by Andrew Garda
Montclair High School’s track and field team sent its biggest group to the 2019 Meet of Champions, held in Columbus on Saturday, June 8.
As they have all season, the Mounties didn’t disappoint, with Jessie Legister placing fourth in the boys 400 meter dash, Gary Robinson Jr setting a personal record with a shot put throw of 52 feet, 1 inch, and the girls 4×100 meter relay team also setting a personal record, with a time of 48.47.
“It was good all the way around,” said head coach Daryl Washington. “I’m proud of them.”
It’s not the end of the season for the Mounties either, as some will be heading to the 2019 New Balance Nationals Outdoor, held from June 13-16, 2019, at Aggie Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.
“For the guys, we have three relays teams going,” Washington said. “We have the 1600m sprint medley, which is Truman Williams, Jessie Legister, Charles Murphy Jr. and Stefan Urquidi. There’s also the 4×400 meter, with Truman, Murphy, Nathan Collins and Jessie. And we also have the Swedish relay with Truman, Nate Bryan, Murphy and Jessie.”
The Swedish relay is a mixed length relay race with the first runner going 100 meters, the second going 200, the third going 300, and the final runner going 400 meters for a total of 1000m.
Legister’s fourth place finish in the individual 400m this past weekend at the Meet of Champions also qualifies him to run in the open 400m this coming weekend.
“On the girls end, we have 1600m sprint medley, run by Stephanie Webb, Rukiya Holland-Thomas, Nyjah Young-Bey and Evelyn Battleson-Gunkel,” Washington said. “Then we have the 4x200m which is [Webb], Holland-Thomas, Anna Glorie, and [Young-Bey]. We also have the girls 4×400 team which has Webb, Rukiya, Nyjah and Ella McAdams.”
The team flew out Wednesday morning, so they can get to North Carolina a little early and get acclimated. The meet began on Thursday, but those events were for middle school and freshmen. The Mounties won’t start their events until Friday, giving them an extra day to prepare.
Once they get going, though, they’ll have a lot to do.
“It’s going to be a busy weekend to say the least,” Washington said.
For most of the Mounties this will be their first time at Nationals. Young-Bey, Webb and McAdams are the only three MHS track members who have attended before.
While the lack of experience might be a problem for the Mounties this weekend, in the long-term Washington is excited to get his underclassmen a taste of the big time.
“It’ll be good, especially for the sophomores, and Nate Bryan as a junior, just to give them something to look forward to next year,” Washington explained. “They can see the level of competition [there], and if they bring it back next year, on the state level we should be able to make some noise.”
Especially with a new track. While this year was disappointing for many of the seniors who didn’t get a chance to compete on their home track, the project will be done in time for next season.
As far as Washington is concerned, a new track means raising the bar for the program. After all, if they were able to achieve what they did this season without a home track, what could they do once they apply those lessons to a year when all their facility is in place?
“We made some noise this year, but next year, now there’s no excuses,” Washington said. “And even from myself as a coach, I have to put myself in that mix as well, where next year we have to step it up.”
Even though the season isn’t over, Washington and his staff are already talking about 2020.
“We’ve already started going over a plan for, even just this summer with the weight room alone, just getting the gears moving, getting all the pieces together. Make sure everybody is on the same page and keep raising the bar every year and not just from what I expect for them, but what I expect for myself as well.”
With a young team and a lot of potential, Washington feels he should expect even more from himself and his team in 2020.
Waxter leads the way
Immaculate Conception High School also saw some success at the Meet of Champions, with Isas Waxter improving on his personal best record-setting time from the NJSIAA Non-Public B Groups in the 110 meter hurdles. His 14.42 seconds was .04 seconds faster than that time, though only good enough for ninth place in the MoC preliminaries.
Keith Rivera finished eleventh with a high jump of 6 feet, 2 inches, while Waxter landed at 43 feet, 7 and a half inches in the triple jump, good enough for twenty-first in the finals.
Kody Gibbs ran a time of 11.46 seconds in the 100 meter dash preliminaries, while the 4x100m relay team ran a 44.67 in the semis.
Cougars finish strong
The Montclair Kimberley Academy Cougars sent two athletes to the Meet of Champions, with Charlie Koenig competing in the 800 meter run and James Lukenda running in the 400 meter hurdles.
Both Cougars made the finals of their respect races, but did not qualify for Nationals. Koenig ran a 2:00.24, while Lukenda finished with a time of 1:00.50.