By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Princeton High School boys have had plenty of success in track and field over the last three decades.
But over that time a sectional indoor championship has eluded the Little Tigers. That all changed this past weekend when Princeton used the depth of its distance runners to edge past West Windsor-Plainsboro High North to capture the North Jersey, Section 2 Group III sectional title in Toms River.
“Everybody was thrilled,” Princeton coach Ben Samara said. “It’s been almost 30 years in track without a sectional. To get it is a once in a generation type of thing.”
The Little Tigers were led by the efforts of their runners in the distance events to earn the championship. Alex Roth finished second in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200; William Hare was third in the 3,200 and fourth in the 1,600; Alex Ackerman was sixth in the 3,200; Nicholas Delaney finished second in the 800 meters; and Cy Watsky was fifth in 800 meters to lead the way for Princeton.
“We had a lot of success across the board but it be would crazy to say the distance team wasn’t the backbone,” Samara said. “Alex and Will brought this home in the mile and two mile. They locked it up with their performance in the two mile, which was astonishing. The things Coach (Jim) Smirk does with the distance crew is astonishing. Roth and Hare and Nick Delaney and Cy Watsky in the 800, when you look at the points the distance crew did the job.”
In addition to the points the distance runners picked up, Alex Solopenkov was third in the 55 meters; Theodore Tel was sixth in the high jump; and Princeton finished fourth in the 4×400 relay.
“We got good contributions from places where at the beginning of the thing maybe we thought we might not get something,” Samara said. “We got six points in the 55 dash and picked up a point in the high jump. I thought we were very well-rounded and did a fantastic job.
“You could see that indoors our track team has had no sectional titles since 1989. I think our cross country program and distance kids bring that winning pedigree and help raise the level for everyone.”
Roth didn’t win an event but his two seconds led the way in the team scoring.
“Alex Roth just got out-leaned in the two mile,” Samara said. “We’ve talked about fighting for every inch in every race and he and the kid ran so hard. They are the top two seeds in Group 3. It really paid off for Alex.
“We talk so much about having the right frame of mind and embracing the pressure. There were so many times we could have lost the meet. We got in a hole early and point by point we slowing dug ourselves out of the hole. All the stuff we did the previous week paid off.”
The next step for the Little Tigers will be to see which athletes can get through to the Meet of Champions when they compete at the state Group III meet.
“I think we can get a bunch of people through and then focus on outdoors and then getting back here again,” Samara said. “We have almost every single person coming back next year. It’s been 27 years since our last sectional title and we have a shot at repeating next year depending on where we will be as far as what section. I think we will be competitive wherever we are.”
West Windsor-Plainsboro North was second at the meet, just seven points behind the Little Tigers. Kacper Rzempoluch finished first in the pole vault at 13-feet and Miles Fye-Moore was first in the 55-meter dash in 6.82 to lead the way for the Knights.
“I thought the guys all came together and we had a couple individuals that overachieved,” North coach Brian Gould said. “They wanted to compete for a team title and we did better than we anticipated we would. Overall we had a really good day for all the guys.
“We knew Kacper in pole vault would be in the top three. This is the first real big meet he has won. We had three guys in the shot put that were all seeded outside the top 10 and all three finished in the top 10. The guys in the 400 and 4×4 did what we expected them to do. John Owens did better than we may have expected and so did CJ (Markisz) in the dash.
Owens fourth in the 400 meters and fifth in the 55 meter hurdles, while Markisz was fifth in 55 meters. Roland Anderson was third in the shot put, Jahvon Jackson was sixth in the shot put, and Ted Yasson was eighth in the shot put. The 4×400 relay finished third.
“It is exciting,” Gould said of his team’s performance at the meet. “They competed well. We have a young team. Most of the guys who scored are underclassmen so that is exciting. I think it was a great experience to go and compete for a team championship and hopefully try to build on that in the spring.
“(Fye-Moore) probably surprised everyone but us. I mentioned to his spring track coach a week ago that he had a real good chance to win. All the guys on the team are hard workers. They have a great work ethic and push each other to be accountable. When guys do that on a consistent basis good things happen.”
WW-P South competed in the Central Jersey Group III meet. Tim Bason was second in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200. Xavier Smith finished third in the 55 hurdles. Sam Williams was fourth in the 3,200 and Dexter Benkard was sixth in the 3,200
Montgomery will compete in the CJ IV on Saturday.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor