Several Montclair and Montclair Kimberley track and field athletes found their way out of the group meets and into Thursday’s State Meet of Champions.
Montclair High School has two athletes, junior Ashley Noel and senior Richard Fortune, who will battle the best of the best. The Mounties girls 400 relay and the 1,600 relay also qualified for the SMOC which was postponed to Thursday, June 15 with a threat of rain on June. 14.
Six Montclair Kimberley athletes qualified for the SMOC: freshman Mila Huang, sophomore Kalvin Thomas, and juniors Maggie Horn, Salange Bell, Kellen Ievers and Kitty Williams.
The 2023 state group meets were condensed to one day last weekend, June 10, after the NJSIAA canceled the first day (June 9) because of poor air quality caused by Canadian wildfires.
With the decision to go to one day, many of the track and field athletes who qualified for multiple events had to choose which event to participate in.
Montclair High School head coach Daryl Washington said it was tough cramming all the events into June 10 at the Group 4 meet at Franklin High School.
“It was a rough day for everyone seeing as they combined the two-day meet into one day, which had us competing from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.,” Washington said. “So that definitely took its toll.”
Montclair qualified in five different events, led by Fortune, who reached the SMOC in the shot put (50 feet 1 inch) and discus (153 feet 5). On the girls side, Noel reached the SMOC in the triple jump (37 feet 3.75) while also being part of the 400-meter relay team (48.56), along with Darriel Whiting, Ava Butler and Leannah Jordan. Jordan and Butler were also part of the Mounties’ 1,600-meter relay (3:59.89) with Maya Kim and Corinne Stewart.
The rollercoaster day for Montclair was sort of a preview for the 2024 state tournament as most of the Mounties will be back next season.
“Overall, the meets had its ups and downs which is part of sports,” Washington said. “But at the end of the day the athletes showed up and did their best under those circumstances. The majority of the athletes that competed here and at sectionals will be back next season. So as a coach I know this season, as a whole, will build a foundation of success for the program.”
Along with all the events being compressed into one day, Montclair Kimberley had to deal with the academy’s graduation on the same day, June. 10.
Six Cougar athletes qualified for the SMOC out of the Non-Public B meet with five girls getting into the last meet of the season led by Horn and Ievers.
Horn took home first place in the 1,600-meter race and had a personal best with a time of 5:03.30 at Delsea High School.
“That was a huge PR for her and the way she executed her race strategy was surgical,” White said of Horn. “She works extremely hard and is one of the best distance runners in the state. Saturday’s performance was the best race she has ever run. I think it gave her a lot of confidence to finish the year strong and gear up for an incredible senior year.”
Ievers threw her personal best in the shot put at 36 feet 2.5. In addition, Huang, Bell and Williams each grabbed a spot at the SMOC in the pole vault (9 feet 6), triple jump (33 feet 50) and javelin (104 feet 3), respectively.
Huang has been battling injuries, but still took first place in the Non-Public B meet in the pole vault. “Mila has been slowly easing her way back from injury,” White said. “It wasn’t a PR but was still a very good meet for her. She is super important to our team, so her health is obviously the number one concern.”
Williams took first in the javelin at the Non-Public B meet, more than four feet ahead of second place finisher, St. Rose’s Grace Toscano.
“Kitty did a great job,” White said of Williams before the SMOC. “There was only one meet this season where she didn’t finish first place in the javelin. It was not her best throw, and she’s been battling some shoulder soreness. We’re not 100 percent sure she will throw at SMOC, but her best throw this season ranks fourth best in the state.”
On the Montclair Kimberley boys side, Thomas had the lone ticket to the SMOC, in the triple jump with a leap of 44 feet 5.5. Thomas took three firsts in the Prep B meet in the triple jump, 100 meters and 200-meters.
“That jump was a PR for Kalvin,” White said. “He was a little tight after the triple jump so we decided to shut him down for the day to avoid injury so he could put his best foot forward at SMOC.”
There were a few other MKA athletes who set personal best times: Thomas in the 100 meters (11.08), freshman Tyler Ho (400 meters, 54.90), junior Stephen Hatfield (1,600 meters, 4:56) and freshman Tyler Rizzo (1,600 meters, 5:34).