By Justin Feil, The Packet Group
Priscilla Senoo isn’t a hurdler, but she cleared a big one last weekend.
The Hillsborough High School senior advanced to her first girls track and field Meet of Champions by placing second in the discus with a personal-record throw of 126-feet-2.
”I’d say I’m both excited and nervous,” Senoo said. “It’s my first time going. I only have one event, so I think that’ll help.”
Senoo had qualified for groups in all three throws — shot put, discus and javelin — after a terrific weekend at sectionals. That gave her a busy schedule for groups with the competition getting tougher.
”I never expected to make it through for jav,” Senoo said of sectionals. “I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t really practice that much for jav. I wanted to focus on shot and disc. I was happy and my coach was happy too.”
They were even happier to see her advance to the MOC for the first time. Senoo had had chances before, but had never been able to get over the groups hurdle.
”It’s happened where my PR and what I throw before, at groups I either triple foul or I psyche myself out and never throw my best,” Senoo said. “I usually throw two or three feet under my best.”
This time, in her final chance, Senoo delivered a new best, a nearly seven-feet improvement over her season best from the Somerset County Championships and 21 feet better than last year’s group throw. It was 15 feet farther than she had thrown at sectionals the week before groups.
”It was my PR,” Senoo said. “I really didn’t expect it. I think I was seeded 11th. To get second, disc hasn’t been going that well, and to PR in the last meet was really nice.”
Senoo took 10th in the shot put at 36-8¼ and 17th in the javelin at 100-3. Senoo was down to her final day and final opportunity when she came through in the discus.
”I had shot the day before and I didn’t do my best,” she said. “If I did my best, I would have moved on as well. I was in the mindset of going out there and doing my best and not thinking. It could have been my last high school meet ever, so I wanted to have fun.”
The Raider girls have five other girls that qualified to compete in the MOC, which was scheduled to be held Wednesday in South Plainfield. The top six in each event from groups qualified for the MOC, and the next best six finishers from all groups received wild card entries to the MOC.
Lauren Smith lowered her own HHS school record when she ran 12.36 seconds for sixth in the 100 meters. Kelsey Vieira was second in the triple jump with a best of 39-3¾ and third in the long jump at 18-6 to qualify in two events. The 4×400 was seventh in 4:01.48, but the quartet of Daija King, Casey Kelly, Paige Novak and Smith qualified as a wild card. The 4×100 was ninth in 49.88 seconds, just two-hundredths of a second off a wild card spot. Stephanie Mauer was 13th in the 3200 in 11:27.52.
”Wednesday, my main goal is to not get in there and think about numbers,” Senoo said. “I’d like to get in there and hit 130 or above. It’s mainly to get in there and throw one more time with the Raiders uniform on. It sounds cliché, but I mean it.”
The Raider boys will have one representative at the MOC. Brandon Tubby continued his solid season by placing sixth in the 1,600 meters in 4:18.35. He also was 15th in the 3,200 in 9:56.79.
”I didn’t have a firm number in my head for what he could do,” said Raiders boys coach Eric Rosenthal. “I knew he could make it to Meet of Champions. I was thinking about him as a competitor and if he just did what he needed to. I think with the pressure gone, he should have good race on Wednesday.”
Tubby trained hard leading up to the mile Friday which left him far less fresh than he had been at sectionals when he clocked a 4:15 mile. Rosenthal backed off after the group meet so that Tubby would feel better for the MOC.
”I worked him pretty hard,” Rosenthal said. “I expected he could make it through and be ready for the Meet of Champions. I just said, I’ll work you hard up until there and then maintain until Meet of Champions.”
Tubby has been responding each season in his junior year to the challenges put to him, and he has enjoyed more success than ever. At sectionals, he had his best day on the track with a pair of personal record in the mile and two-mile.
”I think it started really last spring track season,” Rosenthal said. “He was starting to run around 2:00-flat in and 4:30 in the mile. He put in a good cross country season and fell in love with the sport. From there, I think he won county or conferences. Then he came into this season with some pretty lofty goals. During most of the relay meets and county and conference meets, he never had a chance to run with fresh legs. That was his first time running the mile fresh. He went from a4:21 to a 4:15.”
Rosenthal had watched Tubby’s development through the cross country season, but he doesn’t work with the track team in the winter. When he came back, he found Tubby was anxious to get going into outdoors.
”He was really excited,” Rosenthal said. “I’ve never seen him so excited about a season. He only took two or three days off. He really wanted to get going. He wanted this to be a good season for him. That’s that it takes to be a good runner is motivation and he has the motivation.”
And win or lose at the MOC, Tubby isn’t ready to pack up his racing shoes. He still has more ahead before he closes this season.
”He has qualified for nationals,” Rosenthal said. “He’ll run an 800 on Saturday in the Monmouth Meet. Then he qualified for emerging elite for the mile for nationals so he’ll go to that too. He’s still thinking this season he could do a lot of good things.”
Senoo won’t compete for the Raiders beyond the MOC. She will begin gearing up to join the Northeastern University women’s track and field team.
”It’s going to bring a whole new set of challenges,” she said. “I’d rather do a sport because I think it’ll keep me balanced and help with time management. I know it’ll be more physically demanding. I’ll be trying to train this summer so it’s not as big of a jump.”
Competing at the next level is a long way from where she expected four years ago, and making the MOC is the icing on the cake. It will give her the chance to compete in the state’s best meet to close her HHS career.
”Honestly, freshman year when I went out for track I never thought it would become what it’s become,” she said. “I’m excited to experience it. My friends will be there. It’ll be great to compete with them one last meet.”
Senoo enjoyed steady development in the throws. She credits coach Rocco Mazzagatti with introducing her to the spin technique that would bolster her shot put. The shot put has been her top event, but with her discus coming on strong, they are fairly even as she heads into college.
”Freshman year, I only threw shot put and I didn’t make varsity until the very last meet possible,” Senoo said. “My biggest improvement was in jav. My PR was 50 feet. I never thought I’d throw over 100. I had to throw it just to help the team in the beginning.
”I’m really happy with my progress so far,” she added. “I think it’s been my best year so far because I stopped caring about numbers and I just threw. It was my best year confidence wise and performance wise.”
Priscilla Senoo saved some of her best for last. Knowing she was approaching the end of her career at Hillsborough combined with the experiences from years past helped her get to her ultimate goal of the MOC.
”I think it’s definitely being a senior,” Senoo said. “I was thinking, I already know where I’m going to school, I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just going in and having fun with that.”
By Justin Feil, The Packet Group