They did everything except drive the bus for the Union Catholic High School track program. In fact, it would not have been a shock if Andrew Ghizzone or Sydney McLaughlin piloted the team home from the Union County Relays.
The pair turned in spectacular performances at the two-day meet, which concluded Friday at Kehler Stadium.
Ghizzone, a senior, anchored the distance medley and 4×800 to victories with splits of 4:20 and 1:54, respectively. He picked up a third gold medal by clearing a meet-best 14-6 in the pole vault. The Vikings won the team title for the fourth straight year, nearly doubling the score of runner-up Scotch Plains-Fanwood despite the absence of injured superstar Taylor McLaughlin.
Taylor’s younger sister Sydney kept the family’s name in good standing. The freshman posted marks of 18-9.75 in the long jump and 1:00.54 in the 400 hurdles to spark victories in both events. She also anchored the 4×400 with a 54.7 split and ran on the second-place shuttle hurdles unit. Union Catholic’s girls finished third overall with 57 points, behind Union (72) and Westfield (59).
Those are some jaw-dropping numbers for May 2.
“I’ve never had a meet like this,” said Ghizzone, who also cleared 5-10 in the high jump. “Just to say I’ve done 4:20 and 14-6, it’s not a bad double.”
He might be the only schoolboy in the country doing it. But the highlight came in the 4×800, when he inched past Westfield standout Matt Luppino down the stretch for an 8:01 triumph. Luppino split 1:56 as the Blue Devils crossed in 8:02.
“I sat off him, because I knew he was going to run fast,” Ghizzone said. “But honestly I thought he had me. In the last 50 (meters) I just put my head down and kept going. I tried to lean at the line because it’s about winning at county relays.”
Union Catholic knows that well. The Vikings are the first four-peat champions at the Union County Relays since Elizabeth won eight straight from 1986-93.
“To have three or four guys come on to replace (Taylor McLaughlin) says how deep our team is,” Ghizzone said. “We have a ton of guys who are good.”
Like senior Obafemi Animashaun, who earned four gold medals in the shuttle hurdles (a sizzling 59.39), 4×100 (42.98), 4×200 (1:29.64) and 3×400 hurdles (a meet-best 54.05). Then there was Sean Brennan, who posted the meet’s top throws in the shot put (51-7) and discus (160-10) and contributed to the winning javelin effort.
On the girls’ side, McLaughlin’s output stood alone.
“It’s been pretty good to learn from all the girls, what they do and how they work,” the Dunellen resident said, adding that Taylor and older sister Morgan have been good influences. “They give me advice and help me with my training. That’s really helped me get to where I am.”
McLaughlin said her favorite aspect of track is the continual surprises.
“It’s just not knowing what you can do,” she said, “and then coming out and accomplishing something.”