Montclair’s expectations coming into the 2022 outdoor track and field season were tempered after the graduation of some of its top athletes from the 2021 season.

Despite that, the Mounties girls and boys track and field teams represented themselves well, especially when at the Essex County Championships, where both teams finished second in the team standings despite their inexperience.

Both teams peaked on their own grounds at Woodman Field in the Essex County Championships, which took place on May 19 and June 6 because the originally scheduled second day, on May 20, was called off midway through the events because of a rainstorm. The rest of the events then took place on June 6.

The Montclair girls team finished slightly more than 10 points behind Livingston, 74 to 84.33. On the boys side, Montclair finished tied for second with Livingston, 57.50, with Seton Hall Prep far ahead with 120.25 points.

"I said in the beginning of the season we lost a lot of quality points in the upperclassmen that graduated last year, but as a team we were prepared," said Montclair head coach Daryl Washington. "As a staff/program we like to be more proactive than reactive, so while we are training that quality group we are also training the athlete to fill their spot, and between the returners and those new to the sport this year the program is moving in the right direction."

Both Montclair teams were behind in the standings after the first day and partial second day of the county championships, with the girls in fourth place and the boys in seventh.

"After the first day of competition and the storm postponement both teams were sitting in bad spots, but we rallied, and both teams finished second overall," Washington said.

The rallies came late in the meet, especially in the jumps, throws, sprints and distance events.

"Scoring major points in all events and really coming together as a team to push past the competition" is the way Washington described the comeback. "Competition wise, track is a very individual sport; however, one thing that has worked for us is utilizing a team format to really build a winning culture."

On the last day, the Mounties girls won the 1600-meter relay, led by senior Kiya Lawson, who anchored the team (4:03.41), and junior Alexander Kuzyk won the pole vault (13 feet). Along with Lawson, the other members of the 1600 relay were sophomore Maya Kim, junior Aleta Theron and junior Allahjah Young-Bey.

Also on June 6, sophomore Sean Overton finished third in the 3200 meter (10:10.91).

Senior Kiya Lawson, left, competing at the State Meet of Champions in the 100-meter dash, in which she finished second. She was named to the All New Jersey first team in the 200 meters, which she won. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Senior Kiya Lawson, left, competing at the State Meet of Champions in the 100-meter dash, in which she finished second. She was named to the All New Jersey first team in the 200 meters, which she won. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

Both Lawson and junior Richard Fortune captured two first-place finishes in the meet. Lawson won the 100- and 200-meter races with times of 12.17 and 24.83 respectively. The senior also came in second in the 400 with a time of 59.12.

Fortune grabbed gold in the discus and shot put at 147 feet and 51 feet respectively.

Senior Elizabeth Fitzgerald took the pole vault with a jump of 12-feet-1 while junior Ian Habjan won the javelin with a throw of 147-feet-10.

Individually, the highlight of the season was Lawson’s winning the 200 meters at the State Meet of Champions in Franklin with a time of 24.81. She added a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.00 flat, only 0.07 seconds behind Kent Place's Christiana Nwachuku for first. 

Lawson was named to the All New Jersey first team, while Fitzgerald was named to the All New Jersey third team.

At the same meet, Fitzgerald came in second in the pole vault as she cleared 12 feet, behind Pompton Lakes’ Emma Keating, who also reached 12 feet but on fewer attempts.

At the end of June, several Montclair athletes competed in the East Coast Championships from June 24 to 26 in Edison. The competition included top athletes from the Northeast and some from Canada. The athletes were placed in different divisions depending on their level, such as freshman, sophomore, Emerging Elite, Championship, Club Elite and Elite.

While the other levels were for high school, the Elite included those up to semiprofessional athletes. Lawson finished third in the 200-meter race in that division.

Sophomore Daniel Nixon led the way in the Championship class in the 100 meters with a first-place finish. Kim grabbed first in the sophomore 200-meter race.

In the freshman division, Darielle Whiting and Mackenzie Finley collected the titles for the 100-meter and 200-meter races respectively.

Fortune came in second in the Championship division in the shot put and discus.

In addition, Finley, Whiting and Kim took medals in the Emerging Elite division. Whiting came in third in the 200, while Finley was fifth and Kim sixth in the 400-meter race. 

Three other Montclair athletes medaled at the East Coast Championships. Senior Reuven Frye took third in the 200-meter race in the Championship division, while Vashon Giles came in fourth in the 200 freshman division. Freshman Ashley Noel came in sixth in the triple jump in the Emerging Elite division.