Even as far back as the winter, Rich Refi kept saying that his Hillsborough High School girls’ track and field team had potential.
“If they run good races, they can medal,” Refi said on Jan. 22. He was referring to his winter runners at the time, but most of them continued running for Hillsborough for this spring outdoor season.
“There’s a lot of very good athletes that can score for us,” the coach said on May 7, discussing his spring runners.
On May 14 at Hillsborough High School, the site for the Somerset County championships, Refi’s Raiders lived up to their potential, winning the team title with 119 points.
Ridge High School finished a pretty close second with 109 points. But the next closest team, third-place Watchung Hills Regional High School, registered only 62 points.
The Raiders put on a virtuoso performance against their county rivals, recording 12 top three finishes out of 16 events en route to winning the title.
Junior Brielle Kelly placed first in the shot put event with a 40-5.25. Junior Jessica Sutter won the javelin contest with a 119-5.
Senior Symone Marsh, junior Shelsea Rigby and sophomore Kirstyn Schechter all posted second place finishes, in the discus, the 400-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash, respectively. Schechter, sophomore Sia Mahajan and senior Jennifer Tavares each placed third in various events.
Schechter, Hillsborough’s most versatile track athlete, registered three third place finishes, in the 200-meter dash, the 400-meter dash and the long jump. Tavares earned third place ribbons in two events, the 1600-meter run and the 3200-meter run.
Refi was spot on back on May 7. Hillsborough has a lot of athletes who can contribute in different competitions.
“I’d be remised to mention one girl but not another,” he said. “We have a lot of good individuals filling roles to aid the team.”
Most of those key contributors are not seniors, so these Raiders are coming of age even faster than expected. Last spring and this past winter, they struggled a little. But those repetitions prepared them to thrive in the spring of 2019.
“We had a pretty good team last year that was just very young,” Refi said. “Then we had a good indoor season. Then once outdoor comes you take the same team.”
Like most track and field coaches, Refi stresses the importance of running in as many seasons as possible for the school teams. Refi, and other track coaches, basically view the cross-country, winter track and spring track teams as one program, especially the winter and spring squads.
That’s why it was crucial, according to the Hillsborough coach, for so many of his runners to have participated over the winter.
“It’s very difficult to be competitive without having a winter track program,” he said. “Otherwise you’re just coming from behind.”
These Raiders are most definitely not coming from behind. They have already won the Skyland Conference’s Delaware Division, on May 7 at Hillsborough, and the Somerset County title.
But there are a lot of events left. Championship season is well underway in spring track across New Jersey.
Hillsborough’s next big event will be the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional meet on May 24 and 25 at Howell High School. Refi is confident that his team will perform well.
“I’m getting excited because we’ve won a couple trophies,” Refi said. “Hopefully the girls are excited about the rest of the season, too.”