By Jeff Appelblatt
The boys from Colts Neck High School weren’t able to take over the top three spots in the 3,200-meter run at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions (MOC) the way they were able to in the Group III championships. But when all was said and done Feb. 25 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, it was the same Colts Neck senior that stood alone at the top.
For the second straight MOC, Colts Neck senior Jordan Brannan won the 3,200-meter run. Colts Neck coach Jim Schlentz was able to remember Brannan’s lap breakdown the day after the race.
“Princeton [High School] is our big rival. [Brannan] and Alex Roth [from Princeton] are friends. They were running together and talking the first few laps,” Schlentz said. “But [Brannan] gradually grinded. He picked it up a little more each lap.”
Brannan finished the 3,200 in first (9:08.32), and Roth finished behind him (9:10.09).
Schlentz compared Brannan this year to last.
“He was at least six seconds quicker than last year,” Colts Neck’s coach said about his winning senior. “Last year, he was the underdog, so pressure was low and he could do what he needed to do. This year was harder, and he had a lot of similar guys running against him.”
It didn’t matter who was running against the Iona College-bound student-athlete. No matter what targets were on Brannan’s back, he was able to stay ahead of everyone from start to finish.
Schlentz saw Brannan win the race last year, and there were 14 other times in Colts Necks’ 19-year history that the team’s coach saw a Cougar win at the MOC.
“I get excited about every single one,” Schlentz said.
Schlentz’s primary concern is preparing his student-athletes for college.
“I want the transition [from high school to college] to be very smooth,” he said. “My job is to deliver them to the colleges healthy, and I need to make sure they’re hungry for college. I want them to do well. As they’ve gotten better, I’ve made sure training was more college-like.
“Without the right preparation, without the higher focus, college would be totally different than high school [was].”
With the way Schlentz has gone about it, he expects his seniors to fit right into the swing of things next year at their respective colleges. Brannan will be at Iona, Anthony Russo will be at the University of Pennsylvania and Kevin Berry will be at Princeton University.
“My kids will do real well in college,” Colts Necks’ coach said. “They’re excited.”
There’s still much more running to do in their final months of high school, and Schlentz is confident his athletes will give it their all until the end.
“They want to do well this year,” he said. “Jordan [Brannan] will be trying to make it as an All-American.”
Schlentz will be rooting for each of his seniors, including Ryan Tompkins, who placed fourth at the MOC high jump competition, the rest of their high school careers and beyond.