February 6, 2019

Competing Hard at Indoor Sectional Meet, PHS Track Shows Championship Quality

FAB FOUR: Members of the Princeton High girls’ track 4×400 relay, from left, freshman Kendall Williamson, junior Raina Williamson, sophomore Gabby Goddard, and junior Colleen Linko are all smiles after they placed first in the Central Jersey Group 4 Sectional meet last Saturday. The quartet clocked a winning time of 4:05.40 and their win helped PHS place seventh in the team standings at the event. The Tiger boys’ took sixth in the sectional, led by a victory in the shot put by senior star Paul Brennan.

By Bill Alden

A string of injuries to key performers robbed the Princeton High track teams of any realistic chance to challenge for team titles at the Central Jersey Group 4 Sectional indoor meet last Saturday.

But the PHS athletes who did compete at the Bennett Center at Toms River displayed a championship pedigree.

As for the boys, who placed sixth in the team standings in the meet won by South Brunswick, senior throwing star Paul Brennan added to his sterling resume as he placed first in the shot put with a heave of 56’1.

“That was nice. Any time you can win two sectional titles in a row that means you are a pretty serious competitor, and Paul certainly is that,” said PHS head coach Ben Samara, noting that Brennan has committed to attend Princeton University and compete for its men’s track program.

Senior Jackson McCarthy showed his competitive fire, placing fifth in the 800 meter run to qualify for the upcoming state Group meet as a top-six finisher.

“Jackson ran a nice race; it unfolded a little bit differently from the race at the counties,” said Samara.

“He hung in there and fought just like he always does. He is going to be in a good position to get a bid to the Meet of Champions (MOC) when we get into groups.”

Competing in both distance events, senior Tucker Zullo hung in there, taking fourth in the 1,600 and ninth in the 3,200.

“Tucker has been a workhorse for us, doing whatever we need him to do,” said Samara. “He has performed tremendously for us so far this year, so we are glad that he gets to move on.”

Simon Schenk didn’t have his greatest performance in the pole vault, taking fourth with a leap of 13’6 but Samara sees big things on the horizon for the junior star.

“He was really looking for a jump up, but we are still early in this whole game and he been playing with his steps,” said Samara. “I think the more practices he has and the more jumps he gets at different heights, he is going to get his timing back sooner rather than later.”

The PHS girls’ 4×400 relay of freshman Kendall Williamson, junior Raina Williamson, sophomore Gabby Goddard, and junior Colleen Linko is reaching new heights after taking first, adding the sectional title to the county crown they won a week earlier.

“Those girls are incredible; we are already talking about the fact that there is not a senior in the quartet so they are all coming back next year,” said Samara, whose girls’ squad placed seventh in the team standings of the meet won by Montgomery

“We have got big plans for this group of girls; they are doing big things. It is really nice at this point of the year to be able to work on a lot on fine-tuning things that we sometimes don’t get to do until the end of winter or even into the middle of spring. We are really focusing on the fine points of the relay.”

The relay’s anchor runner, junior Colleen Linko, who took third in the 400 earlier in the meet, came through with a blistering leg.

“Colleen had a fantastic veteran move where she timed her move perfectly based on what the girl from South Brunswick did,” said Samara, whose quartet clocked a winning time of 4:05.40.

“It is something that she would not have done last year but now she has slid into that veteran role. You can see that she is making mid race adjustments; she is really setting a great example for the rest of the girls. She is learning every race and all of these girls are learning. It is really fun to watch.”

Samara had fun watching senior Siena Moran grit out a sixth place finish in the 800.

“Siena is another one who has fought through some recent injuries; she was just cleared to race this weekend and ran with some pain,” said Samara.

“She wanted to make sure that she got herself out there and gave herself a chance to get to the group meet and she was able to do it. She ran a fantastic race, a really smart race.”

With the state Group championship meet slated for February 15-16 in Toms River, Samara is confident that his athletes will keep fighting hard.

“We are real proud of what everybody did; I think we should be able to get the majority of people who got through into the MOC, either with a top six or a wild card,” said Samara.

“Now that we are not as focused on team title as we have been in the past, we can go back to old adage of ‘survive and advance’ and just try to put ourselves in a good position. We are going to have one of our Jadwin meets this week to bridge that gap of time between the two and keep everybody fresh. We will continue to make some noise.”