Track and field: 8 local athletes win state titles on opening day of championship meets
Holy Spirit High School’s Bridget Flynn and Emily Higbee set school track and field records Friday.
They also won state championships.
Flynn won the state Non-Public A 1,600-meter run and Higbee the javelin. The Spartans were two of five local athletes who won on the opening day of the state track and field championship meet for Groups I, IV and Non-Public A at Carl Sandberg Middle School in Old Bridge.
Other winners at Old Bridge were Gary Melton of Cedar Creek (Group I long jump), Chelsea Vaughan of Southern Regional (Group IV pole vault) and Maria Jimenez of Vineland (Group IV javelin).
In the meet for Groups II, III and Non-Public B at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield, Oakcrest’s Fabian Santiago (Group III 100), Bridgeton’s Braheme Days Jr. (Group II shot put) and St. Joseph’s Carl Watson (Non-Public B 400) won state titles in the meet for Groups II, III and Non-Public B at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield.
Both meets continue today at 11 a.m. The top six finishers in each event qualify for the Meet of Champions next Thursday.
Flynn ran the mile in 5 minutes, 2.67 seconds. The senior broke her own school record (5:03), which she set at last week’s sectional meet. Higbee threw 129 feet, 2 inches to win the javelin. She broke Holy Spirit’s previous record of 125-8, set by Kate Mattola in 2000.
Longtime Holy Spirit coach Dave Pfeifer was thrilled with their performances.
“It’s the best day we’ve ever had (at the state meet), and I’ve been doing this for 42 years,” Pfeifer said. “It was phenomenal.”
Flynn was disappointed in her second place finish at the South Jersey meet last week. She hoped to break five minutes at the state meet, but like many other athletes, she was plagued by windy conditions.
Still, she finished in a personal best. Her time is also an Atlantic County record, according to Pfeifer.
“I really wanted to win. After sectionals, I knew I didn’t give it my all,” Flynn said. “I knew I had to take the race out fast and see what happened, but I didn’t expect to win.”
Higbee, a junior, threw the javelin in the mid-90s range as a freshman. A utility athlete, she also does long jump, shot put and discus for the Spartans.
“It was this year we really started to work on the javelin and it obviously paid off,” Pfeifer said.
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Gary Melton became the first Cedar Creek athlete to win a state title in track and field. The junior won the Group I long jump with a 22-101/2 leap.
“It felt so great. I feel like I’m helping put my school on the map track-wise. I think I did my school well,” he said.
The muggy, damp conditions weren’t optimal for jumps, Melton said. Still, he jumped six inches farther than he did at the South Jersey Group I meet a week ago.
Melton finished fifth in the 100 dash in 11.22 seconds. He’ll get back to work today in the triple jump and 1,600-meter relay.
On Friday, however, the Pirates were excited. Cedar Creek has a state champion to celebrate.
“I’m really happy, and I’m happy my teammates feel happy for me,” Melton said.
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Bridgeton’s Braheme Days Jr. set yet another meet record, this time in the Group II shot put. Days threw 64-0 to win his second straight state championship.
Fabian Santiago won his third consecutive state title in the 100-meter dash. He finished first in 11.06 seconds despite gusts of wind that whirled around the track.
Carl Watson of St. Joseph won his second Non-Public B title in the 400. Watson, a senior, ran 50.56.
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