Rebel Relays begin promising track season

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff This should be a familiar sight once again this spring -  Colts Neck's Craig Forys well ahead of the field. CHRIS KELLY staff This should be a familiar sight once again this spring – Colts Neck’s Craig Forys well ahead of the field. After an indoor season in which Colts Neck’s Craig Forys and Ashley Higginson won national championships, the outdoor track and field season has a tough act to follow.

However, with the wealth of talent in the Freehold Regional District, it just might happen.

The 2007 season will begin Saturday with the Rebel Relays at Howell High School. This is the fourth year for the event that has attracted top teams from all over the state during its run. More than 50 teams are coming to the varsity events, including all of the Freehold Regional District schools. Among the other headliners are Monmouth Regional, which will bring its boys 4×400 relay state champions anchored by Charles and Chris Cox. Deanne Hahn and her Brick Township teammates will look to smash the girls shot put relay meet record.

Matawan, Middletown South, Middletown North, Lakewood, Neptune, Raritan and Toms River East and North are among the Shore Conference teams coming to Howell. From outside are Elizabeth, Rahway, Plainfield, Bloomfield and Monroe. Action gets under way at 9 a.m.

On Thursday night, Howell will be hosting a Freshman/Sophomore Meet that has attracted a field of 27 teams. That meet begins at 6 p.m.

Forys and Higginson, of course, are the headliners for this season. The seniors have already established their legacies as two of the finest runners in state history. They’ll be looking to add to those legacies in the next three months. Forys has done it all in his four years at Colts Neck and his swan song should produce something very special. He already has won seven Meet of Champions titles, and for the second straight year has the opportunity to win MOC titles over three seasons (cross country, indoor and outdoor track). His stirring win at the Nike Indoor Nationals in the two-mile lifted that monkey off his back. Look for the University of Michigan-bound Cougar to lay down some very fast times and confirm that he is one of the three or four best ever in Garden State history.

Higginson’s résumé is second to none in District history, and growing among her state peers. With a record-tying three indoor Meet of Champions crowns to her credit, the senior would no doubt like to win her first outdoor MOC title in June. She has anchored the Cougars to two straight national titles in the 4×1-mile relay, and on the same day that Forys was winning in Maryland, she won the two-mile national title at the New York Armory in a state record 10:16.75. The Princeton University-bound Higginson will have state records on her mind as well this spring.

Forys and Higginson are out front of what is the deepest distance talent pool the area has seen.

The girls especially bear watching. Besides Higginson, there are Allie Flott, Allison Linnell and Kristen O’Dowd of Colts Neck, who teamed up with Higginson to win the 4×1-mile national championship last month for the second straight year. Briana Jackucewicz and the Donaghy twins, Erin and Allison, make up quite a stable for the Cougars.

Freehold Township’s Allyson Moskal was the breakthrough performer of the winter, becoming one of the country’s leading milers. She broke 5:00 for the 1,600 meters at the MOC (4:59.20) and won the Eastern States mile run before finishing eighth at the Nike Indoor Nationals. Her teammate Janel Parker, who won the 800 meters at the Central Jersey Group IV championships, is returning to form after being sidelined at midseason of the cross country season with a stress fracture. She had some solid indoor times and will be taking aim at her District record.

Charlotte Walsh, who had an outstanding cross country season, gives the Patriots a formidable trio. The Pats can come up with some very formidable relay teams this spring.

Howell High School has that kind of depth as well in Lindsey Lambert, Lauren Rome and Lauren Wiemken.

Marlboro has joined the fray with Suzanne Raspa and 800 standouts Brittany and Lauren Pietrosh.

The 800 is loaded, with Freehold Borough’s Megan Patterson proving she’s among the state’s best this winter. She is also a solid 1,600 runner.

It is doubtful that you can find any conference in the state that has more sub-2:20 800-meter runners than in the Freehold Regional District. For that matter, there probably isn’t a conference with as many 1,600-meter runners under 5:15.

All this makes for some very strong relay teams.

For the boys, Rob Andrews put down some very fast times in the 800 and 1,600 as a freshman, and after a cross country season in which he gained confidence qualifying for the MOC, could be ready to join the state’s best.

Colts Neck’s Brenden Krewer won the county 800 title indoors and ran a 1:56.6. He also set the District indoor 1,000-meter record (2:332.6). Krewer is ready to keep running fast and is one of the keys to Colts

Neck’s relay ambitions this year. He ran the 1,200-meter leg on the Cougars’ All-American distance medley relay team.

A big breakout season in the fall carried over to the indoor season where the Cougars’ Jason Weiner has established himself as one of the Shore’s best 3,200 runners. Look for him to be in the mix in the championship races.

This is just for starters. There is Howell’s Matt Cook, Manalapan’s Joe Kreppein (who won the District cross country title in the fall), Colts Neck’s Shane Hart (last season’s outdoor 3,200 champion) and Freehold Township’s Jack Tarpey and Chris Ernst.

The area doesn’t lack for sprinting or hurdling prowess. Ada Unachuckwu, last spring’s freshman find, is now well established as a legitimate MOC finalist. She is coming off an incredible indoor season in which she set District records in the long jump (15-10), triple jump (36-10) and 200 meters (25.7). The Mustang flash was seventh in the MOC 55-meter dash.

The outdoor season is much friendlier to Unachuckwu’s long strides with the 100- and 200-meters. She ventured up to the 400 meters for relays and has split in the 57s. Her versatility will make Marlboro a tough team in dual meets.

Colts Neck’s Meryl Wimberly, Manalapan’s Kristin Andrews and Howell’s Jamie Leacock are all formidable 400 runners.

Wimberly jumped up the 800 indoors and set a District record with her 2:16.00. She also holds the indoor 400 record (59.10) and anchors the best 4×400 unit in the District with Kathlyn Herrick, Samantha Santos and Julia Tomara. Herrick is a solid 100/400 hurdler.

Andrews and Leacock traded the District record for the 400 hurdles last year with the Brave having the final say with her 1:04.06. They’ll be back at it this spring looking to lower the mark further.

Dan Mularz, who made it to the indoor MOC, and Colts Neck’s Matt Sullivan are the male hurdlers to watch.

Howell’s David Hayes will look to build on what he did indoors, where he was the area’s fastest in the 55 dash and the 400.

Freehold Township’s quartet of Mularz, O’Shane Rennie, Robert Searby and Ryan Spadola give the Patriots a deep sprinting squad.

Manalapan’s Dunnell Ridore and George Quintano are promising sprinter/hurdlers.

The field doesn’t lack for star power, with Manalapan’s Mike Goldwasser and Marlboro’s Kristen Batts.

Goldwasser was the third area athlete to win at the indoor MOC. He became the District’s first indoor pole vault champion, clearing 13-6, which was six inches better than his outdoor best last year. He’s looking for 14-0 and more. Goldwasser is also a very good sprinter, having taken second place in the 400 meters at the District championships last May.

Batts qualified for the nationals in the discus last year, and that was without having an indoor season to build on. She sent the shot put 40-11 indoors, topping her outdoor mark. She also had the second-best 20-pound weight throw in state history. She is a definite state champion contender in the discus. She won the Eastern States title and reached 137-0 in ’06.

The District has depth in the throws with Howell’s Anna DiPaola (an MOC finalist) and Brittany Napoli and Freehold Township’s Crystal Mahoney all very capable throwers.

The Cougars’ John Krewer established himself as the area’s best thrower last year and backed it up with a very good indoor season. He’s gone over 50 feet in the shot put indoor and will look to improve on that. His teammate Kevin Kelly won the District javelin throw last year and threw 180-10.

In the jumps, Colts Neck’s Evan Stivala leapt 22-2 indoor and will be taking aim at the District outdoor mark of 23-2 3/4 by the graduated Adam Hegel of Manalapan, who is now jumping for Temple University. Stivala is also a strong 400 runner and was a member of that All-American DMR team and a good high jumper.

He and Manalapan’s Jack Gilburn should pick up where they left off indoors, where they went back and forth all year.

Gilburn is one of the best multi-event track athletes in the Shore.

In the girls’ high jump, Colts Neck’s Lindsey Rappleyea and Jesse Pagliano will pick up where they left off.

After the Rebel Relays kick things off Saturday, Colts Neck will host the Cougar Relays on April 14. This meet will have a national-caliber field.

The Penn Relays are April 26-29 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa.

This year’s Freehold Regional District Championships are May 3 at Howell High School.