HHS girls repeat as county track champs

Boys finish second despite Dennis triple

By: Nick Vaccaro
   The Hillsborough High indoor track and field teams competed in the Somerset County meet at Lehigh University in December with mixed results. The HHS girls took home the team title with 112 points, destroying Ridge (66), Watchung (54) and Franklin (41), while the Raider boys finished second.
   Every single female competitor left everything out on the track and truly performed above and beyond expectations to help the HHS girls easily repeat as county champions.
   "Everyone did what they could do and more on the girls side," HHS head coach Rich Refi said.
   Refi admitted to originally thinking the girls were going to lose a close meet, but this was solely based on last year’s performances. In the end, not even Refi thought that his girls’ squad would annihilate the competition so convincingly.
   Senior Lauren Watts led the girls’ assault. Watts truly stepped it up for her teammates, scoring a total of 28 points in four different events, all while feeling under the weather. Her best performance came in the 55-meter dash, which she won in a time of 7.4.
   Watts beat Franklin’s Toneisha Friday, who was second with a time of 7.5. Friday was last year’s outdoor state champion in the 200-meter dash, making Watts’ victory that much sweeter.
   "I honestly had no idea who Toneisha Friday was until five minutes after the race," Watts said. "I knew that the 55 dash is always a tough race, and it was my last event for the day, so I just gave it all I had."
   Watts also took second in the both the 55 hurdles (8.5) and 200 meters (28.2) and placed fifth in the high jump (4-10).
   The fact that Watts competed so successfully was an accomplishment in and of itself, but factoring in her being sick clearly exemplifies her talent, hard work and determination. By herself, she outscored six of the 10 teams in the field.
   "I don’t think Lauren realized how big of an accomplishment that was," Refi said.
   The other 84 points scored by the HHS girls team came from everywhere. Taryn O’Connor, Ingrid Berrio and Colleen Maloney went 1-2-4 in the shot put, respectively, continuing their success in important competitions. O’Connor’s throw of 37-7 led the charge while Berrio’s 35-6.5 and Maloney’s 30-10 rounded out the dominance in that event.
   Senior Allison Marcsisin placed in two events, winning the 800 in 2:27 and taking fourth in the 1,600 in 5:56. Marcsisin seems to be climbing her way back to where she was a few years ago.
   Hillsborough took two spots in the 400-meter race that were attained by two athletes who crossed the line at the same time — Sylwia Tyksinski (3rd, 65.8) and Melissa Arango (4th, 65.8).
   Other scorers for the HHS girls included Ali Leifer in the 200 (6th, 28.6), Nicole Filipowicz in the 800 (6th, 2:33), Cassandra Steel in the 1,600 (5th, 5:56), Kelda Nelson in the 3200 (2nd, 11:40), Melissa Arango in the 55 hurdles (3rd, 8.8), Melanie Gingras in the high jump (3rd, 4-10) and Jackie Marangella in the pole vault (3rd, 7-0). The 4×400 relay team also took second in a time of 4:28.2.
   "It was awesome to win as a team by so many points especially because Coach Refi expected we would lose or it would be very close," Watts said. "I knew that every point counted and I didn’t want to let the team down. So I think we all just did our best."
   The boys’ efforts were solid, but not good enough to take home the title. They took second with a total of 79 points as they were bested by Franklin (122). The boys’ team had some strong performances, but did come up short in some areas.
   "We didn’t do all we could have," Refi said. "We were a little bit off, and we could have scored more points."
   Hillsborough was led by distance standout Brian Dennis, who is coming off another stellar cross-country season. Dennis completed the distance triple successfully for the second year in a row, an accomplishment that is one of the more arduous feats to accomplish on a track at any level of competition. Dennis’ winning times were 10:00.6 in the 3,200, 2:04 in the 800, and 4:38 in the 1,600. The 1,600 was the last event of the three and Dennis had been given the option to run it or not.
   "I definitely wanted to run it," Dennis said. "I’m excited. The two-mile was not all out. I was saving my energy for the next two races. It’s weird saving energy for the next race."
   Like Watts, Dennis outscored most of the other teams by himself. With 30 points, he tied the fourth place team, while beating the fifth through ninth place teams.
   Joining Dennis in his distance running efforts was senior classmate Fredy Irizarry, who took third in the 800 (2:05) and fourth in the 3,200 (10:06.6). Mike Bitten took second in the 800 in the same time as Irizarry, completing a 1-2-3 sweep of that event. Eric Rind and Adam Walzer aided Dennis’ 1,600 dominance by placing fifth and sixth, respectively, with times of 4:55 and 4:56.
   David Eilbacher was Hillsborough’s only other event winner in the meet as he won the high jump with a height of 5-10. Brandon Lane also competed in the event placing sixth with a jump of 5-6.
   Hurdler/sprinter specialist Tyler Szwarc placed in three events including the 55 hurdles (2nd, 7.7), 200 (5th, 23.9) and 400 (5th, 54.7). Joining Szwarc in the hurdle race was Dan Reiss, who placed sixth with a time of 8.6.
   Other points were scored by Phil Jasina in the pole vault (5th, 10-6) and by the 4×400 meter relay team (6th, 3:53.3).
   Regardless of the outcomes for both teams, they looked sharp and need to continue their success throughout the rest of the season. The better the performances, the higher their confidence level will be going into the post season meets.