Fittingly, the American flag flies in the background as Nottingham High’s boys track & field team celebrates its Central Jersey Group III title at Jackson Liberty on Memorial Day weekend.
By Rich Fisher
May 27: It’s hard to tell what the bigger story was at the Central Jersey Group III Track & Field sectional championship this past Friday and Saturday.
Was it Nottingham winning the team title at Jackson Liberty High School? Or was it the Stars’ Dana Ridley winning four gold medals?
Let’s just say one big story led to the other, with the saga of Shamali Whittle thrown in for good measure. The freshman won four medals himself on the day – two golds, a bronze and a fourth-place as the Stars amassed 74 points to 56-1-1/2 for West Windsor-Plainsboro North. Hamilton was a close third with 54-1/2 points, and Hamilton Township school had a total of 39 boys and girls advance to this week’s Group III meet with top-six finishes.
“No one at Nottingham – and I’m not sure in county history – has ever won four golds in a sectional meet,” Nottingham coach Jon “Big Dawg” Adams aid. “I have been at Nottingham for 32 years and I have never seen anything like what this kid did this weekend.
“And Shamali Whittle being just a freshman winning four medals. Has THAT ever been done? The only dude I ever remember winning medals like that was Adrian Sanderson from Ewing.”
Ridley stepped up when Nottingham needed him most, as junior sprinter Louie Akpadago suffered a hamstring injury on Friday and could not run effectively. Akpadago is one of the top sprinters in the state, but in his absence Ridley stepped in and took first place in a school record time of 10.50 in the 100. His gold medal and Whittle’s fourth-place in the 400 hurdles (in 55.75) gave Nottingham its only 14 points on Friday.
When Saturday’s action started it did not look good for the Northstars. They came up empty in the 3200, long jump and shot to fall further behind pace-setting WWPN, 48-14.
Suddenly, Nottingham caught fire. Alix Oge (14.39) and Whittle finished 1-2 in the 110 high hurdles “to get us back in the mix.” That was followed by a victory in the 4×100 behind Oge, Whittle, Judeson Mirac and Ridley, who ran a 42.28. Ridley (21.77) and Whittle finished 1-3 in the 200 meters to draw Nottingham closer, and the Stars moved ahead by winning the 4×400 in 3:25.58 behind Whittle, Emilio Selesnick, Jalen Corbin and Ridley at anchor.
Providing more key points were Dylan John and Zion Bethea (5-6 in javelin) and Kemoy Pink and Cory Louis Jean (5-6 in the pole vault).
It was also a banner day for the Hornets and especially Javon Porter, who medaled in four events. The junior won the long jump in 22-10-3/4 and set the West record by taking first in his preliminary meet in the 100 (10.54) before finishing third in the finals (10.65). He took fourth in the 200, and anchored the second-place 4×100 relay team that also included Bryon Hearst, Kevin Boswell and Brandon Muir.
The Hornets’ Richmond Shasha and Ahmad White finished 2-5 in the long jump, Shasha and DeAngelo Hill were 2-3 in the triple jump, White was sixth in the high jump and Valentin Augustin finished sixth in both the 110 and 400 hurdles.
For Steinert, Terris Burton continued his mastery in the 400 hurdles with a first-place run of 53.73
Savion “Son of Cooperazzi” Cooper flexed his muscles by finishing second in the discus and fourth in the shot, while Matt Coulanges was fifth in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump. Jah’Mier Frederick was sixth in the triple jump.
The Spartans also had a nice day in the relays as the 4×400 finished second behind Miles Smith, Myles Pulley, Josh Klingele and Burton; and the 4×800 took sixth behind Hagen Delakowski, Klingele, Dante Zamichieli and Emanuel Obika.
“Hamilton’s jumpers had a really good day and Steinert also had some nice performances,” Adam said. “If we ever combined our programs, my God we’d never lose!”
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Several township girls also had strong days, starting with Hamilton’s Isjae Wright. The Rider-bound senior, who owns both school records in the triple and long jump, won the triple with a leap 36-7-1/4.
Also faring well in the jumps were Abigail Pfaff and Malma Toure, who finished 4-5 in the high jump, while Mary Ruble was fifth in the pole vault.
A pair of juniors showed their strength in the shot as Gloria Owusu and Tajanac Wrenn finished 3-4, while another junior, Amanda Harding, took sixth in the javelin.
For Steinert, Emily “The Diz Kid” Diszler was third in discus and sixth in shot, while Meredith Schroeder took fifth in high jump.
Nottingham’s Kiernan Bailey was third in the triple jump, while Isabelle Miranda was sixth in the 100 hurdles.