Track and field: Oakcrest boys add jumps to their list of specialties
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The Oakcrest High School boys track and field team is known for its sprinters.
Now, its high jumpers also are athletes to watch.
The Falcons' sprinters lived up to expectations during the first day of the South Jersey Group III championships Friday. Fabian Santiago won the 100-meter dash and teammates Reggie Morton and Darnell Charles finished second and fourth, respectively.
Akmed Muhammad won the 400 dash and Charles finished third.
But Oakcrest got unexpected results from high jumpers Daniel Jefferson, Jared Dalponte and Shane Bush. Jefferson won with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches. Dalponte jumped 6-0 to finish third and Bush cleared the same height to finish fifth. Jefferson's and Bush's performances were both personal bests.
"We expected to place two people in the high jump but not do that well," Oakcrest coach Les Petty said. "To get all three in and a win was just awesome."
Santiago, Jefferson and Muhammad were three of seven local winners during the first day of the Group IV and Group III championships at Egg Harbor Township. Morton won the Group III long jump for Oakcrest with a leap of 23-7. In Group IV, Kofi Yamoah of Egg Harbor Township (shot put), Chelsea Vaughn of Southern Regional (pole vault) and Maria Jimenez of Vineland (javelin) all won. Jimenez set a sectional meet record in her event.
The meet continues at 10 a.m. today. The top six finishers in each event in each group, plus ties, qualify for the state group championships next weekend.
Jefferson is peaking at the right time. He cleared 6-4 for the first time at last week's Cape-Atlantic League championships. Jefferson had consistently cleared 6-2 since last season.
"It feels wonderful," Jefferson said. "I should have been doing this since (earlier in the season), but it feels good to get my (personal best) and be a champion."
The high jumpers earned 17 points. Oakcrest is trying to win its second straight South Jersey team title. The Falcons led second-place Delsea Regional 77-42 after Friday.
"The high jumpers work hard," Santiago said. "It's awesome coming out to practice, and they're there first."
Not everything went smoothly for the Falcons, however.
Muhammad won the 400 dash in 48.55 seconds and then collapsed with an injured hamstring. Petty said he expected to hold Muhammad out of the 4x400 relay today.
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Kofi Yamoah of Egg Harbor Township won the Group IV shot put for the second straight year. He won with a put of 56-0. Curtis Fitzpatrick of EHT finished second with a put of 53-0.75.
"Curtis really pushes me," Yamoah said. "If I'm throwing 52 in practice, he throws 55 and then I end up throwing 57. We push each other and make each other better."
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Jimenez waited until her sixth and final throw to make history.
Jimenez broke the sectional meet javelin record with a throw of 152-6 to win the Group IV championship. She broke the mark of 151-10 set by Daina Pucurs of Demarest at the North I sectional meet in 2004.
"I'm happy but I'm not satisfied," said Jimenez, who set the state record with a throw of 160-8 last week.
Jimenez's best throw Friday before the record was 140-9.
"I knew I had to pick it up," Jimenez said. "I was a little off. I knew I had to get back to the basics."
In another Group IV event, Vaughan defended her pole vault title with a vault of 12-3.
The Southern Regional senior cleared both 11-9 and 12-3 on her first attempt.
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