Hamilton West senior Barry Ndeh holds up the gold medal he won in the high jump at Saturday’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Championships at the Bennett Center in Toms River. Ndeh jumped 6-2 to advance to the Groups meet.
By Rich Fisher
Feb. 4: It was the day after Groundhog Day, but it was kind of like the movie Groundhog Day for Ashley Navarro.
After winning the 800 meters and taking second in the 400 at the Mercer County Track & Field Championships on Jan. 28, the Steinert High senior provided an instant replay at Saturday’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III sectionals at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
Navarro advanced to the Group III state meet by winning the 800 in 2:18.3, and also showed her speed by taking second in the 400 in 59.94. It marks the second straight season Navarro has won the indoor 800 title.
“To defend my 800 title felt great,” Navarro said. “It was even better knowing that I got my PR in this race. It proves to me that all my training and hours in the weight room are starting to pay off. Knowing that I dropped my time by four second by this time of year has shown that I matured as an 800 runner. I feel that there are great things ahead of me this season and I can’t wait to test my body physically and mentally even more than I am now. I am looking forward to reaching my goal of qualifying for New Balance Nationals.
“I felt great during my race. I knew I had to get out and take control. My dad texted me before the race and said ‘Ashley get out and run this race with confidence, you are the best runner in this race.’ I took those words and did exactly what he said.”
Although the 400 is not her specialty, Navarro had hopes of taking gold in that race as well.
“I knew it was going to be hard and I was going to have to fight ‘til the end of the race,” she said. “I felt that I ran well. I was pleased with second since I still ran sub-60. The girl that beat me (West Windsor-North’s Emma Faivre) won against me at MCTs and I was hoping to get her this week. But I use the 400 to help me grow in the 800 and look forward to running it at groups.”
The Monmouth University-bound senior advanced in a third event, as she was part of the 4×400 relay team that finished sixth in 4:20.78. Rounding out the foursome were Amanda Papamanolis, Alynna Jones and Nicole Cerasi.
“I was pleased to have come home with three medals and I am happy that our 4×400 team finished sixth and will be moving on with me to groups,” Navarro said.
Although Nottingham’s girls did not get anyone through to states, the 4×400 team just missed advancing with a seventh-place finish in a school-record time of 4:23.87. The team of Mia Sandoval, Kayla Mulrine, Chadsity Molder and Isabelle Miranda shattered the old mark of 4:26.5.
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Hamilton West did not advance anyone in girls’ competition, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good Saturday for the Hornets program.
Former West standout Marissa Flim, a junior on the East Stroudsburg University track team, defeated a 2016 Olympian in the 55 meters at the 19th Annual DeSchriver Invitational at the ESU Fieldhouse. Flim ran a personal-best time of 7.18 in her race, beating out former USC and University of Tennessee hurdling standout Nia Ali by 0.01 in the final heat. It was the third fastest time in ESU program history.
Ali earned a silver medal for the U.S. Olympic team in the 100m hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and she was the 2014 World Indoor Champion in the 60m hurdles.
Hamilton’s Barry Ndeh high jumps to first place at sectionals
Hamilton Township also had a gold medal winner in the boys’ meet, as Hamilton West’s Barry Ndeh won the high jump with a leap of 6-foot-2. Three other competitors hit 6-0 as Ndeh was the only one to get higher.
“We expected him to win,” coach Jerry Van Slooten said. “”He’s been jumping well. He’s really coming into his own. He’s an athletic freak and getting really close to clearing 6-4.”
The Hornets won three medals on the day. Will Simpson took sixth in the shot with a throw of 42-1-3/4, while the 4×400 relay team finished third in 3:36.16. The quartet included Kevin Phildor, Ndeh, Valentin Augustin and Josue Casiano.
Nottingham’s boys advanced the most competitors (7) among township schools by taking top-six finishes in five different events.
The relay team had a fifth-place showing as Kernley Charles, Franklin Sanchez, Chris Negron and Emilio Selesnick combined for a time of 3:36.78.
Individually, Ridge Pierre was fifth in the shot with a throw of 42-4-3/4, while sixth-place finishes came from Jonathan Torres (3200, 9:42.55), Deiby Polanco (pole vault, 10-0) and Sanchez (55 hurdles, 8:35). The Stars got a tough break when sophomore Louis Abpadogo thought he won the 55 meters in 6:52, but was disqualified for a false start.
Steinert’s boys will be represented in Groups by junior Terris Burton, who took second in the 400 meters in 52.11.