Metaxas Saving Her Best For Last for PHS Track, Winning Triple Jump at County Championship Meet
TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton High girls’ track star Ada Metaxas displays the medal she earned for placing first in the triple jump at the Mercer County Championships last Friday. Senior Metaxas, who also took fourth in the long jump and sixth in the 55-meter hurdles at the meet, helped PHS place fourth in the team standings with 47 1/3 points, just two points behind third-place West Windsor-Plainsboro High North.
By Justin Feil
Ada Metaxas proved you’re never too old to learn.
Metaxas may be a senior in her second year as one of the Princeton High track and field team’s sprints and jumps captains, but she felt the pressure of her expectations and challenges outside of her control in a fourth-place showing in the girls’ long jump at the Mercer County Championships on Friday at Lawrenceville School. She responded barely a half-hour later to record a personal-record 34’11 to win the county girls’ triple jump title.
“It meant a lot,” said Metaxas. “I was surprised. Not that I didn’t expect it, but it wasn’t the event I thought I would win. I thought I would win long jump. My previous meets, that was my best event. A lot of it had to do with my mindset.”
Metaxas, who was put off by the cold temperatures at Lawrenceville’s indoor track, didn’t feel fully warmed up and loose, or as comfortable on the jumps runway as at some meets. She jumped 15’10½, a foot off her personal best, to finish behind three other competitors she thought she was confident that she could beat.
“I think I’ve had an expectation like that before,” said Metaxas. “Coming into it, it’s one of the first meets in the season, so I guess it was just a lot. I think having a more positive mentality going in, and just focusing on enjoying it, that’s what I need to focus on. By turning around that mentality, I was able to win the triple jump. That was a positive end to the night.”
Metaxas also scored points for Princeton by placing sixth in the 55-meter hurdles as the second part of the county meet was held Saturday in Toms River. The Tiger girls placed fourth overall with 47 1/3 points, just two points behind third-place West Windsor-Plainsboro High North. Lawrenceville won with 67 points, three points ahead of Allentown as teams returned to action after winter break.
“It’s a quick schedule,” said PHS head coach Ben Samara. “We thought we had a shot to place pretty highly, but I think in these early season meets, it just takes a couple things to go one way or the other and this past weekend in terms of place, things didn’t go our way. But we still had a lot of good performances.”
Junior Robin Roth ran 11:47.46 for second in the 3,200 meters. Senior Kendall Williamson ran 7.43 seconds for fourth in the 55-meter dash and 26.96 seconds for fourth in the 200 meters. Junior Katherine Monroe ran 9.23 for fourth in the 55 hurdles. The 4×400 relay placed third in 4:20.96. Senior Isabela Burton was fourth in the high jump with a clearance of 4’4. Senior Peyton Reynolds was fourth in the pole vault at 8’6.
“The mindset right now is a lot of us thought that things were going to be more normal this season than they are now,” said Samara.
“That can be frustrating. I think it’s still important for us to remember at this time last year we still weren’t even allowed to be together. It’s a work in progress. It’s a long season. We have to play the long game. We’re not going to be at our best right now. We’re building for something bigger in the spring. For our kids to embrace that, that’s what’s going to take us to the next level over the next few weeks and months.”
The PHS boys placed sixth at the county meet with 25 points, three behind fifth-place Ewing in the event won by WW/P-North with 85. Senior Addison Motto was third in the 800 in 2:02.21. Junior Andrew Kenny was fourth in the 1,600 meters in 4:31.53. Junior Zach Della Rocca was fourth in the 55-meter dash at 6.62 seconds and fourth in the 200 with a 23.38 clocking. Senior Jensen Bergman made a splash in his first serious long jump competition. The sprinter jumped 20-feet for fourth in his emerging event. Sophomore Sawyer Quallen was fourth in the triple jump with a 39’5 mark.
“I thought the boys really competed well,” said Samara. “We’re still missing a lot of our distance crew. We’re excited for them to come back over the next few weeks and the next few meets. We knew we were shorthanded a little bit, but we had a lot of kids who really competed well. The big thing for us moving forward is mindset. It’s growing from setbacks instead of letting setbacks control or affect how we operate. It’s learning from each race, both the positive and negative.”
The Tigers are gearing up for the Central Jersey Group 3 sectionals February 19. For Metaxas, the county meet can serve as a source of confidence going forward. Much of her training focus is around long jump, the event she expects to focus on in college next year. She has not been training specifically for the far newer event to her, triple jump, but by focusing on how much she enjoys track and field and just competing, she produced a best.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” said Metaxas. “I just started triple jumping last spring. I don’t even know how good of a triple jumper I would be if I actually trained in that event. I guess it’s a possibility. I’d like to see where long and triple jump go in the future.”
Metaxas’s subsequent comeback from her long jump disappointment shows the benefits of her conditioning her body, and demonstrates the power of the mental side of the sport. She suffers from shin splints, and the pounding of the triple jump can exacerbate that injury. She put that resulting soreness behind her the next day in another mental challenge in order to place in hurdles.
“I had to maintain that positive mindset and not think about the pain,” said Metaxas.
“I went to try to go for some points. Ultimately I was able to score some points. It was a good lesson to have that positivity and ignore some things that might be getting in the way of having some success.”
Metaxas’s near-35 foot triple jump qualifies her for nationals. Williamson, too, is already qualified for nationals in the dash. Metaxas is turning her focus to also qualifying in the long jump, where she needs to exceed 17 feet. With a personal best of 17’2 coming in to this season, she feels confident she can make it, as well as take a shot down the line at the school record of 18’ ½ set in 2006 by Megan Wiseman.
“I have been training really hard, whether with training the actual event, or working hard in the weight room to gain muscle or doing conditioning and speed work,” said Metaxas.
“I’ve been training to be at that level and give it my all and do my best.”
Metaxas is still adjusting to being a jumping favorite in big meets like counties. When she came out of Princeton Middle School, she wasn’t an immediate star at the high school level, but has developed her technique and athleticism each year.
“I feel like for Ada, the sky is the limit for her because she has such a great drive and work ethic,” said Samara.
“She really built herself over the last three years into the athlete she is today. It’s really a testament to her and her hard work. That’s one thing I know is never going to dwindle. As long as she continues to focus on the things she needs to mentally to move forward, physically she’s going to be there because she puts the work in. So I definitely see big things for her in the triple and long and hurdles in the spring. One of the goals is for her to qualify for the long and triple jump at the Meet of Champs at the end of the winter. That’ll be a really good springboard for her moving forward.”
Metaxas has developed into a star despite a modest start and the recent interruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. She came into the PHS program and immediately found a strong jumping group to gravitate toward for her main events. It encouraged her development and devotion.
“Nils Wildberg was a long jumper, Jack Phelan was a triple jumper, and Varun Narayan, they were all these older guys long jumping and triple jumping,” said Metaxas.
“That was inspiring to see them having this success at the national level. They helped train me. Having that great camaraderie was inspiring.”
Tom Harrington, a former Princeton University assistant coach who volunteered advice to PHS, similarly was a strong influence. He sparked her interest in hurdles with his vast knowledge and enthusiasm for the event. She has become a regular contributor in hurdles, and over the last two years made big strides in the jumps.
“When the pandemic shut down everything, that was my big ah-ha moment,” said Metaxas.
“Instead of sitting in my house and being annoyed and frustrated I went to the Princeton University track every day. Princeton High was locked and they wouldn’t let anyone in, so I used that time to train and improve my abilities on my own. One of the big things I worked on is my long jump landing. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. I have a really good landing. That’s one thing I worked on.”
Metaxas is looking forward to finishing her high school career on a high note. She has her sister, freshman Christina Metaxas, on the team this year, and is looking to lead and inspire the younger athletes for PHS. She has become an example of the benefits of hard work, work on the physical and mental side that doesn’t end even after years of preparation.
“It is still pretty early on,” said Metaxas. “This year because of COVID, we don’t have any indoor facilities. We’re out there even when the outdoor pit is near frozen. Our weight room was closed for the longest time. It just reopened. It’s definitely been challenging. I’ve been working hard to find weight rooms and find ways to train. I’m in a good spot. To be qualified for nationals is exciting. I’m excited about my progression in the next few months. And I’m just enjoying being a track athlete as a senior, enjoying the sport itself and also being with the team and working towards my goals as well.”