By Wayne Witkowski
Matawan Regional High School’s David Alston and Thomas Kalieta carry the highest hopes for the boys indoor track and field team and Sam Anderson for the girls at the NJSIAA Group II championships Feb. 20 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.
They all did their part in winning efforts at the Central Jersey Group II Feb. 8 to help their respective teams, with Matawan winning the boys team title for the fourth straight year and the girls finishing second to Robbinsville High School.
“I’m real ecstatic about what we’ve done,” said Sam Turner, who coaches both teams. “I’m real happy with their effort.”
But Turner said his group meet qualifiers, like student-athletes around the state, have had their training affected by poor weather conditions.
At the section meet, Alston won the 55-meter hurdles with a personal best of 7.79, and he cleared 6-6 in the high jump, which was 2 inches shy of his personal best set in the Shore Conference meet. He won both events at the sectional. His high jump mark was 4 inches above anyone else in the other Group II sections.
Kalieta also had a pair of firsts in the 55 meters (6.67) and in the 400 (50.87). Bryce Lyew was fourth in the 400 (53.29).
The top six finishers advanced to the group meet.
Turner said Alston and Kalieta each will compete in their two events at the group meet.
Kalieta and Lyew will run on the 4×400 relay with Jacob Labinger and Ethan Goldenthal. They won the sectional meet with a season-best mark of 3:29.89. It was the best winning time in the four Group II sections.
Matawan scored in eight of 10 events to outpoint runner-up Rahway High School, 61.5-42.
Labinger was fifth in the pole vault, clearing 10-6, and Joshua Hona was sixth in the shot put with a throw of 41-8 while filling in capably for injured Donald Smalls.
“He’s been in the program four years and stepped up last year in the discus [for the outdoor season],” Turner said of Hona. “This says a lot about our program. Year after year, we get points where we don’t expect them.”
Turner looks forward to this group leading the Huskies in the outdoor season, during which Matawan has not lost a dual meet in 10 years.
For the girls, Anderson won the 400 meters in 58.39 and the 800 in 2:20.56 at the sectional meet.
“She hasn’t run a great time in the 800 and unless she turns it up a notch, that time will not be good enough [to win Group II],” Turner said, “I haven’t seen anything big there yet. She has to do a lot better.”
Matawan has two top girls in the Group II 55 meters, as Danielle Cross ran a winning, school-record time of 8.54 and teammate Emma Ellison was second in 8.76. Danielle Veliz was fifth in the 1,600 meters in 5:27.91. Veliza, Anderson, Cross and Delaena Largie ran 4:14.11 in the 4×400 relay for third place, and they’ll look to lower that time further in the group meet.
Isabelle Viggiano reached 8-6 in the pole vault, which put her in a two-way tie for fourth place, but she was placed seventh based on missed jumps and just missed being one of the six qualifiers.