By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Four years ago Bernadette Cao would never have pictured herself accomplishing some of the things she has accomplished in track and field.
In reality, she probably never even consider participating in the sport.
“When I was younger I always did a sport,” said Cao, a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High South. “I did tae kwon do and gymnastic when I was younger. In high school there were too many hours I had to put in so I couldn’t do my homework and still do those sports so I had to quit those but I still wanted to do a sport because it felt weird not to be doing something.
“I looked at the spring sports but I didn’t like lacrosse so track was it. I really liked it and I am really happy that I decided to do it.”
Cao spent the fall as a member of the South cross country team and this winter she is a key member of the indoor track and field team, which finished third in last week’s state Group III relays.
“We are really excited that, it was probably the biggest event for us,” Cao said. “I was really nervous because it was one of the biggest meets. Going into the meet the whole team was nervous. When we got there we were excited. There were so many teams. Then our shuttle hurdle team started warming up and we got really excited. Even though we didn’t do as well as we wanted to do we still did well.”
The South girls finished third as a team at the state Group III relays last weekend. The Pirates finished with 36 points, just four behind top finisher Timber Creek. Princeton finished 12th. The South boys finished fourth, while Princeton was 20th.
“We came up a little short in a couple relays, but all in all the girls performed well,” WW-P South coach Todd Smith said. “We have a little different team this year. We have a lot of freshmen contributing and learning as their way as they go through the season. They have been getting some races under their belts and are learning from the older girls.”
The South girls won the sprint medley with Cao, Kathryn Schoenauer, Edwina Gulama and Christina Rancan. They also finished second in three events — the 4×400 with Schoenauer, Gulama, Haley Rich and Cao; the 4×800 with Rich, Kavaya Tummalapali, Tianna Saade and Rancan; and the distance medley with Julia Mao, Gulama, Schoenauer and Rancan. The Pirates added a fifth place in the shuttle hurdles with Vivian Liao, Gulama, Cao and Schoenauer.
“We have got our core five that are doing a tremendous job this year with Christina Rancan doing great things as well as Kathryn, Edwina, Bernadette Cao and Haley Rich. They are leading the way for our way team.”
The core five played a big role in the third place finish at the state relays and will also play a big role in the Mercer County Championship meet, which is scheduled for Sunday at Lawrenceville.
Cao is happy to be a part of it. She only picked up the sport as a freshman by has shown she is all in by running cross country in the fall in addition to her work on the track.
“I guess you would say I specialize in the 400 and the hurdles, that is what Coach Smith always puts me,” Cao said. “I also do the long jump, triple jump and the 400 hurdles outdoors. I think running cross country really helped me.
“The most I ran in a race was three miles, but I don’t do distance in track, I am more of a hurdlers. My coach, Mr. Wayton, really wanted me to do cross country so I tried it out and I liked it. The team is close and it was a good experience and then when I got into track I felt like I could run so much and had so much endurance. Our practice runs in cross country would range from three to 16 miles.
“It helped me a lot. I could run a lot of 400s. Sometimes Coach Smith would have us run five 400s and I felt amazing while I was running it because I had so much endurance.”
She has become part of a team that now has its sights set on a county championship.
“I believe we do well because we have a lot of well-rounded runners,” Cao said. “We have a good distance runner with Christina, who can do anything from the two mile to a 400. She is amazing. We also have Edwina who is amazing and we have Kathryn Schoenauer who is also awesome. She always does well.”
The South boys won the distance medley behind Sam Williams, Xavier Smith, Kevin Hudson and Tim Bason, while they also finished second in the 4×800 relay with Alexander Petri, Hudson, Williams and Bason.
The Princeton boys were fourth in distance medley with William Hare, Nick Delaney, Noah Chen and Alex Roth. On the girls side, Princeton was fourth in the 4×400 relay with Jackie Patterson, Mia Hauschild, Jordan Vine and Caren Ju; fifth in the 4×200 relay; and sixth in the 4×800 with Izzy Trenholm, Annefleur Hartmenshenn, Emma Eikelberger and Chloe Taylor.
In the Group 4 meet, the Montgomery girls finished tied for 11th. Hannah Taylor won the high jump. The Cougar picked up a point when Patrick Warren, Malachi Clemons, Ryan Cashman and Michael Simonson finished sixth in the 4×200 relay
Smith was happy with the effort of his boys team, which is working several new runners into the mix.
“We only really have two guys that are coming back from last year, Tim and Sam,” Smith said. “But we have guys like Xavier Smith who is doing great job in the sprints, A’Nan Bridgett is working hard and is brand new, and we have a junior, Kevin Hudson, this is his first year in track and he is doing very well.”
WEST WINDSOR: Pirate girls third at Group III relays
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor