By Tim Morris
Matawan Regional High School’s Thomas Kalieta and Christian Brothers Academy’s (CBA) Drake Anzano have assured themselves a special place in their school’s track and field history.
Both were winners at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions (MOC) June 8 held at Central Regional High School.
Kalieta, a junior, became the first Huskies sprinter to win an MOC final, and he didn’t stop at one. After taking the 400 meters in school-record time, he came back within an hour to win the 200.
The Huskies have had a great tradition of sprinters, led by Erison Hurtault, who was a 2012 Olympian for Dominica in the 400.
“It’s got to be No. 1,” Matawan head coach Sam Turner said when asked where Kalieta’s achievement ranked in Matawan history.
Turner would know — he’s been coaching Matawan track and field for 33 years.
“We’ve had so many kids come close, but he’s the first.” Turner said.
Turner was not surprised by Kalieta’s double triumph.
“We saw every week that his time was dropping,” Turner said. “We brought him along slowly. We didn’t run him in a whole lot of races.”
Carteret High School’s Taj Burgess had gotten the best of Kalieta at the state sectional and group championships. But in each race, Kalieta had drawn closer. By the MOC, he knew how to beat Burgess in the 400.
“The last 200 is [Kalieta’s] strength,” Turner said. “He knew if he could stay close to [Burgess], he could beat him.”
Kalieta did just that and ran down the Carteret sprinter the last half of the race to claim the MOC title in a school-record time of 47.83.
Riding the momentum of his historic 400 win, Kalieta came back to win the 200 in another school-record time (21.57).
Kalieta’s day wasn’t done after his double gold. He won a third medal in the 4×400, teaming with Thomas Williams, Aliem Shaw and Bryce Lyew to finish eighth (3:21.76).
Turner pointed out that his sprint standout will not rest on his laurels.
“Thomas knows he has things to work on,” Turner said. “He knows he has to get stronger. After he gets some rest, he’ll get back in the weight room.”
Anzano wants to have his name mentioned with CBA’s greats, and he assured that by becoming the Colts’ first back-to-back 1,600 champion.
Anzano was afraid that he had let Hillsborough High School’s Brandon Tubby get away. Running near the front of the pack throughout the race, Anzano kept his eye on West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South’s Tim Bason.
When the bell lap began and Anzano moved ahead of the pack, much to his surprise, Tubby was gone, he said.
Tubby had built a 25- to 30-meter lead while the Colt was focusing on others. Anzano, the defending champion, was not about to give the race away.
“At 300 [meters remaining], I built [speed] up,” the Colts’ junior said. “I said it’s time to race.”
Showing the last-lap kick that brought him the MOC title last year, Anzano flew around the last turn into the lead and majestically sped away from the field to run his personal best of 4:08.96.
“This solidifies what I can do,” he said. “I knew it would take a fast time to win. I knew I could run a 4:10 and lose.”
Anzano lives in Toms River and noted that he was running on his home turf, which provided him with further motivation to win.
Following his triumph, Anzano remarked that it feels pretty great to win two in a row. He mentioned the likes of Mike Mazzacarro, Mike McClemens and Blaise Ferro and that he wants to follow in the vaunted CBA tradition and become one of the program’s greats.
Two Matawan athletes were runners-up: Dave Alston in the boys high jump, clearing 6-6, and Sam Anderson in the girls 800, clocking 2:12.63.
Top eight finishers at the MOC earned medals, and there were several others from the area who closed their seasons with memorable performances.
CBA’s Mike Zupko finished third behind Kalieta and Burgess in the 400, running 48.27. Zupko, Tim Jacoutot, Brendan Bodisch and Andrew Canale were fifth in the 4×400 (3:20.61).
Middletown High School South’s Dan Mastropaolo took fourth in the javelin (191-2).
Middletown High School North’s Jenna Reid brought home a pair of medals. She took fifth in the 400 intermediate hurdles (1:01.56) and ran on the record-setting, fourth-place 4×400 team with Kelli Molnar, Kayla Pfleger and Kerri Powers. Their time of 3:55.76 established a new school record.
St. John Vianney High School sprinters Katie DiFrancesco and Monica Heil medaled, with DiFrancesco coming in fifth in the 200 (25.26) and Heil placing seventh in the 400 (57.21).