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Central Jersey winner Roche headed to Millrose Games

By Tim Morris

Winning championships isn’t all that the indoor track and field season has been about for Freehold Township High School’s Ciara Roche.

Yes, it’s nice to have won the county, conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV gold medals in the 1,600-meter run and to have run fast (4:51.86 for 1,600 meters and 4:57.69 for the full mile). But for Roche, it’s even better to run the Girls High School Mile in the famed New York Roadrunners Millrose Games.

“It’s what we’ve been working for all year,” the Patriots’ senior said. “I hope to perform well.”

Roche got the word last week that she will be included in the high school race Feb. 20 at the New Balance Armory in New York, New York.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Roche said.

The last Freehold Regional High School District runner to compete in the high school mile at Millrose was Manalapan High School’s Robby Andrews. He won the Boys High School Mile in 2009. He currently runs professionally for Adidas and is ranked No. 2 in the country in the 1,500/mile.

Roche has some fond memories of the Armory. She ran her indoor school mile record 4:57.69 there in the Millrose qualifier last month. It’s also where she won a New Balance Indoor Nationals championship with the Patriots’ 4×800 relay team and All-American honors in the Distance Medley Relay.

Having an idea from the Millrose qualifier what the race is all about, Roche said she is working on her start.

“I have to get off the line better,” she said.

Roche heads to Millrose in peak form and riding a wave of victories that included the 800-1,600 double at the Central Jersey Group IV Championships held Feb. 12 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.

Roche remained undefeated in championship 1,600 races with a pedestrian (for her) 5:08.20. There was a reason for that — she was going to come back later in the meet and run the 800.

“I held back in the 1,600 because I wanted to get a good time [in the 800],” she said.

She won the 800 in 2:16.15.

“I’m pretty excited about that [time],” Roche said.

State sectional championships

Roche wasn’t the only distance runner from the district to remain perfect in the championships races (county, conference, state sectional) this winter. Freehold Township’s Jake Konig and Howell High School’s Niahm Hayes remained undefeated in their respective 3,200 races.

Konig continued his great indoor campaign, posting his fastest time of the season at 9:27.85 to win the 3,200 race. His teammate, Nicholas Ackerman, was fifth in 9:42.63.

Hayes ran on Feb. 13 at the South Jersey Group IV meet in Toms River. The junior won her first NJSIAA sectional title during the cross-country season. She now has the indoor sectional to go with it, cruising to her championship in 11:11.61.

Roche, Hayes and Konig will run for Group IV state championships Feb. 19 in Toms River.

It took a top-six finish at the sectional meets to advance to the group championships.

The girls advancing in Central Jersey Group IV included Marlboro High School’s Danielle Spano, fifth in the 400 (1:00.83); Freehold Township’s Erin Bertscha, fourth in the 800 (2:23.16); Manalapan High School’s Kiera Nealon, fourth in the 1,600 (5:14.75); Marlboro’s Alicia Zhou, third in the pole vault (9-6); and Marlboro’s Antoinette Gyles, fifth in the shot put (36-5½).

In South Jersey Group IV, Howell’s Stephanie Bock was second in the shot put with a new personal best (39-11¼).

Boys advancing out of Central Jersey Group IV were Marlboro’s Kwaku Amponsah, third in the 55 hurdles (8.03); Freehold Township’s Chris Cardace, sixth in the 800 (2:00.69); and Freehold Township’s Adrian Barajas, third in the high jump (6-0).

From South Jersey Group IV, Howell’s David Galarza was fourth in the 800 (51.78), Bill Bajohr placed sixth in the 800 (2:00.30) and the 4×400 relay of Bajohr, Simas Glebavicius, Alex Behan and Galarza finished sixth in 3:36.69.

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