By Tim Morris
It’s not who qualifies the fastest — it’s who is fastest when it matters most.
No one knows that better than Marlboro High School’s Kwaku Amponsan, who won the 55-meter hurdles finals at the Shore Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. He did it despite having only the fifth-fastest time (8.09) during the qualifying heats at the Jan. 27 meet.
Qualifying, however, isn’t when you want to show your hand. You save your best for the finals.
When it came time to run the hurdles finals, the Marlboro junior was swiftest when it counted. His time went from 8.09 down to 7.77, as he added the conference title to the Monmouth County championship he won earlier in January at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.
The results confirmed what Mustangs head coach Ray Sypniewski pointed out about Amponsan’s competitiveness.
“He is very competitive and wants to win,” Sypniewski said. “He is probably the most competitive boy I’ve seen since I been here.
“He is raw, but I think because of his desire to be great, he will get better and we will see much more of him.”
This is Amponsan’s first indoor season. His family moved to Marlboro from Ohio last year, and he didn’t know that Marlboro had indoor track until it was too late. He revealed his potential outdoors in the spring, winning the county 100-meter title and finishing second in the 110-meter hurdles at the sophomore championships.
Amponsan was not the only Freehold Regional High School District athlete to complete the challenging county-conference double. Freehold Township High School’s Ciara Roche (1,600), Howell High School’s Niamh Hayes (3,200) and Freehold Township’s Jake Konig (3,200) duplicated their county victories in Toms River.
Roche ran another superb solo effort in the girls 1,600, winning by an astonishing 22 seconds. That is light years ahead of the field for a championship race at that distance. The Cornell University-bound Roche cranked out a time of 4:52.48.
Hayes was also on her own at the end, as she lowered her personal best for the indoor 3,200 to 10:56.13 and won by 13 seconds.
Hayes’ win helped Howell tie for sixth place with 20 points. Freehold Township tied for 10th (10).
Manalapan High School’s Kiera Nealon ran a solid race in third place behind Hayes (11:52.72).
Konig backed up his county 3,200 win by clocking 9:32.55 to establish himself as the Shore’s top boys 3,200 runner this winter.
Colts Neck High School’s Kevin Berry (9:40.86) and Patriots’ Nicholas Ackerman (9:44.14) finished third and fifth.
Colts Neck’s boys got mileage from its distance runners to finish fourth (20). Marlboro and Freehold Township tied for ninth (12)
Jordan Brannan (4:21.49) and Zach Czipkay (4:26.64) went third and fifth in the 1,600 for Colts Neck’s boys.
The other district boys to medal (top six) were: 400, Howell’s David Galarzo (51.41) third; 800, Manalapan’s Jared Skalski (2:00.25), fourth; high jump, Colts Neck’s Ryan Tompkins (6-0), third, and Marlboro’s Matt Linder (6-0), fifth; and 4×400, Howell’s David Galarzo, Alex Behan, Simas Glebavicius and Bill Bajohr (3:36.91), fourth, and Manalapan’s Michael DiMicelli, Connor O’Neill, Jared Skalski and Mike McNicholas (3:38.06), and sixth.
Also medaling for girls were: 800, Colts Neck’s Stephanie O’Horo (2:23.09), third; 1,600, Colts Neck’s Raeann Giannattasio (5:17.98), sixth; pole vault, Marlboro’s Alicia Zhou (9-6), fourth; shot put, Howell’s Stephanie Bock (39-5½), third; and 4×400, Howell’s Alanna Baker, Megan Barreto, Amanda Verdoni and Victoria Caufield (4:16.52) fourth, and Colts Neck’s O’Horo, Sarah Elice, Julie Saffaye and Giannattasio (4:19.14), sixth.
Next up are the NJSIAA sectionals at the Bennett complex. Central Jersey Group II and III (Colts Neck and Freehold) are Feb. 5. Central Jersey Group I and IV (Freehold Township, Manalapan and Marlboro) is Feb. 12, and South Jersey Group IV (Howell) is Feb. 13.
The group championships are Feb. 19 and 20.