A season to remember for SDA track; Other solid local track performances; All-Area baseball and softball next week

The St. Dominic Academy track and field team, shown here, enjoyed a highly successful campaign in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track this season.
The St. Dominic Academy track and field team, shown here, enjoyed a highly successful campaign in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track this season.

Coming off a third place team finish at the NJSIAA Non-Public B state track and field championships, veteran St. Dominic Academy coach John Nagel reflected on one of the best years his program has enjoyed.

“I’d have to say it’s one of the best,” Nagel said, including this year’s team along with successful squads in 1984, 1995 and 2005. “This group has a chance to be the very best we’ve had next year.”

Nagel put a very young team on the track this spring, with only four seniors of note: Maya Barnes will compete for the team at Drew University next year; Andrea Clacuilo will compete for the New School in New York; Megan Van Alstyne will attempt to walk on to the team at Penn State in the fall,  and distance runner Isabel DeBari has already signed her national letter of intent to attend NCAA Division I Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in the fall.

That’s a fine group that recently heard the pomp and circumstance of graduation day at SDA, but the best is definitely yet to come, with a slew of talented returnees coming back for another go-round with the Blue Devils in the fall’s cross country days.

The Blue Devils had a host of talented performers do well at the state Group championships at Franklin High School in Somerset.

Leading the way was sprinter Milani Bethel, who finished fourth in the 200-meter dash and third in the 400-meter dash. Bethel’s times of 27.11 in the 200 and 59.99 in the 400 give Nagel a lot of hope for the future.

Nana Sackey also took home two medals, placing fourth in the shot put and fifth in the discus.

“We promote versatility,” Nagel said. “We want our athletes to try different things. It’s how you use someone and how they fit in. There’s a lot of strategy involved.”

Logan Hart also collected two medals, placing fifth in the 100-meter hurdles and second in the long jump.

Soccer standout Megan Dunne continued her fine track season by finishing fourth in the 400-meter hurdles and third in the triple jump.

“We put people in events where they have a chance to score,” Nagel said. “It’s all a sum of the parts.”

Kayla Sullivan took fifth in the 1,600-meter run and Gianna Artusa took fifth in the 400-meter run right behind Bethel.

The Blue Devils also won the 4×800-meter relay, took second in the 4×400-meter relay and were fifth in the 4×100-meter relay. So a total of 14 different runners were able to move on to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

“This team exceeded expectations,” Nagel said. “They practice so well and don’t take any weeks off. We always try to accomplish something and make sure that every meet counts. They do a lot of heavy lifting during the course of the season.”

Needless to say, it was a good season for the Blue Devils, a season that will conclude with a trip to the U.S. High School Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. next week

It was literally a bad break for Snyder track and field standout Alicia Campbell, who suffered a broken leg while competing at the NJSIAA Group 3 championships in Bayville. Campbell, who was last week’s Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for winning four Hudson County championships, suffered the injury while competing in the triple jump, an event where she finished second. Campbell also finished second in the discus prior to the triple jump.

But Campbell suffered the injury, ending her brilliant junior campaign. She vows to be back healthy and ready to compete during her senior season…

Without Campbell, county champion Snyder struggled and finished seventh as a team. The Tigers’ 4×100-meter relay placed third, moving on to the M of C…

Other locals to fare well include Memorial’s Francis Martingale, who was fourth in the Group 4 1,600-meter run and McNair Academic’s Claire Chapeau, who was fourth in the girls’ Group 2 3,200-meter run…

Last week’s column featured the tragedy, the horrific car crash that took the lives of former St. Peter’s Prep two-sport standout Augie Gonzalez and his two young daughters, an incident that devastated the St. Peter’s Prep community. We listed the unfortunate litany of former Marauder athletes who tragically died way too young. In the haste of getting the column out, we failed to mention three other standouts of the gridiron who all died before their 40th birthday.

Billy O’Donnell, also affectionately known as “Bubba,” was an All-State offensive lineman who played a major role on the Marauders’ 1994 NJSIAA Parochial A state championship team. Billy and I were kindred spirits who shared so many stories and affection for the uniform No. 78, like the legendary Bubba Smith, who also wore that number with pride. Billy went on to have a fine career at Syracuse University and had some brief looks from NFL teams. He tragically died in 2016 at the age of 38. Overlooking Billy from that tribute article was a terrible oversight on my part and I cannot apologize enough.

Andrew Colucci was a wide receiver for the Marauders from 2006 through 2009. He unfortunately suffered a heart attack while lifting weights two years ago and passed away.

Kee-Ayre Griffin was an electrifying running back with blazing speed. Griffin came to St. Peter’s after Essex Catholic closed and immediately had an impact. He was a three-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree and was named the 2005 Hudson Reporter Most Valuable Player. He went on to Temple University and had a great career there and was being looked at by two NFL teams to receive free agent tryouts. However, his life came to a tragic end when he was shot and killed in East Orange in 2017.

We apologize for overlooking those three fine Prep athletes who also died young like Augie Gonzalez did with his two young children two weeks ago.

Don’t forget to get a copy of The Hudson Reporter next week, when the 2019 Hudson Reporter All-Area Softball and Baseball Teams will be announced, along with Pitcher and Player of the Year, as well as Coach of the Year. It’s a must-read for local sports fans, as the 2018-19 high school athletic season draws to a close…

In coming weeks, there will be the presentations of The Hudson Reporter Male and Female Athletes of the Year, marking the 28th year that the post-season awards will be presented…–Jim Hague