By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Brian Gould knows John Owens will compete no matter what event he puts him in.
And not only will Owens compete, but there is always a pretty good chance he’ll win. The West Windsor-Plainsboro High North junior showed that last weekend when he captured a pair of events at the Central Jersey Group III meet, winning the 400-meter hurdles in 54.36 seconds and the long jump in 22-feet, ¾-inch. Owens also finished third in the triple jump.
“This is his second year on the team and he has had an excellent season,” said Gould, the WW-P North coach. “Last year and this year he is doing fantastic. He is our best guy in a number of events. The hurdles, the 400, long jump, triple jump and he is a big leg on all the relays.
“He is an excellent athlete and one of the great competitors that we have ever had. I have been coaching 16 years and he is one of the great competitors that I have seen in that all time.”
Owens came away with two sectional wins, joining a group of several other Packet-area performers to win sectional titles. In the Central Jersey Group IV meet, Montgomery’s Deandre Thomas won the long jump with a 22-foot, ¾-inch effort. In the CJ IV girls meet, Queen Devine of Montgomery won the 100-meter hurdles in 14.79 seconds, while the Cougars’ Hannah Taylor won the long jump in 18-feet, 10½-inches. Princeton’s Jackie Patterson won the 400 meters in 57.27 seconds.
For Owens, the two wins put a big bright star on what has been a breakout season.
“I like to say that is a strength I have to be able to jump and run and help the team out,” Owens said. “I try to get points for the team. I stated running the 100 and it turned into the 400 and then going into the long jump. One practice decided to long jump and I was pretty good at it.
“Sophomore year I didn’t do winter track and I noticed the difference this year from doing winter track. Last year I was asking how many points do I have. This year didn’t ask once. I knew what I was doing was helping the team win. Last year I was nowhere near as many points as this year. I didn’t know the improvement was that serious.”
Owens set the Knights’ school record for points in a season and will look to continue his good fortune this weekend at the state Group III meet.
“It is a good problem to have that he can do everything and I have to decide where to put him in a meet,” Gould said. “He is selfless. If I asked him to run four events and one was the mile and the others were events he had never done he would do it.
“I don’t like when I hear track is not a team sport. It is a team sport and he gets it. He puts the team before himself in every situation. He puts himself in situations for the team to be successful. He is a throw-back type. Not that he is the only one, but he is a special kid. We have had a lot of good ones and he is from the same mold as some of the great kids we had.”
Owens made great strides from his sophomore to junior track seasons. He plays football in the fall and credits his participation in winter track with making a big difference this spring.
“I didn’t notice it until the end of winter and beginning of spring,” Owens said. “I could see the growth in winter. I was running the same times as I was running last year in spring track. I came in and was running 49 and 50 in the 400 and 22 in 200 an then I long jumped 22-feet easy and I was like, ‘Wow this is different.’ Last year I was at 21-3 and this year I am at 22-3 and scratched 23-feet. I thank my coaches for all the weight train they put us through. I saw a lot of improvement.”
The 400 hurdles are where Owens had made the greatest improvement. It is not an easy event, but he has quickly adapted to the challenge.
“High school was when I was introduced to hurdles and the triple jump,” Owens said. “I had no idea what they were when I was in middle school. My coach told me that only the strongest people on the team can do the 400-meter hurdles. It is not like he was questioning my ability but it was like a sales pitch. Are you strong enough to do this? I tried it and was evidently pretty good at it.
“The first time I raced in the hurdles I fell at the last hurdle and went from first to sixth. I saw I had potential in the event and worked at it and with time improved my form and got better.”
The Knights finished fifth as a team at the CJ III meet. Kacper Rzempoluch was second in the pole vault, while Matthew Santamaria was fourth in the 3200 meters. CJ Markisz was fifth in the 400 hurdles, Miles Fye-Moore was sixth in 100 meters, Jahvon Jackson finished fifth in the shot put, and Atharv Kulkarni was sixth in the 800 meters. The Knights also finished fifth in the 4×800 relay and the 4×100 relay.
The WW-P North girls also competed in CJ III. The Knights finished 16th. Katrina Beske was third in the pole vault and North was sixth in the 4×800 relay.
At the CJ IV boys meet, Princeton finished fifth, while WW-P South was ninth and Montgomery finished 10th. Franklin won the team title.
For Princeton, Alex Roth was second in the 3200 meters and third in the 1600 meters. Will Hare finished third in the 3200 meters, while Paul Brennan was third in the discus. Theodore Tel was fourth in the long jump, Nick Birnie was third in the pole vault, and Cy Watsky was sixth in the 800 meters. Princeton was second in the 4×800 relay with the team of Nick Delaney, Jack Metzheiser, Alex Roth and Cy Watsky.
Xavier Smith of WW-P South finished second in the 400 meter hurdles and fifth in the 110 meter hurdles. The Pirates’ Tim Bason was second in the 1600 meters, while A’Nan Bridgett was third in the high jump. WW-P South was sixth in the 4×400 relay with the team of A’Nan Bridgett, Tim Bason, Dmytro Tymofyeyev and Xavier Smith.
For Montgomery, Thomas was second in the triple jump and Arjay Sarathy of Montgomery was fifth in the 3200 meters.
In the CJ IV girls meet, WW-P South was fourth, Montgomery sixth and Princeton finished seventh. South Brunswick was first.
For South, Kathryn Schoenauer was third in the 100-meter hurdles, fourth in the 400-meter hurdles, and third in the long jump. Edwina Gulama was fourth in the 200 meters and fifth in the 100 meters. Christina Rancan was second in the 1600 meters and second in the 800 meters. Kelsey Kobus finished sixth in the 3200 meters, while Bernadette Cao was fourth in the triple jump and sixth in the 400 hurdles. Alyssen Rivers was sixth in the javelin. The Pirates finished second in the 4×400 meters with Schoenauer, Brianna Hodges, Rancan and Gulama. They also won the 4×800 meters with Kavya Tummalapalli, Haley Rich, Tia Saade and Rancan.
For Montgomery, Devine was third in the triple jump, while Taylor was second in the high jump. Abrianna Barrett was sixth in the high jump and Crystalina Guo was fourth in the discus. Montgomery was fifth in the 4×100 meters and sixth in the 4×800
For Princeton, Patterson finished fourth in the 800 meters. Lou Mialhe finished second in the 3200 meters and fifth in the 1600 meters. Chloe Taylor was fourth in the 3200 meters. The Little Tigers also finished fourth in the 4×400 and third in 4×800.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor