By Wayne Witkowski
Dan Kellett ran a school-record time of 6.70 to finish sixth in the 55-meter run that highlighted Jackson Memorial High School’s boys’ indoor track and field team at the Shore Conference championships Jan. 27 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.
The performance further boosted coach Steve Theobald’s outlook for the approaching state meets.
Jackson Memorial’s 4×400 relay was the school’s only other medalist, finishing third in a season-best 3:35.17 behind Christian Brothers Academy (3:33.39) and Barnegat High School (3:33.69). Theobald shook up the lineup, with Brendan Sweet leading off instead of anchoring the team for the first time this season. He was followed by Ross Delhagen, Tyler Rasinski and Tom Delmonte, who anchored the relay team for the first time. Rasinski, a junior, was new to the senior-laden lineup and replaced Chris Kossman, a junior who ran on the team through the season but was unavailable because he had just run the 1,600 in a personal-best time of 4:50.52.
That relay with Kossman ran 3:35.78 for second place in the Ocean County championships and 3:39.96 for third place in the Ocean County Relays earlier in January. Jackson Memorial as a team finished second to Toms River High School North in the county championships and third in the county relays behind Toms River North and Jackson Liberty High School, which had 41 points to the Jaguars’ 40.
Sweet also ran the 400 meters at the Shore Conference meet, finishing ninth in 52.86.
“We’re right on par,” Theobald said. “This is a different group to improve and to drop times and if we hit it right in two weeks, we’ll be right there.”
The NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III meet starts 9 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Bennett complex.
The team had a warmup meet Jan. 30 when most of its members competed in the Morris County Coaches Meet at the Ocean Breeze facility in Staten Island, New York. The team is off the rest of the week because of school exams.
For this team to perform well, it again will rely on its seniors. Distance runner Ryan Rafferty was a catalyst to last year’s team that swept the NJSIAA Group III Relays, the Ocean County Championships and Ocean County Relays and finished second in the Central Jersey, Group III sectional. The Jaguars were sixth in the group meet. Rafferty, who went on a college career at Monmouth University, was seventh at the NJSIAA Indoor Track and Field Meet of Champions in the 3,200 meters in 4:19.0.
It’s a team that has its quirks. Steven Gold, who runs in the hurdles behind Delmonte and Jordan Caldwell, who finished third and fourth in the county meet, also is a leading bowler on the school’s perennially solid boys’ bowling team.
Devyn Lee, a senior who has high jumped 6-2 to win the gold in the county championships and cleared the same height for third place in the Group III Relays, topped off at 5-10 to finish in eighth place in the Shore Conference meet. He was one of five jumpers to hit that height behind a group of four who hit or surpassed 6-0.
Theobald feels Dan Claudeo is one of the best in Group III in the 800, where he ran a personal best 2:04, and in the 1,600, where his top time is 4:38. He ran 10:18.26 for 18th place in the 3,200 meters at the Shore Conference Meet.
Teammate Jeffrey Stewart ran a personal-best of 10:03 for 11th place in the 3,200 at the Shore Conference meet.
Kellett should be a force in the 55 meters, where he also finished fourth in the Ocean County Championships in 6.82.
Theobald said he’ll also rely on shot puter Mitch Mills, who hit a personal best of 46-0 at the Ocean County Relays for fifth place but needs to get his throws back to that distance. Mills threw 43-11 for 13th place at the Shore Conference meet. He reached 45-1¼ inches in the Group III Relays for fifth place and was seventh in the Ocean County Championships with a throw off 44-9½.
Mike Schoener, who showed outstanding skills and scoring ability for Jackson Memorial’s boys’ soccer team last fall, is back in action in the sprint events after recovering from an injury suffered two weeks ago.
Another athlete of interest from Jackson Township in the Shore Conference meet was Jackson Liberty shot puter Danielle Notarfrancesco, who threw 46-8½ for second place. She won the Group III Relays with a throw of 43-0.
Notarfancesco finished fourth in the shot put at last year’s NJSIAA indoor Meet of Champions with a throw of 44-3.