HILLSBOROUGH: McFarland among MOC qualifiers

Raiders’ Sabatino is Group IV pole vault winner

By Justin Feil, The Packet Group
   If Nick McFarland had one concern bigger than an outstanding field of competitors he would face in the boys 1600 meters at the Group IV state championship, it was contending with the expected heat.
   The Hillsborough High School junior had not traditionally run well in hot conditions, yet that was just what was in the forecast last Friday and Saturday.
   ”I knew going in it was going to be very hot,” McFarland said. “I knew some people would do well and some people wouldn’t hit what they wanted to. It could have been me. I had to go in there with the idea that we’re all in the same boat.”
   McFarland leaned on his experience. It is his third year in the HHS program and he has run races in every sort of condition there is, and he was in position to do well coming off a strong showing at sectionals.
   ”I think going in, I knew it was going to affect me,” McFarland said of the heat. “I tried not to tell myself it wasn’t going to. That’s what I can say from running with the team for a few years.”
   McFarland showed no ill effects of the heat which slowed him only a bit in the final of four laps on his way to a season-best 4:21.59 clocking for fifth place in Group IV, good enough to advance to the Meet of Champions.
   ”This time around is my first time for the outdoor,” McFarland said. “It means a lot. The mile, since freshman year, has been my favorite event. The 8 is now in there too. It feels good to make it in the mile.”
   The top six finishers in each event, plus the next six best finishers from all groups advance to the Meet of Champions that was scheduled for Wednesday after Beacon deadline.
   HHS was to be represented in six other events at the MOC. For the boys, Michael Williams placed seventh in the 100-meter dash in 11.12 seconds to earn a wild card spot. The senior also received a wild card for the 200 after placing seventh in 22.44 seconds.
   Leading the girls was the first-place finish of Marlena Sabatino, who won the pole vault at 11-feet. The junior was tied for the second-best jump among all group meets as she headed into the MOC. It was her first outdoor Group IV crown. She was second a year ago when she went on to place second at the MOC. She won this year’s indoor MOC pole vault.
   Kelly Janokowicz finished third in the 3200 in 10:59.02. The senior was the 10th seed for MOC. Stephanie Mauer finished seventh in the same race in 11:27.19. The freshman was scheduled to make her first trip to the outdoor MOC, where she was seeded 25th.
   Fellow freshman Kelsey Vieira was fifth in the long jump at 17-6½. Vieira was the 16th seed for the MOC.
   Daija King, Olivia Mukendi, Amanda Castellano and Casey Kelly ran 4:00.85 for ninth in the 4×400 relay, good enough to earn a wild-card spot.
   ”I was totally happy I made it in the mile,” said McFarland, who also placed 11th in the 800 meters. “I was hoping to make it in the 800, but I was OK with it because I’d already gotten in with the mile.”
   McFarland still managed a personal-record 1:56.69 for the 800 meters Saturday, two seconds better than he had done in dreary raining conditions the week before at the CJ IV meet.
   ”I was a little disappointed,” McFarland said. “I had run that time in a relay in the beginning of the season. I was happy I PR’d in it before the season ended.”
   His mile time was four seconds better than last week, and he has been a consistent winner in most meets.
   ”I like the mile because it’s a little more distance,” McFarland said. “The 800 is always nice because it goes out a little faster. I don’t have a preference. I like them both pretty much the same.”
   Throughout the spring, McFarland kept his focus split between the 800 and 1600. When he reached the Group IV level, he saved some of his smartest racing for last.
   ”My strategy was to pretty much stay with the leaders and possibly take the lead, and if not stay around second or third, which is what I did until the last lap,” McFarland said. “It was a hot day. It was pretty crazy.
   ”I was looking to go under 4:20, but I was happy to get through,” he added. “I was happy with the heat. I normally don’t do well in the heat.”
   McFarland was looking for cooler conditions for Wednesday’s MOC. He is hoping to run a good enough time to be satisfied with his ending progress in a season that hasn’t had the ideal conditions for a remarkable race.
   ”It didn’t really play out the way I thought it would,” McFarland said. “Each race, the weather was factor or the race didn’t play out the way I wanted it to. It hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to, but it’s going the way I wanted it to from an advancing standpoint.”
   For the latter, he is thankful. McFarland’s work has paid off with his third season culminating in a trip to the MOC. He also competed in the cross country and indoor track and field final meets in New Jersey, and he was ready for one more after a solid showing in the Group IV meet.
   ”I feel really confident going out of it into the Meet of Champs,” McFarland said. “It shows that, I know I don’t do well in the heat and I hit that time, so I know I can go faster.”