backcourt of D.J. Henderson and Donte Darby were both brilliant last week. Darby had 22 points and Henderson 21 in a win over University Charter, while Darby had 24 points and Henderson had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals against North 13th Street Tech…
St. Peter’s Prep’s Brendan Thiele had 18 points in a win over Hoboken and 15 in a victory over Johnson Regional. Teammate Dimitri Plexidas had 18 against Hoboken and football standout Shayne Simon had 11 points and 10 rebounds against Hoboken and had 15 points against Johnson…
On the girls’ basketball front, Lincoln’s Alaisha Mumford had a breakthrough game against Passaic Tech, tossing in 27 points and dishing off for six assists. Mumford also had 13 points and seven assists against Marist…
Hudson Catholic’s Haylee Ramirez continued her torrid scoring with 18 points, six steals and four assists in a win against St. Dominic Academy, 16 points in a win over Kearny and 15 points in a win over Midwood.
Secaucus’ tenacious twosome of Amanda Ulrich and Lindsay Mack has been rock solid. Both standouts each scored 27 points in a win over Lyndhurst, with Ulrich adding 11 assists, eight rebounds and four steals in that game. Teammate Damaris Rodriguez had 11 points and 13 assists in that win.
Weehawken’s Nicole Molano has been sensational, scoring 24 against Saddle Brook, 19 against Wood-Ridge and 18 points against Wallington…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (11-3). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (10-3). 3. Union City (11-3). 4. North Bergen (10-4). 5. Lincoln (10-4)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Secaucus (13-1). 2. Lincoln (11-1). 3. Hudson Catholic (11-1). 4. Hoboken (10-3). 5. Marist (9-5)…– Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.