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Allentown track program thriving this winter

PHOTO PROVIDED BY RICK SMITH
The Allentown High School distance medley team left to right Mike Heinz, Jake Bragger, Liam Murphy and Nate Somers celebrate finishing in first place at NJSIAA Group 3 Relay Championships that were held on Jan. 21.

It’s been a terrific winter season so far for both the Allentown High School boys’ and girls’ indoor track and field teams.

Each squad brought home the silver medal at the Mercer County Championships that were held on both Jan. 24 and 25 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River.

“We had a great couple of days,” said Allentown coach Rick Smith. “You want to see the kids progress and achieve their goals. They all put their blood and guts out there to help us do well. Very happy with all their efforts.”

Allentown saw many great individual performances at the meet on both sides, starting with senior Liam Murphy turning in a historic effort for the boys’ squad.

Murphy showed how special of a runner he is, said Smith by collecting up three first place finishes in the tournament.

The senior raced to victory in the 800 meter run, 1600 meter run and the 3200 meter run.

This past fall, Murphy won the the school’s first Meet of Champions state title in cross-country.

Even though he is a distance runner by trade, Murphy wanted to prove he could be a top competitor in the 800 meter run. Murphy did just that by rallying back to beat out West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North’s Luke Johnson for gold with a time of 1:57.34, which is a new school record.

“Not a lot of runners can do that,” Smith said on Murphy’s MCT performance. “He crushed all three of his races. Even though it doesn’t surprise me what he can accomplish, it still surprises me when he does it. Very proud of him.”

Teammate Mike Heinz took home bronze in the 800 meter run to give Allentown two top-three finishers in the race. The Redbirds also had two top-three finishers in the 1600 meter run with senior Nate Somer tallying in a third place finish.

Somers also placed seventh in the 3200 meter run.

Murphy, Heinz, Somers and Jake Bragger make up the Allentown distance medley relay team that placed first at the NJSIAA Group 3 Relay Championships on Jan. 21 with a time of 10.25.68.

The time is a new school and currently sits as the No. 4 best high school distance medley relay time in the entire nation.

Allentown girls’ sprint medley team of Jess Lyons, Daniela Johnson, Brenna McCormick and Andie Murray also took home gold at the Group 3 relay championships.

Senior Dominic Allen put together a strong performance for the Allentown boys’ squad in the field at the county tournament.

The Matawan Regional High School transfer placed second in the high jump with a mark of six feet and four inches. Allen added a third place finish in the long jump, with teammate Cody Mulryne finishing right behind in the competition in fourth place for Allentown.

Smith believes the boys’ team will have a good chance at winning a sectional and state championship this season.

On the girls’ side, Lyons was incredible for the Redbirds, placing first in both the 400 meter dash and the 800 meter run. The sophomore clocked the 400 meter dash in under a minute with a time of 59.95.

Murray competed hard to score points in three races for the Redbirds. Allentown took the top-two spots in the 800 meter dash with Murray taking home silver. The sophomore followed that up with a third place finish in the 1600 meter dash and gutted out a fifth place finish in the 3200 meter dash.

Sophomore Hannah Swale grabbed two second-place finishes for the Redbirds in the field, grabbing the silver medal in both the high jump and triple jump competitions.

Swale’s triple jump mark of 34’6 was a personal best.

Allentown finished second behind the prep school power, The Lawrenceville School.

“Our girls’ team is the best public school in the county,” Smith said. “We have a lot of versatile kids on our team. It’s a lot of fun having a lot of talented kids that all work hard.”

As both squads prepare to compete in the sectional tournament in two weeks, Smith is very happy with where the program is at on both sides and believes the culture of the Allentown track and field program is a big part of the success each team has had this season.

“You try to build a culture and continue to set expectations,” Smith said. “We just keep reloading with a lot of talented kids that want to work hard and have fun.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports

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