The Jackson Memorial High School boys track and field team and the Southern Regional girls team won Ocean County titles Saturday at Jackson Liberty.
The Jaguars scored 96½ points. The Rams piled up 133½.
“We have a lot of pride — a sense of pride,” said Jackson senior Khani Glover, who won the 400-meter dash in 50.84. “Our underclassmen look to us. They learn how they should perform. When we win championships, it sets the tone for our underclassmen and the team carries on. This was a whole team effort — throwers, jumpers, sprinters, distance runners.”
A football standout, Glover will play for The College of New Jersey.
Jackson’s Nick Claudeo, who was second in the 110 hurdles (15.03), said the Jaguars won the title with strength in numbers.
“We have a lot of depth,” he said. “We have a lot of people.”
Jackson sophomore Ryan Rafferty took the 3,200 in 9:43.13.
“Winning the team title is a big deal,” he said. “It’s great to be out here and win it. We were up by seven points through Thursday’s action. We wanted to finish strong and bring it home.”
Rafferty fended off Brick’s Robert Pedersen (9:49.84) to win the championship.
“I felt pretty strong physically and mentally,” Rafferty said. “I did not feel very tired. I tried to draft off Pedersen. I caught him in the last 500 meters when I started picking up on him. I do a lot of speedwork and 400s, stuff like that. I do threshold things and tempo runs — things distance runners do.”
An annual state power, Southern captured the 4×400 relay in 4:00.75 en route to the team crown. Competing were Melana Hammel, Jenna Ritchie, Amaysia Lake and Carly Burnup.
“We pretty much won it Thursday, the first day of competition,” said Hammel, a senior who will run for Princeton University. “That speaks of our domination. No other team has our depth. Our coach (Brian Zatorski) tells us, ‘Other teams have sharper bullets, but at the end of the day, we have more bullets.’
“We keep putting people on the line. That’s how we win. That’s what we take pride in.”
Jackson Liberty senior Clinton Bailey starred in boys action, winning the 200 (in a school-record 22.04), the 100 (11.03), 400 hurdles (55.86) and running the anchor leg (49.6) on the first-place 4×400 team (3:25.97).
“I felt pretty good in the 200,” he said. “I was a little tight in my quadriceps in the last 50 meters. My thought was to finish strong. I was happy with my time. I wanted to do at least a 21.9. I did not feel I would win it. I went in wanting to do the best I could.”
Lacey senior Danielle Leavitt gutted out a victory in the 800 (2:12.65) for the Lions. Leavitt placed her hands on both knees in the outfielder’s position and bent to the ground. She received a back massage from her mother, Barbara, near the finish line while leaning on a fence with both hands, breathing heavily.
“I felt good,” Leavitt said. “I was a little more tired at the end of the race than I expected.”
Leavitt sped through the first lap in 64.0 seconds.
“I wanted to hit 64.0,” she said. “My goal was to try and finish with what I had left. I felt comfortable and strong. I am very happy with my overall time. I hoped to run it.”
Leavitt has adjusted her diet and training.
“I cut out a lot of junk and decreased the carbohydrates,” the 5-foot-4, 115-pounder said. “I have increased my protein. I hydrate with lots and lots of water. I have started lifting weights outside of practice.”
Leavitt will run the 800 and 1,600 and compete in cross country for Monmouth University. She chose the Hawks over Iona, Connecticut, Rutgers and Syracuse.
“When I visited Monmouth, I felt the most comfortable there,” she said. “I love the coaching staff. I feel I should be able to improve there the most. It’s where I want to be for the next five years. Now that I have signed (a National Letter of Intent) with a college, it has taken a big chunk of pressure off me.”
Leavitt enjoys competing in outdoor track.
“It’s my favorite season,” she said. “The 1,600 is my favorite race, but the 800 is a close second.”
Southern’s John Furlong won the 110 hurdles in a personal-best 14.68.
“I felt pretty good,” the University of South Florida-bound senior said. “In the qualifying race, I was a little high over the hurdles. I felt I would be faster between the hurdles and lower to the hurdles. I needed to do that to win the final race. I expected to win it.
“I was second in the 400 hurdles Thursday. I wanted to prove to myself that I could put up points for my team. That’s what I am here to do.”
Furlong has improved his mechanics since last season.
“I now understand that I have to run faster between the hurdles,” he said. “Now, I really enjoy the event. It’s a challenge. It’s my favorite event. It’s so hard. Not many people can do it. It takes a true athlete to run the 400 hurdles.”
Pinelands Regional junior Lauren Zodl captured the 3,200 in 11:10.37 for the Wildcats.
“I felt good, but I was a little tired,” she said. “I attended a prom Friday night.”
Zodl has regained her sharpness after missing part of the winter season because of an injury.
“I missed a good portion of it with a sprained right ankle,” the 5-foot-1, 80-pounder said. “It feels pretty good these days. I treated it well. I did the right stretches and waited for it to heal. I knew I would get back faster and better.”
Zodl also stars in cross country.
“I love running the 3,200,” she said, “but running eight laps around a track is a little tiring. I prefer cross country. You listen to the birds. It’s a change in scenery.”