It was shaping up to be one of the fiercest competitive battles in recent years, but Snyder High School head track and field coach Robert Arena truly believed that his girls’ team stood a good chance of capturing the Hudson County Track Coaches Association indoor track championships at the Armory Track and Field Center in New York recently.
“With all the other teams there, people were saying that we were the favorite,” Arena said. “I told the girls that they should just try to place. If they scored points, if they placed in every event, we had a good shot.”
It also helped that the Tigers had Alicia Campbell on their side.
The extremely versatile and tremendously diverse Campbell, the daughter of former St. Dominic Academy standout shot put thrower Alexandra Jerez, is able to compete in practically every event imaginable.
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association rules state that an athlete can only compete in as many as four events in any meet, but the way Campbell goes, she could compete in about 20 if the laws allowed.
Chances are, somewhere down the road in the collegiate ranks, Campbell will become an athlete who competes in the pentathlon. Right now, the extremely talented junior has to settle for the four events. And she certainly makes the most of those events right now.
At the HCTCA meet, Campbell won the shot put with a throw of 39 feet, five inches. She was second in the long jump with a distance of 17 feet, one inch. She was second in the 55-meter hurdles and was third in the high jump. It meant that Campbell collected 32 points on her own. Snyder had 64 as a team, which means that Campbell provided exactly half of her team’s points.
Needless to say, that’s the kind of advantage that championships are made of.
Sure enough, the Tigers rode Campbell to victory, with perennial favorite St. Dominic Academy second with 53 points. McNair Academic was third with 45 and North Bergen and Kearny tied for fourth with 42. Five teams all separated by a total of 22 points. Yes, that’s a fierce competition indeed.
Arena had to sing the praises of Campbell.
“She’s having an incredible season,” said Arena of Campbell, who also led the Tigers to a team victory in the HCTCA Relays last month. “Having a mother like Alex, Alicia has had a lot to live up to. But she’s just coming into her own this year. It’s crazy what she’s been able to do. She’s a phenom. That’s all I can say and we’re blessed to have her on the team. She did what she had to do in terms of scoring points for us.”
The Snyder relay team of Khyla Nalls, Kanyinsola Oladejo, Kayla Miller and Siane Streater won the 4×400-meter relay in 4:19.90. Mikayla Featherson was third in the 55-meter hurdles (in only her third try at the hurdles all year) and sixth in the long jump. Oladejo was second in the 55-meter dash and Nalls was second in the 400-meter run. Natasha Green was fifth in the 800-meter run. It was a Tiger team effort.
But the day belonged to Campbell. In fact, it was almost a coronation.
“We never had anyone sweep like this,” Arena said. “It was crazy.”
McNair Academic’s brilliant distance queen Claire Chapeau won both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Chapeau, the cross country champion, won the 1,600 in 5:27.58 and the 3,200 in 11:30.75, some 25 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Milani Bethel of St. Dominic Academy had a nice meet, winning the 400-meter run in 1:01.28 and finishing second in the 800-meter run. Teammate Suhalya Johnson was third in the 800, the 1,600 and the 3,200. Fellow teammate Isabel DeBari was second in the 1,600-meter run. The Blue Devils, who captured the NJSIAA Non-Public B relays state title a few weeks ago, will challenge for the overall state sectional title in the coming weeks.
Charlotte Traore of Union City won the gold medal in the 55-meter dash. Alejandra Bartutis of North Bergen won the long jump and was second in the high jump.
While the girls’ team race was very close, the boys’ meet was exactly the opposite.
It’s been a very good winter season for the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep, but it got even better with a totally dominating performance at the HCTCA meet.
Just how dominant? Well, the Marauders collected an astounding 143 team points. The closest competitor had 35.
That’s right, the Marauders won the county title by a whopping 108 points. It’s a lopsided team score never before seen.
Adonis McGee was the leader for the Marauders, winning the high jump and long jump and finishing third in the 55-meter hurdles.
R.J. Oben, who signed a letter of intent to play football at Duke, won the shot put with a majestic throw of 53 feet, five and one-half inches. Teammates Owen Fletcher and Chris Anderson finished third and fourth respectively.
Ayir Asante, another football star headed to Holy Cross in the fall, was second in the 55-meter dash, second in the high jump and third in the long jump.
In fact, the Marauders ran 1-2-3 in the 55-meter dash with Richie Luzzi-Liggins winning, Asante second and Jeremiah Guzman finishing third. That’s 24 points from just one early event. It just steamrolled from there. Gus Nations won the 400-meter run. The Marauders won the 4×400-meter relay.
In perhaps the most anticipated race of the day, county cross country champ Francis Martingale of Memorial won the 1,600-meter run in 4:21.18, a few ticks ahead of Prep sophomore Edwin Klanke (4:22.21), with Memorial’s Steven Ventura third.
Martingale also won the 3,200-meter run with teammate and friend Ventura second and Snyder’s Benedictus Bago third and McNair Academic’s Hamza Barkouch fourth.
Marcus Hardy of McNair Academic won the 800-meter run, just ahead of Paul Ames and Chris Brooks of – where else? – St. Peter’s Prep.
“I think the point spread shows that we’re really deep across the board,” St. Peter’s Prep head coach Chris Caulfield said. “Having that depth is a really big thing for us. I think that’s a testament to the coaching staff. Russell Jenkins works with the hurdles, Gerry McCann works with the distance guys and Pete Camacho develops the throwers. It makes it easier for me and I reap the benefits of their hard work.”
Caulfield said that he wasn’t happy with his team at the state sectional relays and he let them know.
“We didn’t perform as well as we should have,” Caulfield said. “We had a little conversation about it. I think the kids really showcased their talents and every kid showed up on the score sheet and almost every kid had a personal best. I told them that if they ran their best, no one could take it from you. The challenge now is not to let it be a one-time thing. They have to back it up.”
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com (why Jim became a Rams fan and the email address, which stands for GO RAMS backwards and that’s the way they played in the Super Bowl) or follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar.