A heralded trio of upperclassmen competed in the 3200-meter race at the 2014 indoor track Meet Of Champions, however, it was CBA sophomore Blaise Ferro who proved superior with a time of 9:12.70 and spoiled the party on this senior circuit.
The 3200 featured Tom O’Neill (the event’s defending champion out of Middletown North), Don Bosco Prep’s Kyle Levermore (who won the 2013 outdoor MOC title), and Toms River South’s Kyle Kroon (a Group 3 second place finisher and First Team All Shore selection this past fall for cross country).
With so many high-profile competitors in the mix, Ferro’s first place finish sent shock waves through the Garden State track community, though it was all part of the process according to the sophomore.
“This is a big win in a big year for me,” Ferro said. “I hate to put it this way but I feel like next year as a junior, things will really be expected of me for the first time. So this is last year where I’ll really be able to shock people … and that was the goal coming into today, to win and shock people.”
O’Neill, who recently signed a national letter of intent to run for the Providence College, worked from the middle of the group to the front of the pack with six 1200 meters to go, and held that lead until the final 400 meters, where a trailing Ferro kicked and out ran the field for his first MOC championship.
“When he took over the lead I got scared,” Ferro admitted, “because he’s Tom O’Neill, he’s like the king of New Jersey when it comes to long distance. But I had some success against him in Cross Country, at the Shore Conference and Meet Of Champs, so I had those experiences in the back of my head. All of that came into play with about six laps to go, and I kept telling myself, wait one more lap, one more lap. The next thing I knew it was time to go and I took off…and it turned out pretty well.”
Ferro’s victory followed a one-two finish in the 1600 by fellow Colts harriers Mike McClemens and Tom Rooney, the former edging out the latter with a time of 4:14.20 to 4:14.79.
The MOC indoor crown was a first for McClemens in his storied Colts career, and as he explained, racing alongside his teammate only helped accomplish this feat.
“Any Meet Of Champs title is so special,” McClemens said, “whether its indoor, outdoor, or Cross Country, to see the great group of runners you raced against and were able to beat, it’s such a special feeling that you don’t often get to experience.”
“The goal was obviously to win,” McClemens continued, “but both Tommy and I really wanted to run a fast race, which we were able to do. It’s just so much more comforting running with a teammate, trading off pace, and pushing one another to run faster. It’s always a great feeling and great motivator when that occurs.”
The championship results for this trio of Colts also acted as a sort of passing of the torch, as both McClemens and Rooney will graduate after the spring season, leaving the reigns of this Lincroft Racing Club under Ferro’s lead, a fact the group is well aware of.
“I’m going to miss those guys for sure,” Ferro said. “Since I’ve been here they’ve been the biggest part of this team. When I was a freshman they were juniors, they were the comedians who kept it loose but led by example, and next year the situation will sort of mirror that, as I’ll be the junior with a new freshman class coming in. So I’m hoping I can fill that role well.”
“When you become part of this team you understand that at one point in time the torch is going to be past to you,” McClemens said. “And today, this was really Blaise’s way of taking it over. As a group we only have three or four more huge races to this season and in the spring, and then we’re gone. It’ll be up to him, because as of now he’s the new star. We’ll try to get everyone on the same page as him before we leave, and we hope that they’ll be able to make another run at Nationals in cross country, indoor, and outdoor next year.”
Kirk claims MOC title
Howell high jumper Ian Kirk set the bar high back on December 21when the senior leapt to a height of 6-8 at the Demarest Invitational, and entered the MOC as one of only two contenders, joining Timber Creek’s Larry Russell, to clear that mark this indoor season.
Though Kirk and Ramapo’s Kenny Clarke, who placed second at 6-06, both missed their attempts as 6-8 on Saturday, it was Howell’s University Of Pennsylvania bound competitor who captured the championship at 6-7, rounding out an eventful season at the local and state level for the season who won a Monmouth County, Shore Conference, and Central Jersey Group IV Sectional championship, before place second at the group meet.
“Having jumped a 6-8 at the beginning of the season, which led the state pretty much all year,” Kirk explained, “my dad and I were saying how disappointing it would be to go in on top and not leave on top. Our motto has always been ‘win or bust,’ so it feels great to finish like this.”
Kirk, who has shown promise in the high jump event over the years emerged and excelled in this 2014 indoor campaign, success he attributes to the heart wrenching decision he made to walk away from the soccer field where he had spent 14 years of his life prior.
“Last year I started out at 6-6 and dropped off to 6-2 for the rest of the season, I just couldn’t get back to that height,” Kirk said. “But this year I was able to start great and maintain and the biggest part of that was quitting soccer.”
“Without soccer I was able to focus on weight lifting and speed training during the fall, and that’s helped me maintain my stamina. It was nice to go into the winter season healthy for a change with no concussions or nagging injuries; I was fresh from day one.”
“It was tough to walk away, but it had to be done. I started missing a bunch of soccer practices to focus on high jumping, and when I hit that 6-6 mark I realized that I could get a better scholarship and attend a better school with track. But it’s still tough to see your best friends playing and you wishing you could be out there.”
Though Kirk earned the title of best in the state, he has punched his ticket to the National Championship Meet at the Armory from March 14-16 and understands his season is far from over.
“Winning this meet, being the best in the state, definitely helps my confidence heading into the Nationals. I have to keep my head and stay focused on what’s coming up if I’m going to do anything against those guys.”