Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 21
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
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SIX-SHOOTERS: Stuart Country Day track head coach Robert Abdullah, (back, right) celebrates with his athletes last week after the Tartans won their sixth straight Prep B team championship. Junior sprinting star Carys Johnson led the way for the Tartans as she won the 100 meters (12.3), the 400 (1:01.00), and helped the 4 x 400 relay to victory.

Stuart Track Wins 6th Straight Prep B, Sparked by Seniors, Johnson's Sprinting

Bill Alden

When the Stuart Country Day track team dropped a dual meet to Pennington by 30 points in April, the Tartans didn't appear to be a championship-caliber unit.

Stuart head coach Robert Abdullah, though, saw the setback as something that could benefit his team more than Pennington over the long haul.

"It was good for Pennington that they beat us but it was bad because it showed us that we had to work hard," said Abdullah.

The Stuart athletes responded like Abdullah hoped they would. "It was a slow start but we knew we had talent," said Abdullah. "They just jelled with each other as the season went on. The seniors really wanted to go out on top."

The seniors went out on a high as they helped Stuart win the program's sixth straight Patriot Conference crown in the first week of May.

Last week, the Tartans finished the season in familiar fashion as they won the state Prep B title, their sixth straight championship in that meet. The Tartans piled up 154 points with their early-season nemesis, Pennington, the runner-up with 128 points.

While Stuart's core of seniors, which included Brittany Kidd, Taj Pannell, Sarah Goodwin, Hannah Wilson, and Elizabeth Cancelosi, certainly performed well, it was a junior — Carys Johnson — who piled up the most points for the Tartans. The sprint star won the 100 meters (12.3), the 400 (1:01.00), and helped the 4 x 400 relay to victory in the meet held at the Pingry School.

"Carys is the best runner to ever come out of the Stuart program," asserted Abdullah. "She gets overlooked sometimes because we always count on her points. If she weren't there, we'd lose 40 points."

Although Johnson is clearly talented, that isn't the secret to her success, according to Abdullah.

"People say she is good but nobody works harder than Carys," asserted Abdullah. "Carys is good because she trains hard. She trains Saturday and Sunday, I doubt that anyone in Prep B trains as hard as she does. She has been running hard since the end of field hockey season. She puts everything on the line; she wants to be great. Everything she gets, she earns."

Senior star Kidd earned Abdullah's respect with her win in the 400 hurdles. "She is a natural athlete," added Abdullah. "She has won the long jump, the high jump, and now the 400 intermediate hurdles at the Prep B meet. I don't think she has scratched the surface of what she can do."

Stuart figured to do well in the throws with the tandem of senior standouts Goodwin and Pannell. The pair didn't disappoint as Goodwin won the discus with a heave of 89'3 while Pannell took the shot put in 31'6 and was second in the discus.

"We knew with Sarah and Taj, that we had the shot put and the discus," said Abdullah, who got a second place in the shot from Dominique Rice and a third in the javelin from Alaina Gaines. "Taj was very determined to break Maya's [Thompson] records. She's not built for the shot; she's a technician."

Senior captain Elizabeth Cancelosi provided the team with a fighting spirit. "She is a true warrior," said Abdullah. "When I was considering captains for this year's team, she was the first person I thought of. She runs with heart and determination. She represents the qualities I try to bring to the program."

Junior Nicole Huber showed determination as she fought through injury to contribute to the title. "Nicole had stress fractures in the fall and she has had stomach problems this spring," said Abdullah. "She hasn't been able to run many races this spring but ran hard whenever she did compete. She was fifth in the 3,200. We need character like that; her effort needs to be recognized."

Huber's performance exemplified the effort Abdullah tries to draw from his athletes. "I'm a coach who doesn't put a lot of pressure for championships; I want the kids to excel in performance," maintained Abdullah.

"I want you to give your best for yourself and the team. The results will follow; you can't get so caught up in wins and losses. I say to the girls that the states are like the SATs; you prepare hard and come out and perform like you've always done."

And in taking a sixth straight Prep B title, the Tartans once again performed like champions.

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