ROBBINSVILLE: Big days for Ravens on track

By Justin Feil, The Packet Group
   Having two of the biggest track and field meets of the season only five days apart could seem a bit daunting, but a pair of Robbinsville High School seniors see it as an opportunity.
   Only 24 hours after personal-best performances at the Mercer County Championships, Andin Fosam and Graham Rousseau anxiously were looking ahead to the Central Jersey Group II championships Friday.
   ”I kind of like it,” said Fosam, who was second in the county girls shot put with a throw of 38-feet-2½. “It keeps the momentum rolling. It keeps you up there to want to keep doing well.”
   Rousseau posted a third-place finish in the 55-meter hurdles in 7.99 seconds, an indoor school record. He also ran on the 4×400 relay.
   ”I was really happy with that,” Rousseau said. “It has been pretty cold out. We haven’t been able to get outside that much. I was working pretty hard. I thought my hard work would pay off and I’d be able to place pretty high at counties.”
   The Ravens had a handful of athletes place at the county meet. On the girls side, Chloe Hoag was sixth in the pole vault at 7-feet-6. The 4×400 relay came up one spot short of a medal in seventh place.
   ”I think the team did very well,” Fosam said. “Everyone tried their hardest. I know we had a few PRs. Everyone stepped up, especially the 4×4. They got a good time. Everyone is getting ready for sectionals now.”
   Zach Michon placed second and Ryan Gross took sixth in the boys 800 meters. Christian Roberts came close to a medal in eighth in the 1600 meters. Only the top six place in each event.
   ”I think we had 10 season bests,” said Robbinsville boys coach Jon Hutchinson. “Zach Michon got second and Ryan Gross got sixth in the 800. A lot of our young guys are starting to step up. Christian Roberts had a top 10 finish. It was a real positive day for us. A lot of guys are starting to round into end of season form. It’s tough with the weather. It’s good to see they’re improving.”
   Conor Murphy led the Allentown High School boys team with a fifth in the 1600 and fifth in the 3200 finals. Billy Herzer was second at 11-feet and Mike Fritsky took fifth in the pole vault. Alden Littlefield placed third in the boys shot put. Dan Gregor was eighth in the 800 to narrowly miss a medal.
   The Allentown girls had several solid showings, but only Noelle Hornyak placed among the top six. She was sixth in the girls shot put.
   The sectionals provide a chance to make the Group II state meet and eventually the Meet of Champions. Rousseau is looking to solidify his spot atop the sectionals, where he has the best time coming into the meet. He’s improved each meet over what he did last year, and the county meet bronze was a big improvement.
   ”He medaled last year,” Hutchinson said. “I think he got sixth last year. He’s had the experience of getting in that type of big-meet environment. They did the top 12 seeds in two races, and he got fourth in his heat.
   ”We weren’t sure where he would stand. He stepped up and he ran sub-8.00. It’s the first time we ever had a guy run sub-8.00 indoors. He had some experience and ran well. It’s good to see that coming from him.”
   The Ravens are hoping he will have company if he advances to the group meet. It will take inspired performances not long after the county success they enjoyed.
   ”It’s a quick turnaround, but I think the guys are ready,” Hutchinson said. “They’re excited. We’re talking it up. They’re fired up. It really did come fast.
   ”The section is tough. Matawan and Holmdel are really good on the guys side this year. The ultimate goal is to get a top 3 finish. I think we can get some guys through, but it’s going to take their best efforts. We have a couple guys, Graham and Zach, who are top seeds. It just means there’s a bulls-eye on their backs. We have to go out and succeed. If we can race the right way, we can be in the thick of it.”
   Rousseau has seen a significant drop in his times from a year ago. He’s now in contention to win almost any race he enters.
   ”Last year, my best indoors was 8.24 seconds,” he said. “Now it’s down to 7.99 which is a pretty big improvement from last year.”
   Fosam’s improvements have had to come even quicker. While Rousseau has seen steady development over his high school career, Fosam didn’t pick up the shot put until last year. Now she’d like the chance to throw in college. After topping out at 33-10 last spring, she has come back to throw 38-feet, well on her way toward her goal of 40-feet.
   ”I think it’s just having that year of experience under my belt,” she explained. “Instead of learning, I’m perfecting what I know. I think also, I want to throw in college, that motivation to do well is helping.”
   She felt good about her chances to medal and place highly at the county meet, and she was able to meet her expectations.
   ”I knew I was ranked pretty high,” Fosam said. “I just wanted to get a PR. I knew other people were there that threw 40s. I wasn’t really expecting a win.”
   Now she is expecting bigger things from herself at sectionals. The county meet was a best, but she feels she can throw farther.
   ”I think it puts me in a pretty good spot,” Fosam said. “It brings up the confidence level. I want to reach 39 for sectionals.”
   Fosam’s expectations were growing just as the season began. She saw how far she had come since last year right away.
   ”Even the first meet, I had a really big PR from last spring and I kept on getting better from there,” she said. “I’m definitely happy with how this season is going.”
   The Ravens have had to be creative over the poor outdoor conditions in order to practice in the winter. Their make-shift pit is enough to get in a little practice each day, and Fosam is hoping a little more practice under ideal conditions will help her toward her standards.
   ”If not winter, definitely the spring I want to break 40 feet,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal.”
   For Rousseau, he wants to build on his 7.99 clocking, which is already a goal achieved.
   ”My main goal was to get under 8 seconds which I did at counties, Rousseau said. “One of the goals that went with it was placing in sectionals and going to states. I’ll find that out Friday.”
   If Rousseau can just get to the finals in good position, he stands a strong chance of advancing historically. He’s been good at improving on his preliminary race showings.
   ”In the preliminaries, I ran better than my previous best time,” Rousseau said. “I thought I could run faster than that and I told myself in between those two races, I could run faster.
   ”At counties last year, I came in sixth place,” he recalled. “I think last year I was the eighth seed and came in sixth. This year, I came in third after I was seeded fourth.”
   Rousseau is keeping his focus narrow in the winter, though he has done a number of events for the Ravens through the years.
   ”Always my main focus is going to be on hurdles,” he said. “I can put some of my time toward other events. I’ve been hurdling since freshman year. When I started out, I was doing hurdles and high jump. As I started to do better at hurdles, I stopped doing high jump so much.”
   He still contributes wherever possible for the boys team. This year, that has meant more quarter-miles.
   ”He’s done a lot of 400,” Hutchinson said. “He’s helped out the team in 200s and 400s. In the spring, he’ll do long and high jump. Right now, we want to see if we can get stronger in the 4 and quicker in the hurdles.”
   Rousseau is hopeful that he will see that improvement over the next couple of weeks, and he is looking forward to seeing how he does at sectionals coming off his top time at the county meet.
   ”I’m feeling pretty good,” Rousseau said. “I just need to do what I did at counties, probably run better than I did at counties if I can.”