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Cougars near finish line in strong indoor track and field season

By Jeff Appelblatt

Colts Neck High School’s track and field team has been winding down the indoor season strong.

Within the past few weeks, the boys have excelled in the NJSIAA Group III competition and in the Meet of Champions (MOC). Coach Jim Schlentz expected to see his athletes continue going strong at the Armory Track and Field Center in New York March 10-12 for the New Balance Indoor Nationals.

There was one thing that disappointed Colts Neck’s coach after a day, though.

“We lost to [Christian Brothers Academy (CBA)] again,” he said after his club finished second to one of his team’s local rivals more than an hour away from where the teams usually compete.

In the 4×1-mile relay, Matt Schaefer, Anthony Russo, Kevin Berry and Jordan Brannan worked together to get around the course quicker than each of their opponents — except CBA.

Schlentz wasn’t really that upset by the loss, as his team hit its main goal in the race.

“Our goal was to make it in the top six,” the coach said.

On top of that, the four runners set a Freehold Regional High School District record by finishing the race in 17:28.70 — shattering the old record of 18:03.34.

Brannan also put in one more All-American performance before leaving New York. The senior star finished No. 6 in the 2-mile run.

Schlentz has his plans set at this point, with the spring season approaching.

“We’ll train the rest of March [and] most of April, really,” the coach said. “We’re just going to trust all the work is going to pay off.”

Freehold Township

Stephen Staklinski may not dunk much while on the court at Freehold Township High School, but basketball coach Brian Golub wasn’t fazed when his top scorer decided to throw one down toward the end of the Patriots’ recent win against Sayreville War Memorial High School.

In fact, when Staklinski put the final thump down on the Bombers, Golub hoped it was a sign of good things to come.

“He’s a high-jumper,” the coach said, thinking about Staklinski’s spring athletics. “He better be able to get up and dunk the ball.”

While the dunk was likely more of an exclamation point on Freehold Township’s victory, it could also be seen as preparation for the track and field season, which the senior immediately got involved in when the basketball season was over.

The first need to jump this year came March 12 at the indoor nationals. Staklinski landed in fifth place when he peaked at 6-9 in the high jump.

The senior was the only one in action for Freehold Township in New York.

Track and field head coach Todd Briggs didn’t see the recent competition as a big one. He’s eager for the Penn Relays Apr. 27-29.

“We’re going to go to that relay the 28th of April. That’s the biggest meet you could possibly go to,” Briggs said, acknowledging that it’s been a few years since the Patriots qualified for the event. “The 4×800 relay is what we’ve been building for. Our goal [is to have ours] compete at the Penn Relays.”

For the season overall, however, Briggs isn’t in a rush to think too much about it.

“It’s a little early in the season for New Jersey schools,” he said.

Around May, Freehold Township’s coach hopes his team is nearing its top form.

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