A season ago, CBA’s Blaise Ferro walked into the Bennett Center in Toms River for the Meet of Champions as a little known sophomore with promise, but left a 3200 champion, out-pacing former Middletown North star Tom O’Neill in the process.
On Saturday morning, the junior entered the bubble once more for the Non-Public A meet a year older, stronger, and more renowned, shouldering the spotlight and reveling in it.
“I think right now the attention is affecting me in a positive way,” said Ferro, who opened the morning by capturing the first indoor group championship of his career in the 1600 with a time of 4:34.11. “It’s tough when you’re racing with a target on your back and you know everyone is looking at you, chasing after you. But knowing there’s six talented guys behind you trying to beat you, it definitely pushes you to work harder.”
Ferro’s title-winning time allowed him to edge fellow Colts runner Drake Anzano, who finished in second at 4:35.39, and Seton Hall Prep’s Hogan Dwyer, who crossed in third place at 4:35.56.
However, Ferro had larger plans in mind, such as cementing himself in Colts lore with former teammate and 2014 graduate Tom Rooney, who was the only CBA winter track competitor to capture both the 1600 and 3200 group championships…until Saturday.
In the final 150 meters of the 3200 event, Ferro out-kicked Don Bosco’s Patrick Sullivan (9:27.15) and sprinted to a mark of 9:24.76.
“Tom was the only other runner in program history to win both, so I know I’ll be texting him a little later to rub it in his face a little bit,” Ferro said in jest. “I was a little under-confident heading into the race but around a mile to go I saw Sullivan struggling a little bit, so I knew I could win it if I just stuck to the plan.”
Though Ferro was the only CBA representative to win gold on Saturday, the Colts collective captured the program’s 20th Non-Public Group Championship with 83 points, bettering Union Catholic’s second place mark of 50, and Notre Dame’s third place total of 41.
Mater Dei Prep’s Tom Mongeau became the first winter track group champion in program history with an 800 win in the Non-Public B event, racing to a time of 2:03.61, outkicking Dwight-Englewood’s Ryan Semsel (2:05.63) and Montclair Kimberley’s (2:07.26).
Given the unfortunate light recently shed on Mater Dei Prep’s current financial situation, and the negative headlines swirling about the Middletown, NJ-based high school, Mongeau called the victory “one of the greatest moments” of his life, and had the Seraphs community in his thoughts while racing to the win.
“This win means so much to me, especially with everything going on with the school right now,” Mongeau said. “We really needed something positive. So I was running for the school and the Mater Dei community today.”
St. John Vianney’s Josh Taylor raced to a championship in the Non-Public A meet, capturing the 55 hurdles championship in a time of 7.61, edging Union Catholic’s Tayor McLaughlin (7.63) and CBA’s Chris Alexander, who delivered a 7.69. The Lancers Katie DiFrancesco matched Taylor’s medal in the girls 55 dash, with a winning time of 7.39.
Red Bank Catholic’s Marykate McNamara earned the Non-Public A 800 title, racing to a time of 2:18.88 ahead of Union Catholic’s Amari Onque-Shabazz (2:20.84), and teammate Gabriella Ferrigine (2:20.86), while the Caseys’ Emily Rienzo placed fifth at 2:22.46.
In the Non-Public A girls shot put event, Donovan Catholic’s Alyssa Wilson launched a throw of 46-04.50 to surpass the 38-04.75 mark of Red Bank Catholic’s Fidel Jules, who finished in second place.
Luke Grodeska of St. Rose was also a shot put winner in the Non-Public B event, hitting a mark of 54-04 to out-throw Holy Spirit’s Cade Antonucci (49-05), and his Purple Roses teammates Andrew Huisman (47-06.).