May 26, 2021

With Sophomore Star Roth Picking Up the Pace, PHS Girls’ Track Pumped for CVC Championships

ROCKING ROBIN: Princeton High girls’ track star Robin Roth leads a foe from WW/P-South last Friday in the CVC Colonial Qualifier hosted by PHS last weekend. Sophomore Roth won the 3,200 meters in 11:44.48 at the meet, took second in the 1,600 meters in a personal-record 5:18.56, and placed sixth in the 800 meters in 2:36.44. Roth and the Tigers are next in action when they compete in the CVC Championship meet at WW/P-North on May 28 and 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Robin Roth did not feel great about winter training, but with the improving weather and a new focus and passion for track, the Princeton High sophomore is coming into her own in her first full outdoor season.

Like everyone, Roth didn’t get a spring track season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she did enjoy some indoor track and field success. She posted a solid 1,600-meter time of 5:29.04 at the Mercer County Championships and went on to place fifth in the 3,200 meters in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet to qualify for the Group 4 state meet.

“I always feel like I have to go at least once step further than I did before, or at least to the same point,” said Roth.

“So I felt like I have to get to groups this spring. It felt like something that needed to happen. I knew I’d beat myself up over it if it didn’t happen. Where I was this winter was not on the way to groups.”

It was a good cross country season for Roth and the Tiger girls when they won the first CJ Group 4 sectional crown in school history. But the winter weather and training inconsistency eroded some confidence and fitness as the outdoor track season loomed.

“It was hard transitioning back especially after having such a good cross country season,” said Roth.

“We’d gotten to the point where we sort of assumed success. In February, we learned we did not still have that success going from the fall, and that we still needed to work hard to stay successful.”

Roth has found her pace at the perfect time to help the PHS girls track and field team position itself to compete for a Colonial Valley Conference championship. Though she bounced back and forth between the top runner in some cross country races and their fourth finisher at sectionals, Roth has been a front runner for the Tigers in the spring after getting herself out of a funk in the winter.

“After that I was able to recover a bit better than other people,” said Roth.

“This season, our mindset has been a big struggle of trying to stay motivated and have real goals when we don’t really know totally what’s going on and what’s going to happen. I did better than some to stay motivated. Charlotte (Gilmore) and Lucy (Kreipke) and Kyleigh (Tangen) are just better at some of the longer distances like 5K, and I have a little more brute speed and can kind of get through the little shorter 16 and 32.”

Roth has become a frontrunner for the Tigers on the track,  finding success consistently. She hasn’t finished worse than third in a 1,600 or 3,200 this spring.

“She just really excels when she’s put in a spot where she needs to be competitive with other good girls,” said PHS head coach Ben Samara.

“She likes to have a target. She likes to have people to compete against and so to be on the track where you can see everybody and you can see how it’s unfolding is a good spot for her, I think.”

Last weekend, Roth won the 3,200 meters in 11:44.48, took second in the 1,600 meters in a personal-record 5:18.56, and placed sixth in the 800 meters in 2:36.44 at the CVC Colonial Qualifier meet that PHS hosted last Friday and Saturday.

“I feel like we got to show what we’ve been working on all winter and spring,” said Roth. “I think it wraps together what our past couple weeks with the showdown meets have all been for.”

New this year, the CVC qualifier meets send the top four finishers in each event, plus the next eight best marks from around the CVC qualifier meets to this weekend’s CVC Championship at WW/P-North on May 28 and 29. The CVC Championship is a substitute for the normal Mercer County Championship.

“We were really happy,” said Samara. “Overall, some people doubled and tripled, but we got 49 entries through, which is one of the higher numbers in the conference. Almost everybody that competed made it over to next week. We’re really looking forward to leaving it all out there in the championship meet.”

The top overall performer for the girls was Kendall Williamson, who won the 100, 200, and 400 and anchored the 4×400 relay of Megan Rougas, Alysse Kiesewetter, and Catherine Howard to gold.

“She ran 58 flat at the end of the 4×4,” said Samara. “It was a pretty good effort. Kendall, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the last time she ran outdoor track, she was a freshman. She’s been putting the work in ever since we got shut down last spring. We take a slow approach in the winter and we build towards more success in May and June. It seems to be really paying off for her. She’s been having a lot of really good training days. She’s stayed relatively injury free. She’s ready to run some really, really big times.”

The Tigers had a number of top-three finishers. Kiesewetter was second in the 400 hurdles, Ada Metaxas was second in the 100 hurdles, and the 4×100 relay of the two hurdlers, Rougas and Howard, took third place.

“They ran really well and had clean hand-offs,” said Samara. “We think they can run even faster next weekend and maybe steal us some points in a really close meet.”

The girls’ 4×800 of Yana Medvedeva, Emma Lipps, Charlotte Gilmore, and Ryan Vaughey won in 10:10.03, and the boys 4×8 of Colin McCafferty, Addison Motto, John Zammit, and Andrew Kenny won in 8:16.94.

“I know Coach (Jim) Smirk was very happy with the girls 4×8 and the boys 4×8,” said Samara.

“The girls 4×8 in particular was good because there was some struggle with the girls 4×8 a week ago at our last CVC showdown meet and they really wrapped their heads around what they needed to do be successful and now put themselves in a good spot to be conference champions, along with the boys who are the No. 1 seed as well now.”

Roth will head into the CVC Championships as one of the runners with a target again. She is trying not to think about the pressure spot. Roth feels like the team performs better when it doesn’t think about the pressures of winning.

“I’m definitely a little nervous going in,” said Roth. “Even going into this week, I went in with targets on my back for both the 16 and 32. It was suspected that I would run well and I would help people run well if they stuck with me.”

Roth is hoping to run well for the team’s sake. She sees a strong group that has the potential to win. She has seen the camaraderie of the team grow as they have spent more time together and she’s embraced the spring sport. She played lacrosse in middle school and is finding a new love in the outdoor season.

“Something about outdoor track, it’s such a good time,” said Roth.

“You can cheer so easily. It’s nice and warm out. Racing in 85-degree weather is not a good time, but it’s warm and you get to hang out and bond over being half-dead and trying to find any bit of shade to drink your water.”

It comes as little surprise that Roth found running. Her older brothers both ran, with former PHS standout Alex Roth just finishing his career at the University of Pennsylvania this year. Roth first gained interest in a Girls On the Run program that pushed her to run with her dad. She turned her focus away from dance and other young interests to run in middle school.

“I love running,” said Roth. “I loved hanging out with the girls on Girls on the Run. I still do now. Girls on the Run was definitely the thing that got me to stick with it.”

This year, Roth has found herself more connected to the track team. It has helped to make the spring season more enjoyable and pulled the Tigers together as they head into the championship portion of the year.

“We’ve been doing more things with the sprinters,” said Roth. “It’s fun seeing more people and I think the fall is more parent support and support within the distance girls in cross country. The community of the team grew for the spring. Instead of just being a part of the girls distance, I’m a part of Princeton High School track with the boys, the girls, the sprinters, the throwers, the jumpers.”

Roth will have the PHS team behind her when she takes to the track for two days of distance tests in the championship meet this weekend. She is looking forward to the competition and the chance to continue to build toward a return to the group meet level, this time in outdoor track. The CVC Championship is the first big opportunity for her and the Tigers in a spring that has started with plenty of promise.

“I definitely want to get a good 16 in and try to win that, which will be tough,” said Roth.

“I’ll put most of my effort into the 16 Friday. That’s where the toughest competition is. I’m going to try to win both the 16 and the 32, but I’m supposed to still do the 8 on Saturday. I’m not really focusing on times because I think they’ll come with racing hard for place. Good times will come with the good competitors that will be there.”