Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 24
 
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

LETTING IT FLY: Princeton High boys’ track throwing star A. J. Dowers lets the discus fly in NJSIAA Group III Central Jersey sectional meet. Dowers finished fifth in the competition to advance to the Group III state meet. His effort was a highlight in a season that saw the Little Tigers fall just short of some major breakthroughs.

PHS Boys’ Track Team Made Strides but Still Looking for Breakthrough

Bill Alden

For the Princeton High boys’ track team, its performance at the NJSIAA Group III Central Jersey sectional meet in late May accurately reflected its season.

PHS had some superb individual performances at the competition but didn’t threaten for the team title.

“I thought there were some true improvements and some marginal improvements,” said Little Tiger head coach John Woodside reflecting on the sectionals where his athletes took 14th in the team standings.

“We had four guys who made it to the group meet. Max Reid in the 400, A. J. Dowers in the discus, Connor Ryan in the javelin, and A.J. Mayanan in the 100 hurdles.

But as was the case all spring, PHS also had some near misses. “We had three or four seventh place finishes; we had some guys who came close to making it to the group meet,” added Woodside.

“The milers ran well; we had two around 4:36 in Chris Vasseur and Sean Pradham. Aaron Thomas was at 10:00 in the 2-mile and Gerhard Gengel jumped 12 in the pole vault.”

Woodside acknowledged that the Little Tigers haven’t produced that breakthrough moment collectively.

“We are learning; we continue to knock on the door,” said Woodside. “We have been good but we haven’t really done something big. We haven’t knocked down the door.”

PHS learned some important lessons this spring in dual-meet competition.

“We were very competitive in dual meets this year,” said Woodside. “We were 4-4-1 and we could have won three of those meets. There was only one meet where we really lost big. I look at the glass as half full; I think we can turn those meets around.”

Woodside’s optimism is based on the depth and balance that his program has built up over the years.

“We have better numbers,” said Woodside. “We have better coverage at meets; we have good guys in every event. When I look at it, we were so much better than we were when I started.”

PHS had some good guys in its trio of senior captains — Connor Ryan, Aaron Deutsch, and Chris Vasseur.

“Connor was a great kid, a great leader,” asserted Woodside. “He was everything you look for in a captain. Deutsch and Vasseur were the distance guys, they were veteran leaders who showed the way.”

Another senior who helped lead the way was senior throwing star Dowers.

“A.J. is a quality kid,” said Woodside of Dowers, a basketball star who came up big as PHS made the sectional finals this winter and is headed to Washington and Lee.

“He could rally kids; he engenders spirit in other kids. At the sectionals, he has the other kids rooting for him and he was rooting for them. It is great to make a difference in these kids’ lives. You want the big wins but this is rewarding.”

In Woodside’s view, his group of returning kids could post some big wins for the program.

“We have a lot of hungry kids,” said Woodside, whose returning athletes include Reid, Mayanan, Pradham, Thomas, and Gengel together with throwing stars Omar Yousef and Drew Reiffinger.

“We will have a very solid senior class next year. You can never discount that extra year of maturity. You see people just getting bigger and physically stronger. They will be mentally tougher; they know what the deal is. They have big goals.”

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