By Wayne Witkowski
Dan Kaba and his Jackson Memorial High School outdoor tack and field teammates head into the Ocean County championships at Central Regional High School May 12 (4 p.m.) and 14 (10 a.m.) coming off an impressive third straight Ocean County Relay championship that went down to the final event.
Trailing by a point to Southern Regional High School in the team standings going into the final 4×400-meter relay, the Jaguars needed to finish ahead of Southern Regional in that event. They did that with a second-place finish in 3:27.60 — their best time of the season by a full second — to Southern Regional’s fifth-place finish in 3:32.72.
“This certainly gave us a high morale boost. We’ll have our heads held high as we head into the county meet and the meets after that,” said Kaba, a senior who will continue his track and field career in college in the fall at Stevens Institute of Technology.
After the Ocean County championships comes the Shore Conference meet May 21 and then the state meets starting May 27.
Kaba gave the 4×400 relay team the lead after his baton exchange on the opening leg. He finished his day after running on a winning 3×400 intermediate hurdles relay, as well as two second-place finishers — including a 4×100 shuttles hurdles that clocked 1:04.60 — and the 4×800 team that finished third in 8:26.30.
Jackson Memorial amassed 76 points to runner-up Southern Regional (67).
“I felt very confident,” Kaba said about going into the final relay. “I knew we had a very strong 4×400 where the guys were running good 51-second and 52-second times,”
“He ran an awesome leadoff in the 4×100 shuttle hurdles and in the 3×400 intermediate hurdles, he had the best time of the day by anyone (56.55). And [teammate] Brendan Sweet had the second best time in 57.24, and [Kaba] gave us the lead in his opening leg in the 4×400,” coach Steve Theobald said of that final event.
The shuttle hurdles are run individually, and the times of the three entries are added up. Tom Delmonte was the third hurdler, running in 1:02.2.
Delmonte was a last-minute replacement when four different members of the team were unable to compete for different reasons.
“It was a really nice team performance in which a lot of guys filled in well,” Theobald said. “It was a great all-around team effort in which we scored in 13 of 16 events, which tells me we have a really deep team, especially after the guys who filled in. We’re not full of stars but good quality caliber athletes, led by a diverse senior class of sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers. We had only one first-place finish. That speaks for our depth.”
Prior to final relay, Kaba and Sweet, a junior, each ran on three other relays, and Ryan Rafferty, a senior headed to Monmouth University in the fall, and sophomore Ross Delhagen ran on two others. But Kaba said he never allowed fatigue to kick in.
“I just hung loose and stayed warm,” he said. “I took my mind off what I had to do and the hard work, which lessens the fatigue.”
“They all ran personal bests or close to it in that relay,” Theobald said.
Kaba combined with Steve Gold, Jordan Caldwell and Delmonte for second place (1:04.60) in the 4×100 shuttle hurdles and ran on the third-place 4×100 relay with James Cook, Mike Schoener and Vin Lee in 44.60.
Other second-place finishes came from Jackson Memorial’s 4×200 relay of Sweet, Delhagen, Cook and Schoener in 1:32.94 and its 4×1,600 relay of Dan Claudeo, Clayton Engle, Jeff Stewart and Rafferty in 18:49.56.
Picking up valuable points with third-place finishes for Jackson Memorial were the 4×800 relay (8:26.30) of Logan Lewis, Justin Carlton, Chris Kossman and Tyler Rasinski and the distance medley (10:56.77) of Claudeo, Rasinski, Stewart and Rafferty.
Lee also came through individually for points by finishing third in the long jump with a leap of 20-4¼ and sixth in the high jump at 5-6 behind teammate Mike Nelson’s 5-8 measure for fourth place.
The Jaguars’ Jonathan Brust and Kyle Whelan both cleared 11-0 in the pole vault but finished fifth and sixth, respectively, based on misses.
Jackson Liberty High School’s Andrew McCarthy was sixth in the discus with a throw of 128-7.
Jackson Memorial’s girls finished third in the team standings with 50 points behind their winning 4×1,600 relay (23.10.86) and distance medley (12:56.37), and Jackson Liberty was four points behind in fifth place.
Jackson Memorial also got third-place finishes from its 4×800 relay (9:54.27) and 4×400 relay (4:16.42). Its 4×100 shuttle hurdles finished fourth in 1:14.53.
Thrower Danielle Notarfrancesco led Jackson Liberty with second-place measures in the shot put (42-7¾) and the discus (110-1), where Jackson Memorial’s Alexis Schuldes was third (108-6). Katie Lamotta was second in the triple jump for Jackson Liberty at 32-4¼, and teammate Aniya Russell was third in the long jump at 16-5.
Jackson Liberty also got a pair of third-place finishes in the 4×100 relay (52.42) and the 4×200 relay (1:51.42) and fourth-place finishes in the 4×800 relay (10:18.50) and sprint medley relay (4:43.04).
Jerneice Morton (4-6) and Alaine Pobok (4-4) were fourth and sixth, respectively, in the high jump. Caitlin Veneziano cleared 8-6 in the pole vault, and Allie Pommerencke was timed at 1:11.93 in the 400 hurdles. Both were sixth place.