January 16, 2019

Although Winter Season has Been Challenging, PHS Track Looking for Success in County Meet

TAKING HIS SHOT: Princeton High boys’ track thrower Paul Brennan gets ready to unload the shot put in competition last spring. Senior star Brennan has been enjoying a big winter season, recently hitting a mark of 54’11.5 in the shot, the top throw in the state so far this season. In upcoming action, PHS will be competing in the State Relays on January 19 and the county meet from January 25-26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It has been a rough ride for the Princeton High track program so far this winter.

The boys’ team has been hit with the injury bug, with such star performers as Nils Wildberg, Acasio Pinheiro, and Matt Perello currently sidelined.

While that has made the squad less formidable in the short term, it could have long range benefits.

“It has given a chance for our younger guys to step into the void and get some really good experience, which actually has been a silver lining,” said PHS head coach Ben Samara.

A trio of sophomores, Colin McCafferty, Matt Erlichson, and Jacob Bornstein, have helped fill that void.

“The young distance guys, Colin, Matt, and Jacob all ran real great races over the weekend in the 4×800 and the distance medley,” said Samara, whose team competed in the Lavino Relays at the Lawrenceville School last Saturday.

“They have really been able to get experience that maybe they would not have gotten before because we would have brought an A relay. I think that is going to pay dividends in the future.”

Senior star Tucker Zullo has been a great mentor for the younger runners.

“Tucker is stepping up time and time again and really doing some great things,” said Samara.

“We have had him lead off the distance medley relay in the 1,200 two meets in a row now and he has ran great legs both times. He is looking in great form. He is really developed himself, both physically and mentally as an athlete. He is such a great team leader. To put him in the relays with those younger guys, he sets such a great example for them.”

Two of the team’s veteran athletes, senior Paul Brennan and junior Simon Schenk, excelled at the Lavino meet as Brennan won the shot put while Schenk took second in the pole vault.

“Paul is consistently in the 54-foot range now in the shot which is light years ahead of where he was last year,” said Samara.

“He has some real big things coming. Simon is another one who is coming off injury. He is working his way back again. It was only his second meet back and he jumped 13’6 so it was pretty good. He will be right where he needs to be by states time.”

With PHS competing in the State Relays on January 19 and the county meet from January 25-26, Samara thinks his shorthanded squad can still be formidable.

“We are going to make our best effort for the county meet,” asserted Samara.

“You never know, you don’t know what the other teams are going to have. We going to throw some of the guys we have into events and see if we can’t make something happen.”

As the boys have been dealing with injuries, good things have been happening for the girls’ team so far this season.

“The girls have provided a lot of excitement for us early in the season, particularly in the sprints,” said Samara.

“Colleen Linko has really been coming through both on the track and as a captain. She is really doing a great job as a junior. The girls’ 4×200 finished third on Saturday and the sprint medley relay with Siena Moran was able to take home first so they are doing great.”

Looking ahead to the county meet, Samara believes his sprinters can come through.

“Specifically we will target that 4×400, we have won five of last six indoor/outdoor 4×400 titles, we want that streak to continue for sure,” added Samara.

“That is something we take a lot of pride in. Once you get a streak like that, you want to keep it going. The girls are aware of it and it is something they are definitely targeting. We have the potential to score two or three girls in the 200 and the 400 as well.”

No matter how the PHS teams score at the county meet, Samara believes his athletes will go hard.

“I think on the boys’ and girls side, we are going to walk away with multiple county titles and a lot of good experience for the rest of the season, which is really the ultimate goal,” said Samara.