When he first left Montville for Morris Hills last September, Grant Sanchez felt a little like a fish out of water. The standout shot put thrower moved with his family to the new school district within the same county and wondered how he would fit in.
“I was a little worried at first,” Sanchez said. “Everyone knew me at Morris Hills, but I was worried about fitting in. I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going in the school. But everyone made me feel welcome. After a while, I felt comfortable. I loved it. Everyone was really nice.”
Sanchez continued to feel at home with his new school and teammates Saturday morning, when he threw the shot put 51 feet, eight inches to capture the individual trophy at the Wayne Gardiner Relays at Drew University.
Sanchez, who also won the event last year while competing for Montville, was almost a full four feet better than the rest of the field.
“For the first couple of weeks, I’ve been working on my technique and foot work,” Sanchez said. “It’s been coming back to me in bits and pieces. I know what I’m doing now.”
Sanchez said that he’s been motivated by training with the other Morris Hills indoor track standouts.
“I’ve been working out with Travis Ellis and Greg Leeper and they are such great athletes,” Sanchez said. “It’s a great feeling to know that they have the same dedication that I do. The entire program has people who work hard. It’s great for me. It’s pretty wild that I won it last year at Montville and this year for Morris Hills.”
Sanchez received a special trophy for winning the shot put from Gardiner, the outgoing president of the Morris County Track Coaches Association.
The shot put relay gold medal was captured by the Hanover Park tandem of seniors Ryan Agbim and Matt Santangelo, who combined to throw 94-83/4 to win the gold medal over runner-up Scotch Plains.
“I absolutely love it,” Agbim said. “It’s a great feeling to continue the tradition of solid Hanover Park throwers. It’s a pretty big thing.”
Agbim and Santangelo have been throwing together since they enrolled at Hanover Park together more than three years ago.
“We always push each other,” Santangelo said. “We’ve been close friends ever since freshman year and our friendship has just grown as well. I love being able to rely on Ryan, because he’s such a strong athlete. I always like competing with him. Our goal is to throw 50 (feet) each.”
Agbim threw 47-11 and Santangelo 46-93/4, so they’re not far apart.
“This gives us a good idea of what the future holds,” Agbim said. “We definitely can do better. But it’s good to have a meet like this where we depend upon each other.”
The individual girls winner in the shot put was Madison sophomore Helene Rowland, who threw 33-41/2 to best the field.
Rowland had no idea that she was the best among the individuals.
“I just wanted to start the winter season off on a good note,” Rowland said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”
Rowland also received an individual award from Gardiner for her performance. She’s come a long way since suffering a dislocated and fractured ankle while playing softball over the summer.
“I was in a cast for six weeks and then a walking boot for five more,” Rowland said. “It was just crazy, because I wanted to be able to move around and couldn’t do anything. I eventually went to physical therapy to get ready for winter track. I feel like there’s so much more room for improvement.”
Rowland said that she has been working on her footwork, especially at her release point.
“I would end up fouling a lot last year, because I would step over the line in my follow through,” Rowland said. “I worked hard on that. I also worked on not opening my stance took much and taking my time. But winning this makes me feel really good for the rest of the season. We’ll see how it goes.”
New Providence won the gold medal in the shot put relay.
The Morristown tandem of Rudy Torres, Alexander Cary, Greg Arabagian and Sean Lyons combined to win the boys distance medley in 10:52.99 over runner-up Mendham and Delbarton, which finished fourth. All four of the aforementioned Colonial runners are coming off a sensational cross country season where they helped to lead the Colonials to the Morris County and North 2, Group III sectional crowns.
The tandem of Arabagian, Lyons, Cary and Charles Katz was second in the 4×800-meter relay in 8:37.27, so it was a solid day for the Colonial distance runners.
“We really wanted to win both,” Cary said. “We were really going for place, not time. We want to see where we go from here. We’re coming off a really good cross country season, so there definitely was a carry over to this.”
“We want to keep working at it,” Lyons said. “With the success we had in cross country, we definitely think there’s a chance we can do the same this winter season, especially if our sprinters step up. We just have to keep improving.”
The Delbarton quartet of Chris D’Aliso, Stephen Kovalsky, Luke Mayer and sensational Jules Hislop won the gold medal in the shuttle hurdle relay, crossing the line in 33.23 seconds, just two-hundredth of a second faster than runner-up Randolph.
The West Morris girls took second in the distance medley relay, with Kylene Cochrane, Brennan Sharkey, Lauren Toth and Taylor Brown crossing the line in 13:02.59, behind winner Bernards.
The Mount Olive team of Marissa Karl, Lindsay Schafer, Jamie Tavalare and Sarah Masukewicz won the girls 4×800-meter relay in 9:57.45, beating runner-up Morristown by almost a full 15 seconds.