EGG HARBOR TWP. -- Going into the 2015 NJSIAA Groups I, IV and Non-Public B South Jersey sectional meet, both Rancocas Valley and Lenape Regional high schools were favorites to win Group IV for the boys and girls divisions, respectively.
They certainly did not disappoint, with each team hoisting the trophy at the end of the two-day championship event.
Lenape, led by senior Carly Pettipaw, scored points in 12 of the 18 events over the weekend to help claim its crown. Pettipaw won the 400 (56.59), 800 (2:14.27) and 400 hurdles (1:01.49), while also being a part of the winning 4x400 team.
“It’s definitely very exciting to win the sectional title,” said Pettipaw. “It’s not like we come out here every year and win, so this one is special. It was awesome because we won by so much and we went out there and everyone was able to score so many points, so it was really exciting.”
“This is a part of our season goals,” added Lenape head coach Gerald Richardson. “We want to win the conference, we want to win the county and come back and bring home the sectional title. Winning it in 2011 was a good taste in our mouth. It was even greater taste at the level of domination we won today.”
A change for Lenape’s 4x400 team occurred with senior Samantha Maynes filling the spot of sophomore Jasmine Staten, who was competing in more individual events to give her team a better chance at the title.
“It was pretty big for me to step in,” said Maynes. “We came in with confidence. We just did what we had to do and it paid off.”
Lenape had already had a commanding lead after Friday's action, but Richardson elected not to tell the girls where they stood.
Said Richardson, “I didn’t tell the girls at all the point totals. I just kept them focused on competing at a high level, and just made sure we did everything we could to on the track or the field to get as many through to (states) next week.”
On the boys side, Rancocas Valley was celebrating after taking first in seven events to lead all Group IV teams. Not winning a track sectional championship since 1977, there was a lot to be happy about.
“It’s huge,” said Rancocas Valley head coach Jeff Dzuranin. “We ended a 38-year drought. Coming in, we knew that we were one of the favorite teams, but we knew it was going to be a tough battle with Egg Harbor. We scored in every event except pole vault, 400 and 3200, so it really showed how balanced our team is.
"We really put our mark on South Jersey track and field. It’s good to make track and field important at RV again.”
Senior Sterling Pierce picked up the victory in the 100 dash, with a time of 10.72, and the 200 with a time of 21.66.
“I like to run a little better, but you can’t be mad at a win,” said Pierce. “I thought it was a good day overall.”
Rancocas Valley also earned wins in the 800 with Isaiah Curbello (1:55.97), the triple jump (Zakiyy Williams, 47 feet, 4.5 inches) and the javelin (Robert Marks, 174-9), while winning both the 4x100 (43.13) and the 4x800 (8:00.98) relays.
Other notables in Group IV included:
• Williamstown’s Bria Mack brought home the title in the girls 100 with a time of 11.95.
• Staten won the individual title in the 200 (24.81), 100 hurdles (14.82), and the long jump (18-4).
• Egg Harbor’s Julianna Catania won the 1600 with a time of 5:00.19, just edging out Lenape’s Camille Franklin (5:00.49).
• Shawnee’s Nina Bendixen finished first in the 3200 with a time of 11:04.26 while Cherry Hill East’s Aaron Groff won the boys title with a time of 9:21.09.
• Egg Harbor’s 4x100 boys team was victorious with a time of 48.92 while Southern won the 4x800 (9:36.50).
• Jade Daniels and Emily Hilt captured first-place finishes for Kingsway in the field. Daniels won the high jump at 5-2, while Hilt won the discus with a throw of 129-7.
• Lenape’s Shannon Storms finished one-two with teammate Cassie Hoxit in the pole vault, both clearing 9-6.
• Rancocas Valley’s Taliya Rogers won the triple jump (37-1).
• Vineland freshman Najeya Singleton brought home the shot put title, throwing 40-9.5, while senior teammate Danea Wint took second at 39-4.75.
• Cherokee’s Kaela Schrier won the javelin, throwing 127-7.
• Egg Harbor’s Alvin Abraham kept the 400 title at home, winning the 400 with a time of 48.89.
• RV’s Isaiah Curbello won the 800 with a time of 1:55.97.
• Lenape’s Jake Liebling won the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.67, while Millville’s Thomas Zor won the 400 hurdles with a time of 54.47.
• Egg Harbor boys won the 4x400 with a time of 3:22.32.
• Williamstown’s Devin Bradham won the high jump at 6-6 while teammate Raekwon Little-Martin won the long jump at 22-6.25.
Both of the Group I contests were back and forth until Haddon Township and Schalick pulled away on the boys and girls sides, respectively.
For the girls, the Cougars used first-place finishes from sophomore Alexia Lee and senior Josephina Koomsom to hoist the blue trophy.
“It means pizza party,” Lee joked. “We were really excited. We didn’t expect to win, but we came out and did our best. We are all just really happy as a team because we worked together.”
“The girls have worked hard, and I think our depth came through exceptionally because we scored in 13 out of the 18 events,” said Schalick head coach Darren Harris. “We didn’t have too many first, but we had a lot of seconds and fourths, and they added up. I am proud of the girls because they worked really hard.”
Lee brought home the triple jump title with a 34-7.5, while Koomsom won the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.63.
On the boys side, Haddon Township used a strong one-two punch of Luke Petela and Owen Long in the three distance events to be victorious.
Petela was a three-event winner on the weekend, winning the 3200 (9:29.52), the 800 (1:55.02) and the 1600 (4:26.77). Long finished second in each of those races with times of 9:29.71 in the 3200, 1:57.39 in the 800 and 4:26.92 in the 1600. The duo was a part of the winning 4x800 team that finished with a time of 8:09.42 to cap the weekend for the Hawks.
“It feels great (to win the sectional title),” said Petela. "We came to the meet ready to compete as a team and as individuals. We executed to the best of our abilities and came out on top. With a strong pool of young and fresh talent, we were able to do whatever we needed to succeed.
“Owen and I discussed with each other that this weekend wasn’t about the wins or even hammering the races hard. We needed to give the efforts we had in order to get the top places. I am fortunate to have such a talented teammate and friend like Owen, who mutually shares trust between our dynamic and strategies in order to be the best that we can be.”
Other group I highlights include:
• Schalick’s Chris Messiano became the first South Jersey runner to ever win an event three straight times in Group I. He won the 400 hurdles on Friday night with a time of 54.08.
• Ibrahim Massey (Haddon Heights) won the 100 dash with a time of 10.91, as well as the 200 dash in 22.31.
• Penns Grove’s Jocelyn Brown won the girls 100 with a time of 12.53 while Haddon Townships’ Kateryna Swan took the 200 (26.17).
• Salem’s Spencer Jarrett won the 400 with a time of 49.62 and Collingswood’s Dionna Nelson won the girls in 1:00.30.
• Haddon Township’s Annika Merkh won the girls 800 (2:24.73), the 1600 (5:17.28) and the 3200 (11:27.68).
• Penns Grove’s Jason Stefanski won the boys 110 hurdles with a time of 14.84, while Claudia Bowman (Haddon Heights) won the 400 hurdles for the girls in 1:06.84.
• Haddon Heights girls won the 4x100 with a time of 51.40 while Salem took the boys crown (43.75).
• In the 4x400, Schalick won the boys title with a time of 3:26.37 while Collingswood won the girls with a 4:08.18.
• Pitman girls won the 4x800 with a time of 10:06.99.
• Justin Cowgill (Gloucester) had the Lions' only first place on the weekend, winning the high jump at 6-2, while Glassboro’s Sarah Unger won at 5-2.
• Pennsville’s Rachel Ondricek won the pole vault, jumping nine feet while Jason Groff (Haddon Twp.) claimed the boys title, jumping 13 feet.
• Nick Smith (Haddon Heights) won the long jump, with a jump of 22-3.25 while Audubon’s Chelsea Fadio took the girls title at 16-10.5.
• Allen Killebrew won the triple jump for Penns Grove with a jump of 46-6.5.
• Palmyra’s Justin Thompson won the shot put crown with a throw of 48-6.5 while Ayanna Wright won the girls title for Haddon Heights, throwing 37-8.75.
• Collingswood’s Adam Hunt won the discus with a throw of 155 feet while Palmyra’s Tomara Carmichael won the girls discus, throwing 110-9.
• Haddon Township’s Ed Hutchinson was victorious in the javelin, throwing 160-3. On the girls side, Megan Saxvanderwyden continued her dominance, throwing 135-3 for the victory, with teammate Alyssa Whipkey in second at 125 feet.
When St. Joe’s-Hammonton was all said and done, the team got exactly what it wanted. The Wildcats worked with a 12-man squad and pulled off what only some thought possible, a sectional championship.
Head Coach Noel Vadino couldn’t be happier with a team she described as “small, but packs a punch.”
“It’s been that way for four years,” said Vadino. “They are mighty. Every year, we are low in numbers. We don’t have a facility to practice on. These kids put four events on their plate every single championship meet. It boggles my mind that these kids aren’t falling on the floor after a day’s worth of running. The hard work that they put in ... exceeds everybody else, and it’s how we become successful.”
Senior Caleb Williams led the way for the Wildcats, winning the 100 dash with a time of 10.76, 200 in 21.91 and took fifth in the long jump with a 20-4.25, while being a part of the winning 4x100 relay team that finished with a time of 42.88.
“Winning the sectional title is probably one of the biggest things we have ever done,” said Williams. “We have less people and not as much a talent as last year, and we were still able to pull this off. We lost this last year, so to do it big like this, it’s really a great moment to go down about how hard we work ... every day to go here and beyond.”
Ben Mitchell picked up a win for St. Joe’s in the 400 hurdles with a time of 57.37 as well as the high jump and long jump with jumps of 6 feet and 22-3.5.
The Wildcats also wont the 4x400 with a time of 3:29.82.
Other notables from the Non-Public B races
• Holy’s Spirit’s Devin Martin won the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.78.
• Wells Williamson (Holy Cross) won the triple jump, jumping 44-6.
• Holy Spirit’s Cade Antonucci won both the discus and the javelin, throwing 146-1 and 169-0, respectively.
• Holy Spirit’s Asia Young won the girls 200 (26.49), 400 (59.65) and long jump (18-2).
• Holy Cross took first in the 4x100, finishing with a time of 53.80 while Holy Spirit took second in the 4x400 with a time of 4:17.19.
The top six in Groups I and IV as well as the top eight in Non-Public B will move on to States next weekend at Egg Harbor.
Group I Girls:
1. Schalick, 107
2. Haddon Heights, 72
3. Haddon Township, 55
4. Collingswood, 55
5. Pitman, 53
Group IV Girls:
1. Lenape, 133
2. Kingsway, 81
3. Egg Harbor, 63
4. Southern, 52
5. Rancocas Valley
Non-Public B Girls:
1. Oak Knoll, 137
2. Pingry, 117
3. St. Rose, 66
4. Holy Spirit, 52
5. Mater Dei, 34
Group I Boys:
1. Haddon Township, 120
2. Penns Grove, 89
3. Schalick, 66
4. Haddon Heights, 49
5. Salem, 46
Group IV Boys:
1. Rancocas Valley, 136
2. Egg Harbor, 95
3. Lenape, 44
4. Toms River North, 42
5. Williamstown, 36
Non-Public B Boys:
1. St. Joe’s (Hamm.), 111
2. St. Rose, 87
3. Holy Spirit, 78
4. Pingry, 72
5. Holy Cross, 46