By Warren Rappleyea
After a difficult spring campaign because of an injury, four Sayreville War Memorial High School hurdlers decided to extend their seasons and finished sixth nationally June 28 at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Seniors Benjamin Aidoo and Jordan Patterson, junior John Smierzynski and sophomore Abdullani Adeyemo combined for a season-best 1:01.48 in the 4×110-meter shuttle hurdles in Greensboro, with Aidoo turning in a sub-14-second split.
“We weren’t really satisfied with the way our season went,” said Patterson, who will continue his track career at LaSalle University next season. “Since this was Ben’s and my last year, we really wanted to go out on a high note. It was an incredible competition.”
The four had high hopes coming into this season, but Aidoo pulled a hamstring muscle in April, which kept them out of several competitions. When Aidoo returned, it took a while for him to round into shape.
“It’s so tough to come back from an injury that happens early in the season,” Bombers coach Joe Slazik said. “You want to jump in right away and at the same time you don’t want to push too hard and miss the season. Ben worked very hard to get back and overcome the tentativeness.”
Aidoo said it took a full month for him to recover and it was a disappointing way for his senior year to end. He thanked his teammates for forging ahead once he returned to form. Aidoo plans to continue his career at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he received a scholarship and is hoping to move on to a four-year school afterward.
“It was overwhelming,” Aidoo said of his experience at the national event. “We had a great experience doing it, and we ended the season with our best time.”
With the season winding down, the four approached Slazik and asked if they could enter the East Coast Relays in late May in Randolph to try and get a qualifying time. The coach approached athletic director Lynn Taylor, who agreed to enter them. The four finished fifth overall in 1:03.40 to gain entry to the nationals.
They then began working out under the tutelage of Sayreville girls coach Jerry Carney, a standout hurdler during his high school days with the Bombers. Carney originally encouraged all four to become hurdlers. Together, they worked on technique, timing and handoffs to prepare for the national event.
Since Sayreville did not officially sponsor the trip to North Carolina, the four competed as the Sayreville Track Club. Patterson’s and Smierzynski’s fathers drove the boys to the event.
Aidoo, who also qualified in the 100 meters, ran that event in the morning, and he finished 18th. Four hours later, he was back with his teammates for the shuttle hurdles.
“I wouldn’t say we were nervous — we were just ready,” said Smierzynski, who is Carney’s nephew. “It was a day we’ll always remember because we did it together. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our coaches and our AD. During the season, we had some injuries, there was a lot of rain and we just couldn’t get going. But we stuck together and accomplished something good.”