February 22, 2017

Paced by Dynamic Duo of Roth and Hare, PHS Boys’ Track Takes 3rd in Group 4 Meet

GOING THE DISTANCE: Princeton High boys’ track distance stars, from left, junior Alex Ackerman, junior Will Hare, and senior Alex Roth celebrate after helping PHS place first at the Central Group 4 indoor sectional meet earlier this month. Last Friday in the state Group 4 indoor championship meet at the Bennett Center in Toms River, Roth and Hare scored all 26 points as the Little Tigers finished in a tie for third with Egg Harbor behind champion East Orange (41 points) and runner-up Trenton (36 points). Roth and Hare will be competing in the Meet of Champions on February 25.

It turned into a two-man show for the Princeton High boys’ track team as it found itself in title contention at the state Group 4 indoor championship meet last Friday.

PHS senior star Alex Roth placed first in the 3,200 meters and second in the 1,600 while junior standout Will Hare finished second in the 3,200 to give the Little Tigers all 26 of their points as they finished in a tie for third with Egg Harbor behind champion East Orange (41 points) and runner-up Trenton (36 points) in the meet held at the Bennett Center in Toms River.

PHS boys’ track head coach Ben Samara tipped his hat to his dynamic duo, who will be competing in the Meet of Champions on February 25.

“It really speaks to the  strength of our distance program,” said Samara, noting that Roth and Hare had starred in the 1,600 and 3,200 to help PHS win the Central Group 4 indoor sectional meet.

“We were joking that it was East Orange, Trenton, and then Roth and Hare at the group meet. To be able to have two guys who are able to pick up enough points to get third in the state championship meet, just speaks volumes about their preparation, their execution, and their ability.”

Roth displayed mental toughness as he rebounded after finishing second in the 1,600 to Trenton’s Mulual Mu by 0.20 in a time of 4:16.23 to cruise to victory in the 3,200 in 9:23.21.

“I think his grit is something that makes him special; in previous years he probably would have just run the 2-mile just to get the best speed possible,” said Samara, noting that Roth had finished a close second in the 1,600 to Mu at the county meet and Franklin’s Bill Hill at the sectional meet.

“It was a great race and a personal best for him. It was just a really, really satisfying race for him. He ran it tactically well and then he was able to come back in the 2-mile and just blow the doors off of it again. There was nobody near him. He just continues to rack up incredible performances. It is a tough double but I think he was energized by his performance in the mile and came back and knew he was the class of the field in the 3,200 so he just had to do his job.”

Hare has been doing his job with aplomb this winter and he clocked a time of 9:27.52 in taking second to Roth in the 3,200.

“Will certainly helps Alex along and he has learned even more about himself over the course of the season,” added Samara, who also got an 11th place finish from Alex Ackerman in the 3,200.

“I know he and coach (Jim) Smirk have talked a lot about his races and coming back. Will had his wisdom teeth taken out so he was out for a week or two. He slowly came back. He had a race at counties where in the 2-mile, he didn’t go up with the top pack and I think he was disappointed about that. At groups, you saw a race where Roth and the kid from Cherokee (Nick Falk) went right out and he went right with them. There was no way he wasn’t going to do that. It just shows the growth in his confidence.”

Freshman standout Simon Schenk showed his growing confidence, taking 8th in the pole vault with a best jump of 13’0.

“You look at his progression, he has improved every single meet from the first meet of the season and topped out at 13 feet and now he is a consistent 13 feet in the last two meets,” said Samara.

“He is in the top 10 freshman pole vaulters in the country, so he has a bright future. He is one of the most coachable kids I have ever seen. He is a technician.”

The future looks good this spring for PHS as it girds for the upcoming outdoor season.

“The championship meet is the toughest outdoors but I think the distance guys will continue to improve and I think Simon will continue to improve in the pole vault,” said Samara.

“We have Paul Brennan and his bread and butter is the discus. We don’t really get a chance to show off our long jumpers and triple jumpers and I think we have some guys who are going to be able to score some points for us too in a lot of big meets. We have worked really hard to develop the program to be well rounded and I think we can start seeing the payoff from that this year.”