Track and field: Oakcrest sprinters make Meet of Champions a priority
The sprinters of the Oakcrest High School boys track and field team do everything in a hurry.
They even graduated before their classmates.
Oakcrest's graduation ceremony conflicts today with the outdoor track and field Meet of Champions.
So six Falcons - Fabian San-tiago, Darnell Charles, Reggie Morton, Akmed Muhhamad, Syid Evans-White and Stephen Adkisson - received their diplomas Monday night during the school's awards ceremony. That allowed the six to compete when the MOC begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Carl Sandberg Middle School in Old Bridge. The meet features the top performers from this past weekend's state group championships.
"It's the last high school track meet," Charles said. "You only get to do that and (graduation) once, but track just comes first to me."
Oakcrest coach Les Petty said he thought the awards ceremony turned out better than the graduation. The sprinters walked in caps and gowns to the pomp and circumstance theme.
"They were treated really special," he said. "The cheering they got and the celebration they got from their (classmates) was pretty impressive."
The Falcons are among the favorites in several events today. They are the top seed and defending champion in the 4x100-meter relay.
Santiago, the Group III winner in the both the 100 and 200 dashes, is among the top contenders in both those events.
Today will conclude a remarkable stretch of excellence by the Falcons' seniors. They won the state outdoor Group IV championship last year and the Group III title this year. They ran in the 4x100 Championship of America Penn Relays race this past April.
The Falcons won three straight Atlantic County championships.
It is rare for a team to have that many quality sprinters.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this was a once-in-a-career-type of opportunity," Petty said. "We've always had good kids and great athletes, but we've just never had this many at one time."
Several other local athletes should contend for MOC titles.
Helena Leyrer of Buena Regional is the No. 2 seed in the 400 hurdles. Chelsea Vaughan of Southern Regional is the top seed in the pole vault after she cleared 12 feet, 6 inches to win the state Group IV title.
Maria Jimenez of Vineland has won nearly every javelin competition she has entered this spring. Jimenez set the state record with a throw of 160-8 at the Cape-Atlantic League championships last month. She is the No. 3 seed today.
Isaac Clark of Pleasantville is one of the top runners in what should be a very fast 800 run. Clark won the Group II title in 1 minutes, 52.69 seconds last weekend.
Braheme Days Jr. of Bridgeton is the top seed in the shot put, but he is not expected to compete because of a knee injury.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Outdoor track and field Meet of Champions
When: 3:30 p.m. today
Where: Carl Sandberg Middle School in Old Bridge
Who: The top track and field athletes in the state will compete