by Andrew Garda
SOMERSET — The Montclair High School track and field team continued its strong season last weekend when they arrived at Franklin High School for the NJSIAA Groups on Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1.
By the end of the weekend, the Mounties were sending a total of 10 athletes to the Meet of Champions (MoC) set for this weekend in Columbus.
“I think this is one of the biggest groups we’ve taken to Meet of Champs,” head coach Daryl Washington said after Saturday’s events wrapped up. “I think in years past it’s been just a few people. It’s impressive. It’s a strong effort by them. They just have to take it and move on with it, keep that momentum.”
Where Montclair’s talent came through the most was during the relay races. First, the boys 4×100 meter team of Truman Williams, Jessie Legister, Nathan Bryan and Charles Murphy Jr. placed fourth overall with a time of 42.93 seconds. The Mounties came off the blocks fast with Williams taking the first leg, and finished strong with a tremendous effort by an excited Murphy.
“I told the other guys, just get him in a good spot and then he just fights at the end,” Washington said. “It worked, so it’s coming together.”
Bryan was replaced by Nathan Collins for the boys 4×400 meter, but the group worked its magic again, with Murphy starting things off as the lead, and Legister crossing the finish line as the anchor for a squad that notched a fifth place finish with a time of 3:19.55.
Both finishes secured Montclair a spot in those events at the meet.
The girls 4x100m also had success, finishing in seventh with a time of 48.66 seconds. Stephanie Webb, Rukiya Holland-Thomas, Anna Glorie, and Nyjah Young-Bey ran hard, with Young-Bey holding off the rest of the runners as they closed at the finish line.
The girls 4x400m group also ran well, but missed out on a Wild Card invite to the MoC by just 1.5 seconds.
Washington said while the outcome of that race was not what the girls wanted, it was anything but disappointing as far as he was concerned, especially since it was a personal record (PR) for them.
“They put up a good fight, and that’s all you can ask for at this point,” Washington said. “I know they’ll be disappointed because they wanted to move to the next round, but I take everything with a grain of salt. You PR, you still get to run at nationals, and so we go from here. And they still qualified for the 4×100, so they get to run that next week.”
Many of the sprinters will also race individually next weekend with Legister running the 400 meter dash, Young-Bey running the 200 meter and 400m dashes, and Holland-Thomas competing in the 400 meter hurdles.
Representing the Mounties in the field events will be Gary Robinson Jr, who advanced with an 11th place finish in shot put, with a throw of 48.11.5 feet. While Robinson had hoped to throw a bit further, Washington pointed out that what he accomplished this season was impressive no matter the distance he tossed on Saturday.
“I said, ‘look, this is your first year and look at where you are. Some guys [at Groups] have been doing this for four years and while I wish I’d had you sooner, as a coach I can’t be more impressed by what you did,’” Washington said.
That’s a sentiment Washington and his staff have tried to convey all season long. The Mounties have had to work hard under some unusual circumstances, with no home track to practice on. Washington said that being without a home track hurts a little, and makes it difficult to work on the little things that can cost a squad 1.5 seconds.
“These are the meets where you see not having your own track makes a difference,” he said. “But those are things, like I said, you can’t really work on because of certain circumstances.”
Now the Mounties will focus on the Meet of Champions and improving again this week, but no matter the result, Washington is proud of what they have done and how they have come together as a team.
“We talked about this at the beginning of the season. Everybody came in hungry and had their goals, and so we said, OK we’ve got to take your personal goals now and use it as a team effort to get better.’ And they did that. They may get disappointed by the end all, be all result, but as a coach I got to sit them down and say look what you did.”