Colts Neck boys win Group III indoor championship


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By Tim Morris

To win a state championship, it takes the unexpected as well as the expected.

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Colts Neck High School’s boys track and field team got a little of both Feb. 20 and captured the NJSIAA Group III indoor track and field state championship at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.

The Cougars topped Pennsauken High School by 11 points, 34-23. The competition, however, was much closer.

Colts Neck head coach Jim Schlentz noted that his club came into the meet as the favorite on paper. However, when Pennsauken’s sprinters scored more points than expected in the 400- and 55-meter dashes, it put the Cougars in a hole.

“We had to gain points somewhere,” Schlentz said.

Jordan Brannan (4:22.2) and Zach Csipkay (4:25.0) gave the Cougars 10 important points in the 1,600, where they finished third and fourth, respectively.

The Cougars unexpectedly gained points in the high jump.

Ryan Tompkins came into the competition with a personal best of 6-2. He would leave it as the state champions with a new personal best of 6-6. He won by being clean at 6-4 and 6-6, clearing the bar on his first attempt. Neptune High School’s Rhashawn Jenkins-Powell also did 6-6, but he made it on his second attempt to give the tiebreaker to Tompkins.

If Tompkins was a surprise, Pat Bohn’s fifth-place showing was a shock, according to Schlentz.

The high jump competition started at 6-0, and Bohn’s personal best was 5-10. Yet, he made 6-0 on his first attempt, which was good enough for fifth place and two valuable point.

“We were back in the game,” Schlentz said.

With Pennsauken favored to go first or second in the 4×400, the Cougars needed at least 10 points in the 3,200 to secure the win. Brannan, who had already run the 1,600, was going to have to beat competitors who were not doubling. It was a tall task, but the junior welcomes challenges. In a gutsy performance, Brannan hung with the leaders and found enough sprinting in his legs over the last 400 meters to win the race in a personal best of 9:19.60.

Brannan, who had been frustrated in the early part of the season by not picking up wins, is now a state champion, joining such Colts Neck distance-running luminaries as Craig Forys, Jorge Ventura, David Gaines and Mark Leininger.

Anthony Russo gave the Cougars a security blanket by running fifth (9:30.82).

The 12 points Brannan and Russo earned gave Colts Neck a 34-23 lead with just the 4×400. Even if Pennsauken won the relay, they would end up a point short. As it turned out, Pennsauken was disqualified in the 4×400, making the margin of victory deceptive.

On Feb. 19, the Group IV state meet was also held in Toms River, and Freehold Township High School’s Ciara Roche and Jake Konig remained undefeated with their triumphs.

Roche took the girls 1,600 in 4:57.63. She’ll look to win her first Meet of Champions title Feb. 27 back at the Bennett complex.

The day after her Group IV championship, Roche ran the Girls High School Mile at the New York Roadrunners Millrose Games at the new Balance Center in New York, New York. She ran a personal best of 4:54.17, finishing seventh.

Anyone finishing in the top six in their events at the group meet moved on to the MOC.

Howell High School’s Stephanie Bock threw a personal best 41-9¼ in finishing third in the shot put. It was her first throw over 40 feet this winter.

Antoinette Gyles of Marlboro High School took fifth place with a throw of 38-2½. Marlboro’s Kwaku Amponsah is headed back to Toms River after finishing third in the boys 55-meter hurdles (7.82).

Sprinter Monica Heil, who lives in Manalapan and attends St. John Vianney High School, was second in the 400 (57.97), fourth in the 55 (7.39) and anchored the second-place 4×400 relay team (4:09.3) in the Non-Public A championship meet Feb. 20.

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