by Andrew Garda
SOMERSET—Immaculate Conception High School senior Isas Waxter broke a 34-year old Non-Public B record in the 110 meter hurdles, capping a great day for the Lions track and field team at the NJSIAA Group meet for Non-Public B, held on May 31 and June 1.
Waxter is one of five ICHS athletes advancing to the Meet of Champions (MoC), which will be held at Northern Burlington High School in Columbus, New Jersey on Saturday, June 8.
Waxter’s computer-timed 14.46 second race replaced the hand-timed 14.4 set 34 years ago by Morris Catholic’s Todd Urbanik, as the exactness of the computer watch weighs more heavily for records.
“I don’t know what got into him,” his coach, Leonard Hughes, said later. “I mean, obviously, it’s the product of his hard work and consistency but even with that, the time was really surprising and really impressive.”
Waxter, who will attend Villanova University on a football scholarship next fall, said arriving early was a big help to getting him in the proper frame of mind. His mother has been a NJSIAA official for the last couple of decades, and had to be at Franklin High School early.
Rather than arrive with his team, Waxter chose to get to the track early and concentrate on his preparation.
“I was probably the first athlete at the meet today,” Waxter said. “So, I just got warmed up and stuff, stretched out everything, got out all the kinks from [Friday], I jogged them out, rolled them out. Just made sure I was rested and stuff.”
Waxter said even when he got a chance to practice with the hurdles, he made sure he didn’t do too much, preferring to save his energy for the race ahead, when he needed to peak.
Clearly, it worked.
Hughes said that Waxter’s speed has been building over the final stretch of the season.
“It started a few weeks ago at the Essex County Championships,” the coach said. “He’s been working really hard with the hurdles, and counties was the first time he actually got under 15 seconds. So, we were excited about the potential of that. I think he was at 14.9 or 14.8 at that meet, and it carried over into last week with a 14.8 in sectionals, and now today.”
Waxter said the keys to his success have been two-fold. First, he’s been focusing on technique, something he’ll continue to focus on heading into the Meet of Champions.
“The goal this year was to go tweak my form a little bit more,” he said. “And I found out that I was coming off my heel off the hurdle. I have to get off the butt of my feet before the next hurdle, and doing that helped tremendously.”
The other key to his success? Relax and enjoy the race.
“He’s always been kind of locked in. You don’t have to push him to try and warm up, you don’t have to push him to prepare for weeks ahead of time. He just kind of gets that,” Hughes said. “But sometimes he gets a little nervous and I look at him and say, ‘just cut loose.’ That’s kind of the mentality I want him to have as he goes to meet of champs. The odds are going to be really tough, and there are going to be other kids who are running equally fast times, which is impressive. I just want to tell him to cut loose, just fire away.”
Waxter agreed, and said he’s been running much looser this season. He feels that last year, he put a lot of pressure on himself because he was still trying to get a scholarship for college and didn’t know what sport would produce it.
Once he committed to Villanova to play cornerback, though, a weight came off his shoulders and he was able to perform more efficiently both in the hurdles and his other event, the triple jump.
Even in the face of stiffer competition next weekend, Waxter just wants to enjoy the moment.
“I think I still have more time to shave off,” he said. “I know it’s a more competitive heat [at the MoC]. Guys will run the same times as me. So next week I’m trying to go 14.3, maybe a 14.2.”
Waxter will also participate in the Lions’ 4×100 meter relay team with Amilka Love, Jahmi Hill and Kody Gibbs. ICHS will also be represented by Gibbs in the 100m dash and Keith Rivera in the high jump.
MKA COUGARS SEND TWO TO MEET OF CHAMPS
Montclair Kimberley Academy will also be represented at the Meet of Champions on June 8, as they will be sending a pair of athletes to Northern Burlington High School.
James Lukenda finished in third place for the 400m hurdles, and will compete in that event at the MoC. He will also take part in the pole vault competition, after finishing in third with a vault of 11 feet.
Charlie Koenig will run the 800 meter and 1600 meter races, after finishing third and second respectively in those events.
Their appearance at the Meet of Champions puts a nice cap on an exciting season for MKA, which saw the boys team win the Non-Public B Sectionals held on May 20 And May 21. Koenig won the 1600m event and placed second in the 800m at the sectionals, while Lukenda finished third in both the 110m hurdles and 400 meter hurdles, while placing second in the pole vault.
Nareen Rajani finished second in the shot put, while Ronny Bhatia took third in the triple jump.