Jags, Lions remain alive in track action


Jackson Memorial High School track and field standouts Greg Caldwell in the 800-meter run and Connor Saker in the discus took impressive steps to return to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions with strong performances at the Central Jersey Group IV championships in Hillsborough.

Caldwell, who is headed to Lehigh University, and Saker, who is going to East Stroudsburg, competed on May 28 in what is regarded as the toughest section in the state this spring, Central Jersey Group IV.

The performances posted by Caldwell and Saker at the sectional meet have advanced them to the Group IV championships to be held this weekend at Old Bridge High School.

They will be joined at the Group IV meet by Jackson Memorial juniors Mike Kaba and Uchenna Orji, both in the 400- meter intermediate hurdles.

The top performers in each event at the Group IV meet will advance to the state Meet of Champions to be held on June 9 at Old Bridge High School.

“Our guys were in the toughest section competing against the toughest guys in the state in their events,” Coach Steve Theobald said of the Jaguars’ opponents at the Central Jersey Group IV meet.

Caldwell clocked a time of 1:54.66 for second place in the 800 behind the 1:53.32 of North Brunswick’s Cullen Davis.

“He ran an absolutely perfect race and followed the game plan perfectly,” said Theobald.

“I knew I had to take the race out fast,” said Caldwell, who led for most of the way. “It definitely is a tough section and it will be a tough race in the groups. I’ll probably change strategy and sit on the lead and kick at the end this time. I don’t think I’ll go out as fast.”

Caldwell seeks his first advance to the outdoor Meet of Champions after placing fifth in the 800 at the indoor Meet of Champions in March.

“I’m really pleased because we had a lot of adversity with some guys not coming out this year and the bad weather affecting us and then a player on the baseball team (James Volpe) who was killed in an auto accident. Greg was a friend of his and had a hard time getting back in focus, and it showed in the Ocean County Championships where he finished sixth,” Theobald said.

“My time speaks for itself that day,” said Caldwell, who expects to be running the 1,600 at Lehigh. Saker, who fell short of 170 feet in his first five throws in the discus at the Central Jersey sectionals, threw it 173-7 on his final throw, one of the 10 best throws in the state this spring, but only good for third place on May 28. The winning throw was 197-7 by East Brunswick’s Sam Mattis.

“If you look at any other group around, they were not as competitive,” said Saker, who reached the outdoor Meet of Champions last year in the discus, finishing out of the top 10. “The best throw in the other sectionals was 163 feet and I threw 173 feet and got third place (in Central Jersey Group IV). I knew going in it would be a struggle. My basic goal is to be in the top three.”

Saker, who was runner-up in the Shore Conference Championships at 177 feet and won the Ocean County crown with a throw of 170 feet, is eager to extend his season to the final day, the Meet of Champions.

“With the winner (in Central Jersey Group IV) throwing 20 feet farther, it will be tough for (Saker), but he might medal in the Group IV meet and the Meet of Champions,” Theobald said.

“Right now I feel stronger, faster and more confident than I ever have,” Saker said. “This is exactly how I would like my senior year to be. I don’t want to sound cocky or to be cocky, but I do feel confident and everything is physically good.”

Saker said he has reached 180 feet in practice.

“If I did everything perfect, I could hit 185 (feet),” he said.

Also in Central Jersey Group IV, Kaba, in 400 the intermediate hurdles, was third in 55:64. Orji was fifth in 56.34. Trenton Central’s Jermaine Collier won the 400 hurdles in a time of 53.80.

Junior Mike Rogers just missed qualifying for the Group IV meet in the 400-meter dash, where he was timed in 50.13, and in the 200. Junior Jason Poppe came up a bit short of advancing to the Group IV meet in three events, high jump, triple jump and 110-meter high hurdles.

Jackson Memorial’s girls, meanwhile, had a show of strength at the Central Jersey Group IV meet behind three seniors who each advanced in two events. Jenna Dubrow won the 1,600-meter run comfortably in 5:01.84 and was second in the 3,200 in 11:07.76. Chanel Rogers was a double winner in the hurdles, clocking a 14.83 in the 100 and a 1:03.43 in the 400. Samantha Osadacz was second in the long jump at 17-10 and sixth in the triple jump in 34-4.

Jackson Liberty High School’s outdoor track and field team will have a strong representation in the Group III championships this weekend after six girls and the Lions’ 4×400-meter relay team, and four boys and the 4×400 relay team advanced out of the Central Jersey sectionals at Monmouth Regional High School, Tinton Falls.

Gianna Testa will compete in three running events as well as the relay after finishing second in the 400 in 58.97 and third in the 100 in 12.87 and third in the 200 in 26.33. Anijaah White was second in the long jump at 16-11 and third in the triple jump in 35-13/4.

Lauren Hewlitt was second in the shot put in 34-7 and the discus in 113-11. Ashley Lowe finished third in the 100 hurdles in 15.05 and fourth in the 200 in 26.41. Also placing among the top six to advance were Ashley Sclafani in the javelin with a fourthplace throw of 113-0 and Courtney Titus in the 400 hurdles with a sixth place time of 1:07.88. The relay team of Sclafani, Kelly Daly, Titus and Testa was fourth in 4:05.45.

As for the Lions’ boys, Jordan Boothe won the 800 in 1:56.40 and ran the second leg on the 4×400 relay that was fourth in 3:25.85. Nicaisse Germe ran the leadoff leg and Bryon Daniels and anchorman Kindall Whack also were on that relay. Ron Brown was second in the 400 intermediate hurdles in 55.96 and fifth in the 800 in 1:57.98. John Pangborn recorded a 6-2 measure in the high jump, good for second place. Kerwin Capers was third in the discus at 132-11 and fifth in the shot put in 44-93/4.