The moment of truth has arrived for the Union Catholic High School boys track and field team.
After steamrolling everyone for two months, the Vikings encounter perennial power Christian Brothers in this weekend’s Non-Public A Championships. It’s a rematch of last spring’s showdown, when Union Catholic seemed poised to seize the torch but CBA responded with a 112-104 victory.
“The kids didn’t forget last year,” Union Catholic coach Mike McCabe said. “They know they let that one slip through their grasp. They’re confident, but they know it will be a battle.”
The Colts set the tone early in that meet, outscoring Union Catholic in the first event, the 400 hurdles, by a surprising 11-10 count. Then they added an exclamation point by winning the last event, the 4×400, by nearly a full second.
This time around, Union Catholic has the top two seeds in the 400 hurdles in sophomore Taylor McLaughlin and senior Zach Ghizzone.
“We definitely want to start the meet on the right note,” McCabe said. “In a perfect world, we can sweep that event.”
The Non-Public A, Group III and Group II boys and girls championships will be held Friday and Saturday at South Plainfield’s Frank Jost Field. Group IV, Group I and Non-Public B will compete at Egg Harbor High School. The 4×100 and 4×800 are scoring events for the first time.
“At first I thought that would be a problem for us,” McCabe said. But with Union Catholic’s depth, he said, “I think we can win every relay.”
In the past few years under McCabe, the Vikings have won every possible title except outdoor state group champ, which is the most prestigious of them all.
“This is the ultimate team goal,” McCabe said.
Here are five other local story lines to watch:
Pingry Power: Pingry is coming off a sweep of the boys and girls titles in Non-Public B South and will make a run at the big trophy on both sides. The boys might be better positioned to score big points with junior distance ace Liam Mullett and junior thrower Adidiere Fakorede leading the way.
Sky’s the limit: It’s an exceptional year for area pole vaulters, with Westfield senior Peter Fagan the top seed in Group IV boys (personal best: 16-0) and 15-footer Michael Closs of New Providence the top seed in Group I boys. On the girls’ side, Hillsborough junior Marlena Sabatino is the top seed in Group IV (11-0) and Pingry junior Angel Fluet is the top seed in Non-Public B (10-0).
Double Vision: North Hunterdon junior Morgan Harvey is a candidate to win both Group IV girls hurdle races as the top seed in the intermediates (1:03.08) and the third seed (and defending champ) in the highs (14.54). Look for Franklin junior Danielle Delgado to be right there in both races as well.
Team contenders: Under new NJSIAA scoring system, only the top two team finishers from each sectional are eligible for public school group titles. So eight teams in each group will compete for the top prize. Local teams in the mix are: Girls: Franklin and Hillsborough in Group IV, Voorhees and Bernards in Group II; Boys: Franklin in Group IV , Gov. Livingston in Group II and New Providence in Group I.
Jumpers galore: There are plenty of local candidates to win gold medals in the jumps, including Franklin’s Selena Thorne in the Group IV girls high jump (top seed, 5-4), North Hunterdon’s Nick Skelton in the Group IV boys high jump (top seed, 6-4), Bound Brook’s Aaron Williams in the Group I boys high jump (top seed, 6-2), Hillsborough’s Kelsey Vieira in the Group IV girls triple jump (third seed, 37-9.25), Piscataway’s Tyrell Judson in the Group IV boys long jump (second seed, 22-4.5), Bernards’ Melanie Macchiaverna in the Group II girls high jump (third seed, 5-2) and Governor Livingston’s Elijah Kay in the Group II boys high jump (third seed, 6-0).