High-SchoolNew-Jersey: Track and XC
June, 21, 2012
By Brandon Parker | ESPN.com
John Nepolitan ESPNHS/DyestatSt. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) senior sprinter Najee Glass is headed to Florida next fall with a national championship under his belt and an eye on the 2016 Olympics.Almost all kids have something they hate — brussels sprouts, chores, homework, being pinched on the cheek. For 7-year-old Najee Glass, it was track.
"He would cry when I left him at practice," Trina Glass recalled with a laugh.
Najee's first race didn't start off much better, as he darted out of the blocks with reckless abandon. Had this been a short sprint, like the 200, that strategy would've been fine. But maintaining such pace in the 400 is downright crazy, especially for a first-timer. His coaches tried yelling for him to slow down. His mom, a former 400 competitor herself, even tried running alongside the track to get his attention. But there was no stopping Glass.
"I was just running and trying to get it over with, so I just sprinted the whole way until I won," said Glass, who preferred football at the time. "Everybody said 'He's going to die, he's going to die,' but actually I didn't die."
If anything, a runner was born on that day, one who has gone on to win national titles, earn international gold and become one of New Jersey's greatest sprinters while at St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.).
And believe it or not, Glass' technique hasn't changed all that much since his track debut.
"His ability to run fast for a long, long period of time is amazing," St. Peter's Prep assistant coach Chris Caulfield said. "He can really hit other gears at the end of races that other runners can't."
Caulfield would know. On Glass' first day of indoor track at St. Peter's Prep, he shattered the freshman school record in the 400. In the next two years, Glass went on to set more new marks, becoming the first sophomore to win the 400 at the Meet of Champions before breaking the meet record in the same event with a time of 46.43 seconds as a junior.
Yet for as elusive as Glass was on the local scene, there was one goal he couldn’t seem to catch — a national title.
Last year, in the span of three months, Glass finished second in the 400 at the indoor and outdoor New Balance Nationals. What’s more, the indoor loss came by the slimmest of margins: one-hundredth of a second
Still, neither proved more frustrating for Glass than what transpired at the New Balance Games in January 2011. Despite running the odd distance of 500, Glass used his typical end-of-the-race burst to surge past Columbus (Bronx, N.Y.) runner Strymar Livingston and take first in a national-record time of 1:02.22. But following a protest from the Columbus coach and a rare review by track officials, the record was revoked two days later due to a lane violation by Glass.
“When people started saying I cheated, that really took a toll on me,” Glass said. “I was heartbroken over what people were saying on the message boards because it’s not like I ran over the line on purpose.”
After having a national title and a 27-year-old record snatched from his grasp, Glass admitted to running with a “chip on his shoulder.” But this weight of motivation only seemed to make him faster.
“After that happened, I saw a new side of him,” Caulfield said. “He was completely determined to turn it into a positive by running his best and getting that national title.”
Glass gained some solace by running a leg on the record-setting U.S. medley team at the World Youth Championships in France last summer. And after shocking the world, Glass shocked his family by giving up football, his first love.
“Everybody said, ‘What?!’ because he had just come from a national 7-on-7 combine and done well and we all knew how much he liked football,” Trina said. “But I think after having that international experience and with the friends he made, he realized the great opportunities and future he has in track.”
The extra training he gained during the fall as well as the pent-up emotions from his past disappointments all came to a head at the indoor New Balance Nationals in March.
With 150 meters to go and Timberview’s (Arlington, Texas) Aldrich Bailey a step ahead of him, Glass made a move to the inside, giving him just enough room to blaze down the homestretch for a narrow win and the 400 national crown. Glass’ time of 46.57 also set a new New Jersey record and placed fourth all-time in U.S. history.
“After all I’d been through, it meant a lot more for me to win that title,” said Glass, who admitted to shedding a few post-victory tears. “I felt like this was something I deserved based on all the work I had put in and it paid off.”
Perhaps fittingly, this victory proved to be the last major triumph in Glass’ prep career. A hamstring injury kept him from competing in last week’s Meet of Champions and having a shot at becoming the first boy to win three straight 400 titles.
“Everything happens for a reason and I’m very happy with getting my national title this year,” Glass said. “Maybe it was God’s way of saying to rest and prepare for what’s next.”
This fall, Glass will move on to compete at Florida, a powerhouse program that has won the last two NCAA Indoor Championships. And while his coaches are sad to see their best athlete graduate, they are more excited to see what’s in store for Glass.
“He’s the best runner to come through St. Peter’s Prep and with his will to compete and win, I believe he’ll be at the 2016 Olympics,” St. Peter’s Prep longtime head coach Michael Burgess said. “The kid is raw and if you think he’s great now, the boy will be a monster at the next level when he puts together his talent with the correct mechanics.
“Yep, you’re going to be hearing more about him.”
February, 25, 2012
By John Nepolitan | ESPN.com
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSThe intensity shows as Dana Giordano (3200) and Ben Malone (1600) rip US#1s at the NJ Meet of Champs.Coverage of the 2012 New Jersey Meet of Champions
Sat., Feb. 25, 2012 -- Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex, Toms River NJ
LINKS: Timing Site | Results | DyeStat Elites
- 1600 – Stephen Lewandowski (Mountain Lakes) takes the early lead, but is passed by George Kelly (Christian Brothers Academy), who tries to break it open with 550 to go. Ben Malone (Pascack Valley), US#1 in the 1k, is always among the leaders and jumps ahead with a lap to go and wins in a meet record, US #1 4:11.66. Kelly gets 2nd in US#3 4:13.49, and Lewandowski 3rd in 4:15.58
- 55 HH – Jermaine Collier (Trenton Central) sets a meet record 7.35 in the prelims, then storms within .01 of the state record in the final, hitting US#2 7.19 for the win over Isaac Williams (Willingboro) US#3 7.22.
- 800 –Allen Eke (Union Catholic) goes to the front and forces the pace, then holds on for meet record, US #3 1:52.24. AJ Chavez (West Windsor Plainsboro South) closes fast for US#4 1:52.67 in 2nd.
- 3200 – Meet of Champs XC winner Tim Ball (Piscataway) negative splits 4:44/4:26 for US#5 9:10.69.
- 55/4x400 – Darrell Charles leads a 1-2-3 sweep by Oakcrest, running 6.46 over teammates Fabian Santiago and Reginald Morton (both 6.48). The trio returns to lead Oakcrest to a meet record US#5 3:20.53 4x4.
- Shot Put – National leader Braheme Days (Bridgeton) wins by over eight feet with a throw of 67’ 8.75”.
- 400 – Darrell Bush (Woodbury) is buried coming off the final turn, but goes wide and comes up for the win in 49.11.
- 3200 – Dana Giordano (Bernards) closes fast for a US #1 meet record 10:24.73. Mackenzie Barry (West Morris Mendham) led by five seconds with 800 to go, but was overtaken at 3,040 meters. She holds on for 2nd in a US #2 10:27.25 with Megan Lacy (Cherokee) at US #3 in 10:31.06. The top 8 all break 11:00.
- 55 HH – Stey’ce McNeil (Winslow Township) paces the trials in 8.06 and then wins the final in 7.94, just off her US #2 from the last week’s Group meet. She was the only runner to crack 8.00.
- Shot – Defending champ Theresa Picciallo (Immaculate Heart Academy) improves her US #4 mark to 47’ 8” to win by over seven feet.
- PV – After a delay due to an injury to another athlete, Chelsea Vaughan (Southern Regional) clears 12’ 6” to win to move into a tie for US#6.
- 400/4x400 – Defending champ Olivia Baker (Columbia) gets the lead at the break and powers to the win in 56.31 over Jennifer Edobi (Union) 56.94. The two sophs will have many more battles. Then Baker finds herself in second at the final exchange of the relay, but explodes off the line to take the lead and gives Columbia the 3:57.35 win.
- 1600 – Liana Marzano (Red Bank Catholic) takes over with 600 to go and wins in 4:58.38, the only runner to break 5:00, making it two straight for Red Bank Catholic runners (Molly McNamara, now at Stanford, won in 2011).
- 800 – Kali Kendall (Snyder) runs 2:16.59 to win the 2nd section and for the first 400 of the seeded section, it looks like that time may hold up. But Emmy Duffey (Lenape) kicks hard to win in 2:15.12.
- 55 – Haisha Bisiolu (Union) only had the 4th best time in the prelims, but takes the final in 7.12 to just beat out Amari Hartsfield (Sayerville) and Annie Johnson, who were both timed in 7.14
- High jump – Kyaira Wright-Harmon (Franklin) and Noel Jancewicz (Robbinsville) both clear 5’ 8”, but Wright-Harmon gets the win.
February, 13, 2012
By Steve Underwood | ESPN.com
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSRecord-breaking trio: Edward Cheserek, who broke Lukas Verzbicas' 5k HSR is surrounded by collegiate and American record-setters in the same race: Lawi Lalang and Bernard Lagat.
In a venue that high school tracksters own for so many days and nights over the long winter, it was only fitting that the The Armory’s first-ever hosting of the Milrose Games should have been a special one for preps. Yes, for the previous years of the meet in Madison Square Garden, there were many special boys and girls miles, plenty of good relays, and some occasional forays by preps into elite races. But in 2012 with the promise of the 200-meter track encouraging fast times, meet organizers brought in three of the nation’s very best – St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) junior Edward Cheserek, Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior Ajee Wilson, and Christopher Columbus (Bronx, N.Y.) senior Strymar Livingston – to battle the pros and chase records and added a few relays as well. It all added up to a very heady brew in the sold-out historic structure.
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSEd Cheserek crosses the line in triumph, setting the 5k USR with 13:57.04.
And guess what? The meet lived up to the hype – especially when the preps mixed it up with the elites. In the men’s 5,000, Cheserek started fast, shook off the lack of consistent pacing, and finished strong to nail his first USR: a 13:57.04 that took more than nine seconds off of Lukas Verzbicas’ 2011 mark (14:06.78). Fellow Kenyan-born stars Bernard Lagat and Lawi Lalang (U. of Arizona), who gave Cheserek a little boost when they lapped him, set American and collegiate records ahead of him and the trio celebrated together afterward.
The women’s 800, on the other end of the spectrum, could hardly have been more tightly packed, and that Wilson was right in the thick of that pack was a tribute to what she’s learned in her third race in three weeks against the elites. It wasn’t strategically perfect – she was pinned on the curb mid-race and swung extremely wide in the last 100 – but it was aggressive and that’s what counted most. Wilson’s reward was a US#1 2:04.13 that’s #2 all-time and netted her 4th in a field of eight.
Only Livingston wasn’t elevated on this day by racing the elites. After two spectacular records in three weeks, he couldn’t get in the rhythm in a slow-starting field and wound up 6th out of six in 1:03.39.
Meanwhile, the prep miles were typically strong and deep, with good storylines, even if they weren’t world-beaters on the clock. US#1 North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.) senior Samantha Nadel was the overwhelming favorite to win and take down the Millrose record – and didn’t have to PR to do so. With somewhat tired legs, she settled for a 4:46.19 victory.
Liverpool (Liverpool, N.Y.) senior Zavon Watkins was the boys favorite (though not as overwhelmingly as Nadel), but in the third quarter of the race he had drifted into next-to-last place. No problem; Watkins woke up before the final lap and delivered a sledgehammer of a kick (28.5), finally stomping across the line with a triumphant growl.
The prep relays, overall, didn’t quite live up to pre-meet hopes; for example, the nation-leading Christian Brother Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) boys 4x800 and Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) boys 4x400 squads didn’t field their ‘A’ teams for various reasons. B&G’s boys did, however, sweep the PSAL 4x400 and Metropolitan 4x800 titles, while CBA got an impressive Suburban 4x400 victory. Another sweep came in the newest relay events, the sprint medleys for boys and girls, as St. Anthony’s (Melville, N.Y.) claimed both races. The most impressive stickwork, however, came in the girls Metropolitan 4x800, as Garden City (Garden City, N.Y.) ripped a US#1 9:00.92, #10 all-time.
New meet records were established in the girls mile and weight throw, and nearly all of the prep relays.
Cheserek and his fast friends
The aftermath said it all: First, Edward Cheserek on the track celebrating as part of a trio of Kenyan-born record-breakers. Then, Edward Cheserek delivering softly, quickly spoken short answers and sentence fragments in the interview room, leaving as quickly as he politely could. Finally, Edward Cheserek back on the track, getting into his warmups while happily chatting with the middle man of the aforementioned trio, Lawi Lalang.
Except for the rare occasion, the St. Benedict’s junior prefers to do his talking with his feet. And breaking records is a lot more fun when you have comrades from home to share it with.
Though Cheserek had run very fast times in the Stanner 2-mile and the New Balance Games mile (the elite race), until now he had never entered a race set up for a record attempt with all of the inherent hype. There was reportedly supposed to be two pace-setters for Cheserek, but the way things unfolded, he only truly had pace help for a few laps. At the beginning, there really wasn’t any need as Ches hung on the back end of the lead pack and went through 1,600 in a too-fast 4:16. That put him more than 14 seconds up on record pace. Shortly thereafter, he fell off the back. He got a few laps pace help from Ben Bruce, but then Bruce dropped out and Ches was back on his own, starting to lose ground, but still passing 3,200 in 8:48 with a dozen seconds to spare.
As his 200s started slipping above 35 seconds, Cheserek got a boost when Bernard Lagat and the other leaders lapped him. “When someone passes me, I usually slow down,” he would say later with a wry smile, “but not tonight.” He managed a 67-second in the middle of that final mile and while he then slipped back to 35 second laps and a couple slower, he was now closing in on the finish and the energy of the crowd and announcer carried him the final two circuits.
So, in the final 50-seconds of the 5,000, three records were broken: First, Lagat sprinted home in 13:07.15 for the American record, just holding off the 13:08.28 collegiate record effort of Lalang. Then, finishing 8th out of nine in the remarkable field was Cheserek, receiving a champion’s reception and raising his arms as he crossed in 13:57.04, taking away Lukas Verzbicas’ only indoor record less than a year after he set it.
Cheserek admitted the experience of running so far back yet breaking a record was kind of “crazy, but it was okay, though.” He added that “it was important to break the record” and he liked having someone pace him (for the few laps that it happened). Not surprisingly, he said, “I was very happy with my time.”
Then Cheserek left the interview room and while he was changing and chatting with Lalang, his coach Marty Hannon finally made his way down to congratulate his star pupil. “We knew up front it would be very fast and Edward would have to try and hold back. This was the best 5k field ever, here,” he said moments later. “To break the record by nine seconds, and to do it with the guys he looks up to, was awesome.”
Wilson proved she belonged
Unlike Cheserek’s presence in the 5,000, or even Livingston’s in the 300, there was little hype as Ajee Wilson lined up with America’s finest half-milers. Perhaps that was partly because it’s become commonplace for the Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior to line up with the elites. First, in the US Open, she had finished 2nd of four – not a particularly good field overall – with a 2:09. Then in the New Balance meet in Boston, she ran a faster 2:07.37 against a better field, but fell off the back and was not competitive. Would she be able to change the game here against the best field of the season?
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSAjee Wilson mixes it up with the nation's best pros in the women's 800.
After a stumble necessitated a recall, the field was off again, with Wilson getting inside and staying there. One athlete immediately fell back, so it was basically a 7-woman race. This time, Wilson never lost contact with the lead group, smartly holding her position, running steady 31-second laps, and setting herself up for a big improvement.
Then in the final 120 meters, Wilson really impressed by gathering herself and sprinting around the outside for a final kick. She ran very wide, but was able to sustain it all the way to the finish, passing three women for 4th – including sub-2:00 pros Maggie Vessey and LaTavia Thomas. When the times came up, the magnitude of what Wilson had done became further apparent: 2:04.13, a 2-second improvement on her indoor PR. With that mighty kick, she had zoomed past legends like Joetta Clark, Tameka Grizzle and Chanelle Price on the all-time list. Only Mary Decker, with her otherworldly 2:01.8 from 1974, is ahead of Wilson now.
Wilson is rarely one to jump around and celebrate, but she was definitely smiling and had a look that said, ‘So that’s what it feels like.’ Then she revealed what made the difference this week: “I know this sounds strange, but I didn’t care as much. I didn’t put so much pressure on myself.
“This week I just ran my own race and stayed close. After I got through the second lap, I felt good, so I said ‘stick in there for one more.’ On the last lap, I heard my coach say, ‘Get to the outside,’ and I made my move. I enjoyed it more this week.
Watkins: Call him “Hulk”
What was up with that, Armorytrack.com asked Liverpool (Liverpool, N.Y.) senior Zavon Watkins after he stomped across the finish line after his boys HS mile victory, letting out a roar and throwing the finish tape to the track in a mostly beastly manner?
“The Incredible Hulk,” he said. “I was really excited.”
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSZavon "The Hulk" Watson wins the boys mile.
Whether Watkins will dye his skin green next time to better resemble the Marvel Comics superhero or this was a one-time deal remains to be seen, but he certainly was emotional about a victory that came in a most improbable fashion.
For the first six laps, Watkins looked lost, like someone who’d just squeaked into the field instead of the favorite. With three laps to go, he had drifted to dead last. But after a 63-2:06.5 start, the leaders were hardly hammering the third quarter anyway and Watkins woke up and passed a few runners to get within striking distance. Still, he hardly looked like the winner with a quarter to go (3:12.5).
Chariho (Wood River Junction, R.I.) senior Mike Marsella had led since taking it from New Providence (New Providence, N.J.) senior Everett Price at 600 and, with his 4:09 mile PR from outdoors last year, was certainly a worthy potential champion. He had pushed the pace, then let up before three quarters as if to make sure he had enough for a kick. With 300 to go, there were still nine in contention – with a surprise off the back end being Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.) senior Ned Willig, with a 4:15 mile best this winter as well as that great NB Collegiate 1k and a US#1 1:51.25 800 to his credit. He would finish 10th.
Coming down the home straight for the bell, however, Watkins suddenly exploded and passed seven runners into the lead in a matter of about 40 meters. By the backstretch, the race was over, with Marsella giving earnest chase but just not having the same wheels. The “Hulk” crossed in 4:13.83, with a 28.5 last lap, followed by the Rhode Island star in 4:14.68 and the rest of the group at 4:17 or slower.
Watkins admitted emotions got him at the finish, that he was just so excited to win. “This was something I really wanted,” he said, “ever since Millrose last year when I got tripped up. I was really upset about that.”
He added that he wasn’t sure why he drifted all the way to the back so late in the race, but “I never count myself out. I really have a lot of confidence in my kick.”
Watkins plans to go back to his cornerstone event at New Balance Nationals, however. “I definitely want to run the 800 and go under 1:50,” he said.
Nadel: Winning was the most important thing
When you race the way Samantha Nadel has this winter, so successfully and with steady frequency, there will be times when you can’t quite achieve everything you want. So you settle for the most important thing.
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSSamantha Nadel defends her girls HS mile title.
For Nadel in the girls HS mile Saturday night, that was winning – and defending her title. Chances are pretty good that if someday Nadel has grandchildren she wants to entertain with tales of her running prowess, one thing she’ll be able to claim is being the only girl to win a Millrose at both Madison Square Garden and The Armory. But the record she aspired to, Emily Lipari’s New York state mark of 4:42.04, would have to wait for another race.
In the past, Nadel has fallen victim to starting too fast, but this winter she has overcome that and Saturday she relaxed through the first quarter to see what everyone else might do. The pace was fast enough, 71.9, but when the inevitable slowdown happened for the others, Nadel took command. Victory was never in doubt at that point and she won as she pleased in 4:46.19, easily crushing the Games record and just .08 off her PR and track record of 4:46.11.
After that, the battle was for second, which was something Nadel’s teammate Brianna Nerud badly wanted. When it came to the final kick, Cosby (Midlothian, Va.) senior Megan Moye had more and edged Nerud at the finish, 4:49.95 to 4:50.12.
“Winning was the first priority,” Nadel admitted. “And it feels really great to win this meet again. The atmosphere here tonight was great.”
There was a good reason, though, that she didn’t have PR form. It turns out Nadel had tripled in a mid-week Section 8, Class B County meet. But she had no regrets – there are big races like Millrose strewn throughout the year, but she and Nerud also had business to accomplish for their team, and their performances helped North Shore win an 18th straight title there. “My legs were feeling it tonight,” she said.
Relays: Garden City shines brightest
Compared to the other fireworks in the individual events, the relays were a tad underwhelming, especially without the aforementioned CBA 4x800 boys and Boys & Girls 4x400 boys not at full strength. B&G star Robert Rhodes ran the Metropolitan 4x800 as the school took that title in 7:51.83, but having battled the flu during the week, the coaches gave him a break in the PSAL 4x400, figuring they still had enough to win in style – which they did, in 3:18.83.
Meanwhile, CBA was without top guns George Kelly, who had battled the flu most of the week, as well, and Tom Gorman – who was going to run the mile anyway, but didn’t do that either because of the same illness. The school still took 6th in the race with 7:58.87 and refocused on putting out a great 4x400. Mission accomplished, as CBA took the Suburban 8-lap affair in a US#3 3:19.61. “We were a sprint school today,” said CBA assistant Chris Bennett. “Our 4x4 stole the show. And three of these four guys will be coming back next year, including our anchor (Theo Foster), who we had in 48.8 today.”
The top relay performance of the meet went to a fresher group, the Garden City (Garden City, N.Y.) girls. In the Metropolitan 4x800, they ripped a US#1 9:00.92. They came into the meet having qualified for both this race and the Long Island 4x400 and, given their US#2 3:50.03 status in the 4x4, they had their choice of where to make their mark.
“We’re really happy with the time,” said freshman Emily O’Neill, whose older sister Katie is also part of the quartet. “We wanted to run that fast, but I’m not sure we really thought we could.”
Added fellow frosh Emma Gallagher, “This is only the second time we’ve run this relay this year. We wanted to win and hopefully run a US#1 time.”
Senior Taylor Hennig admitted as a sprinter, she preferred the 4x400, but was thrilled nonetheless and said that even though she’s older than her teammates, “they’ve taught me at least as much as I’ve taught them. It’s an honor to run with them.”
Also racking up the victories were the sprint medley foursomes from St. Anthony’s (Melville, N.Y.). The relays were just added this year and the school lived up to favorites’ status in both. The girls improved their own US#1 from 4:06.08 to 4:02.62. Senior Olicia Williams anchored in 2:12 and said that Chynna-Monica Chung’s third leg got them in position where they could get a seasonal best. “She put us ahead and I took it from there. We wanted to get a good time to get ready for nationals.”
The boys followed late in the meet with a 3:34.76 triumph.
Dunn, others shine individually
In the Women’s USATF Championship 1-Mile Racewalk, the field was boosted by the presence of several top preps from New York and the Northeast. The best of them turned out to be Edward Little (Auburn, Maine) senior Abby Dunn, who strode to a 7:28.36 in 3rd place, which she said was “just about” a PR. Like the other preps who were able to mix with elites, she enjoyed the experience tremendously. “I got to come last year and I was really excited to do it again, to have the chance to compete against women like Lauren Forgues (winner from N.Y.A.C. at 6:48.62),” she said. “I love this track.” Dunn also won the NBIN mile walk here last year and hopes to repeat in March.
Two more new events were the 55 dashes, with the star entry being Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.) senior Myasia Jacobs – the defending NBIN champ in the 60 and the silver medalist from last summer’s World Youth 100. Jacobs indeed dominated, rolling to a 6.91, just .04 off her current US#2 best. For the boys, it was Sweet Home (Amhearst, N.Y.) senior Wayne Gordon hitting 6.46 to get the win.
The weight throws, contested Friday, were to feature two of the nation’s best: US#2 Averill Park (Averill Park, N.Y.) junior Rudy Winker for the boys and US#1 Woodward Academy (Atlanta, Ga.) senior Avana Story for the girls. Winkler scratched, leaving the win to St. Anthony’s senior Bryan Rhodes with 63-9.5, while Story just missed her national leader with 57-8.5.
BACK TO TOP