by Andrew Garda
It was another successful weekend for the Montclair High School track and field squads, as both the boys and girls placed high at the Essex County Championships, which took place on May 15 and 16 in West Orange.
The girls placed second behind a tough West Orange team, while the boys had a strong fourth place finish.
Now it’s on to the NJSIAA Sectionals for North 1 Groups 4 at Clifton High School this Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25.
For head coach Daryl Washington, now it’s about keeping the momentum.
“So realistically you want to go out there and win states, but at this point now it’s survive and advance,” he said.
And if Montclair is going to do that, everyone needs to pitch in, something they absolutely did at Counties.
One runner who really stood out to Washington was Stephanie Webb, who placed fourth in the 100 meter finals and seventh in the 200 meter.
“Familiar last name, but a different first name,” Washington said of Webb, the younger sister of former Mounties football standout and current Syracuse University running back, Danny Webb.
Webb had a great freshman track season last year, and Washington said she really came of age during the 2018 Counties when she finished second to Nyjah Young-Bey in the 200m.
After that she just needed to take it to the next level.
“So, after Nationals last year, we sat down and talked,” Washington said. “You know, she’s really hungry and really passionate and the best thing about her is that she’s a student of the sport. She takes everything very critically and puts it in action.”
Washington said last week’s performance wasn’t perfect, but he knows she will build on it going forward.
Between Webb and Young-Bey, who finished sixth in the 100m, and third in the 200m, the Mounties sprinters are in good shape.
Along with the sprinters, the girls distance runners and members of the field events also performed well. Evelyn Battleson-Gunkel took first in the 1600 meter race, while Ella McAdams placed third in the 800 meter. Matilda Ferguson placed fourth in the 3200 meter, Rukiya Holland-Thomas was third in the 400 meter hurdles and the 4x400m relay team won the event with a time of 3:57.91.
For field events, Brooke Rader finished fourth in the high jump, Nyasia Young took third in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump, and Katelyn Forman placed sixth in the discus, with a personal record of 95 feet. Christina Kornegay, Ta’drea Price, Margot Zivari, Katelyn Forman and Diamond Clark did not place but performed well in the shot put, discus and javelin events.
Like the girls, the boys side did a great job stepping up.
Stefan Urquidi, who will be running at Jefferson University next year, continues to improve each week. At the Counties, he finished third in the 800m, and fourth in the 1600m.
His 1:59.55 was the first time he broke two minutes.
“That was a big accomplishment for him,” Washington said. “The two mile was a little disappointing because I know he can go faster, but he was a little fatigued from the 800. So he tried to make it more of a strategic race instead of running his normal race.”
Along with Urquidi, Jessie Legister and Charles Murphy ran very well in the 400m.
Murphy finished in seventh but by just .01 of a second, notching a personal best. Legister, who was coming off a SEC win, repeated the performance with another first place finish.
Urquidi also finished third in the 3200 meter race, just ahead of Aiden Ward, who placed fourth. The 4 x 400m team also finished in fourth.
The boys throwers also got the job done, led by Gary Robinson Jr’s fourth place discus finish and fifth place shot put throw. Both put him in a good position for this week’s Group Sectionals, as did Doron Griffin-Tann’s third place finish in javelin.
Robinson, who is only in his first year on the team, has impressed Washington with his approach to the sport.
“He’s another guy who is a student,” Washington said of the senior, who will play football at Southern Connecticut State. “He’s a very coachable athlete and he’s competitive. So, from day one, he wasn’t the greatest, but he takes the time and learns it. And from SECs until now, you can just see the development.”
Now Washington is getting his team to focus on the Sectional Groups on Friday and Saturday. Some of that is having his athletes decide which races to focus on, as he wants them to be in the best position to advance.
More than anything, Washington has been impressed by the tenacity of his team. This is a season that the track team never have a home meet, as the track at the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex has been under construction the entire spring. It’s even impacted the throwers, as a mound of dirt has blocked the discus cage.
And yet, despite this, the Mounties have had a successful year.
“I think that’s one thing they don’t realize and one thing we really need to sit down and discuss this week,” Washington said. “The attitude that no matter what’s going on, we’re going to give whatever we’ve got. To me that just shows the character of these kids and I’m grateful to the parents who gave birth to them and give me the opportunity to train them.”