Montclair High School duo brings home state track medals, Lawson grabs 200-meter title
Montclair High School seniors made their mark at this year's State Meet of Champions track and field event last weekend in Franklin to culminate the spring season.
Kiya Lawson and Elizabeth Fitzgerald brought home hardware after going up against the best of the best on Saturday, June 18, when winds, gusty at times, affected most of the events, with times, distances and heights showing it.
Lawson won the 200 meter dash with a time of 24.81. She also had a second-place finish in the 100 meter dash with a time of 12.00 flat, only 0.07 behind Kent Place's Christiana Nwachuku.
"It felt like a great win, competing in my last race for Montclair," said Lawson, who will run track at Howard University next school year. "I did what I wanted to do, and I had an amazing run with the Mounties this year."
Fitzgerald came in second in the pole vault, clearing 12 feet, behind only Pompton Lakes’ Emma Keating, who also reached 12 feet but won the event based on fewer attempts.
“Today was a great day, I came a long way from the start of this year and I am happy with the result I was able to reach," said Fitzgerald, who missed a portion of the spring season because of an injury.
Unfortunately for Montclair Kimberley senior Isiah Udofia, he had one of those days he’d like to forget.
On the previous weekend, Udofia qualified for four events, by winning the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump at the Non Public B meet, one of only seven boys in the history of the group meet to accomplish the feat.
But at the Meet of Champions he could not get a top-eight to medal. With the day winding down he opted to not run in the 200 meter dash.
Montclair Kimberley head coach Tim White said the gusty winds affected Udofia, especially in the jumps.
"Jumping conditions weren't ideal, but that's no excuse," White said. "He got into a little bit of bad luck in the long jump."
Coming into the meet Udofia was the top seed in the long jump, with a mark of 23-feet-4.25 at the state team meet a week before, as the athlete who would have been the top seed, St. Peter’s Prep’s Fitzroy Ledgister, chose to go to a national meet instead of the Meet of Champions.
Udofia's first two jumps would have put him in the top eight, but they were called fouls. The final jump was not able to get him into the finals, as he finished 20th with a jump of 20-feet-3.25.
The Cougars senior, while not as highly regarded in the triple jump, had hopes for a top-eight finish in the event. Udofia won the Non Public B meet with a triple jump mark of 45-feet-6.25, but finished 15th at Saturday’s meet with a mark of 42-feet-9.25.
In the 100-meter dash he just missed qualifying for the finals, finishing 10th with a time of 11.10.06, seconds behind the top eight who reached the finals. If he had equaled his winning 100 time at Non Public B of 10.77 he would have finished fifth Saturday.
Lawson’s last run as a Mountie in the 200 meter dash was a great sendoff, as it happened before family and friends who came to see her compete.
"My Mom, Dad and my siblings came along with my parents' friends to watch me," she said.
She came into the 200 meters as the favorite, and lived up to expectations.
"The 200 strategy was the same as groups, but today we knew we'd be getting hit by a wind coming off the turn, so the goal was push to the finish, don't fight the wind, but maintain form and composure, which in turn helped with a strong, fast-forward motion," Lawson said.
The senior ran her personal best of 24.09 to win the Group 4 meet a week earlier. With most of the times being affected by the weather conditions, Lawson ran a 24.81, but it was good enough to win, as she outdistanced Nwachuku to gain a little bit of revenge. Nwachuku had just nipped Lawson to win the 100-meter dash.
One of the events significantly affected by the wind was the pole vault, where the officials were even holding up the bar so that the wind would not blow it down.
It definitely affected Fitzgerald, since she suffered an ankle injury during the winter and didn't jump for four months. She began late in the spring and had limited work outdoors.
"Since I only practice indoors I have not had to compete with elements like these when I jump," said Fitzgerald, who will be competing next school year at Williams College.
"My coach and I had to change our plans and run from a shorter approach, as the wind was making my run and plant too much of a variable."
After failing to clear 11 feet on a couple of attempts, she accomplished that mark and then, on her first try, cleared 11-feet-6.
Fitzgerald jumped over the 12-foot mark on her third attempt.
"In this weather, gripping (at) 12 feet on a 13-feet pole felt like I was holding onto a kite, and controlling it into the box felt near impossible," she said. "After two failed windblown attempts, I cleared 12 feet on my last attempt to secure a medal.”
She made a few attempts to top 12-feet-6, but could not clear it.
"I made the decision to go from a farther approach, a seven-step approach, to get more speed and give myself the best chance at clearing the bar," she said. "Unfortunately, the combination of the strong crosswind and the fact that I haven’t run from that distance since this meet last year because of my injuries led to some difficult jumps."
There were a few other local athletes who also competed at the Meet of Champions, led by the members of the Montclair 400-meter relay team. Lawson was the leader of that group, which included a junior, Ava Butler, and two freshmen, Darielle Whiting and Mackenzie Finley. They had a time of 50.38 and finished ninth.
For Lawson, the wind was especially difficult in the relay. "On the relay I know it was tough, you can see it in the times," she said. The relay team ran a 49.2 at the Group 4 meet, the seventh best overall in the state. But on Saturday, "depending on what leg you were on, the wind was brutal," she said.
Montclair Kimberley sophomore Kitty Williams finished 20th in the discus with a throw of 101-feet-9. Another MKA sophomore, Maggie Horn, took 14th in the 800 meters with a time of 2:21.92.
On the boys side, Cougars freshman Kalvin Thomas finished 19th in the triple jump with a distance of 41-feet-9.5.