After two days full of competition, the Woodbridge girls track team’s quest for its first ever NJSIAA North 2 Group III championship came down to a single event: the 4×400 relay.
The team’s relay anchor, senior McKenna Coakley, knew Woodbridge’s fate would likely come down to her performance, but she also remembered that past experience tipped the odds in the Barrons’ favor.
“I was very nervous, considering (the 4×400-meter relay) was the deal-breaker whether we won the meet or not,” Coakley said. “But I knew we usually end up pulling through in the relay.”
Coakley’s hunch was correct, as she and her teammates pulled away from the field to win the relay in a time of 4:03.51 and push Woodbridge past West Morris Central for the sectional crown.
“Overall, we thought this whole year that with the talent and depth we had, we could put a strong showing together,” Woodbridge coach John Moyer said. “I think the kids really believed, reached down hard and came through this weekend.”
Woodbridge entered Saturday’s second day of competition with a one-point lead over Mendham. Coakley played a large part in the Barrons’ early lead, as she won both the 400-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles Friday night.
“Last year (at sectionals), I was second in the 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash as well,” Coakley said. “I just came in with the mindset that I’m a senior, this is my last year, I have to go and get it and that’s what I did.”
Junior Ellie Yepez added to Woodbridge’s point total when she won Saturday’s 100-meter dash in 12.88 seconds.
Moyer said the leadership of Coakley and Yepez was instrumental in guiding Woodbridge to its sectional victory.
“Ellie leads the way in a lot of the sprints, while McKenna picks up in the hurdles,” he said. “They’ve suffered through some tough injuries and still pushed through everything, so it’s a great success for those two.”
Despite their individual victories, the Barrons lost ground throughout Saturday’s events and trailed West Morris Central by three entering the 4×400 relay.
The victory in the relay gave Woodbridge a total of 78 points for the meet. West Morris Central finished sixth in the relay to end with a final tally of 72 points and finish tied with Mendham for second place.
Moyer said the sectional title displays the great strides the Woodbridge program has made over the last few seasons.
“I think the (sectional championship) means everything,” he said. “It continues to show that the program’s building from where it has been, and hopefully we can take it to the next level.”
On the boys’ side, Rahway finished third in North 2 Group III with 70 points.
Senior Emmanuel Atilola won three events for the Indians, taking first in the high jump, long jump and 400-meter hurdles. Fellow Rahway senior Kazeem Otun won both the 400- and 800-meter events.