Grant Sanchez had a nightmarish performance at the NJSIAA Group II Relays at Toms River on Sunday.
The Morris Hills senior shot put thrower had three attempts Sunday and fouled on all three.
“I was really upset with that,” said Sanchez, one of the best throwers in Morris County. “I fell forward on my release all three times and fouled out. I knew I was better than that.”
So at the Wayne Valentine Invitational meet Wednesday night – the final of the Morris County series of invitational meets held throughout December and January at Drew University – Sanchez was determined to prove that he wasn’t as bad as he threw on Sunday.
“I looked at a lot of video,” Sanchez said. “I looked at the way that I stood. I looked at other people as well.”
As Sanchez went to the videotape, he went to the recent archives and watched former Morristown super thrower Nicholas Vena, who broke every shot put record imaginable during his four All-American seasons with the Colonials.
“I watched Vena,” Sanchez said. “I watched his technique. I had a different mentality. I was more relaxed and ready to have fun with it.”
Sanchez did exactly that, firing off a throw of 53 feet, four inches, his best throw of the indoor season.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the Morris County Championships are a week away and Sanchez is right in the middle of a highly competitive pack poised to compete for the gold medal.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Sanchez, who transferred to Morris Hills from Montville, where he threw last year. “I am now ready for it. It’s going to be a great competition. I feel like I can step it up and take it on. I’m more comfortable now. I’m not nervous. I’m having a lot more fun. If I can throw like I did today, I’ll be fine.”
Needless to say, it sets up a very interesting shot put for next Wednesday’s county meet. When Vena was at Morristown, the shot put was always anti-climatic. Not this year. And Sanchez fired off the first message Wednesday night.
Another competitor who seems ready for the county meet is Roxbury senior Kyle Young, who exploded to the gold medal in the 55-meter dash, easily trouncing the rest of the field. Young never before competed in track and field before this winter, but the football and baseball standout is poised to be the top sprinter in the county in his first year.
“I think it comes with experience,” said Young, who has all of 12 varsity track sprints under his belt. “I’m getting used to it. I know what to expect. My mechanics are getting better.”
Young was aided by a great start that catapulted him out of the blocks.
“I had a great start,” Young said. “When I get out fast, I can see the competition on the side of me and that motivates me.”
When Young was asked if he thought he was now the favorite to win the county 55-meter dash next week, he replied, “If that’s the case, then that’s awesome. I never would have predicted it. It’s pretty cool.”
While Young is the top male sprinter by far, then the female title has to go to Mount Olive junior Keturah Orji, who blew away the field in winning the 55-meter dash. Orji appeared as strong as ever. Maybe the better race might take place if Young faced Orji.
Orji’s teammate, Eddie Garcia, took home the gold medal in the 600-meter run. Garcia held off a solid challenge from Morristown’s Rudy Torres to cross the finish line in 1:25.12, a second better than Torres.
“We are really good friends,” Garcia said of Torres. “The bottom line is that we both have a kick. That definitely pushes me. My kick just happens to be a lot easier than his.”
Garcia said that he’s determined to break the Mount Olive school records set by the school’s first-ever Hall of Fame athlete Steve Slattery.
“Honestly, that’s my goal right now,” Garcia said. “I’m only tenths of a second off. If I can go all out and go a little faster, I can get them.”
Garcia is definitely the favorite to win the county 600-meter run next Wednesday. He doesn’t know for sure, but chances are that he will compete in both the 1,000-meter run and the 4×400-meter relay, which would give Garcia a solid chance to win all three events next week.
“We have to see,” Garcia said. “This was a good test.”
Trinity Christian junior Josiah Hanko does not have a team to train or compete with, so he was basically on his own once again Wednesday. It didn’t stop him from winning the 1,600-meter run in 4:28.59, missing the meet record set seven years ago by Hanko’s older brother Andrew by just two seconds.
“After four laps, I just didn’t feel right,” Hanko said. “My legs were tight. I had a bit of a tough workout Saturday and Monday, so I guess my legs were a little tired. I kind of wanted to go for the record. It would have been cool to take Andrew down. But the time I ran today is exactly what my coach wanted.”
Hanko will be among the favorites to win both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs next Wednesday.
Hanko received a special award for winning the 1,600 (along with Kaitlyn Bedard of Hunterdon Central) from long-time Dover coach and former Daily Record track correspondent Wayne Valentine, who is celebrating his 50th year of coaching this season.