by Andrew Garda

The Immaculate Conception Lions track and field team had a strong weekend at the NJSIAA Groups II, III and Non-Public B meet in Bayville this past weekend, but fell just short of an invitation to the upcoming Meet of Champions, which will be held at Northern Burlington High School on Saturday, June 9.

Coach Leonard Hughes was proud of their effort during a hot weekend, though.

“I think they did pretty well,” he said in a phone conversation on Monday. “I think they were tired. It’s been a really long season. And it was a little bit tougher than we expected, a level up compared to the sectional meet the week before. Non-Public B South had some really tough competition. Overall, I think they did pretty well and it was a good way to finish the season.”

As is often the case, the Lions were led by their triple and long jumpers.

Historically, IC has been able to produce great jumpers, especially in the triple jump.

“It’s a little bit of an unspoken tradition, which started with coach Patrick Dyer,” Hughes explained. “He had a lot of secrets, as far as jumping events and hurdling and it was kind of passed down. He was my coach, and that’s something we were successful back in 2011, 2012 when we won our first sectional championship. So it’s been a contributing factor and I want to continue to make use of it going forward.”

Hughes said that part of the success IC has with its jumpers is finding the right body type.

“It’s usually the lankier, rangier kind of athlete,” Hughes said. “Not exactly the fastest or the strongest. Generally speaking, they usually pick the triple jump up pretty quickly. [Then], if you have the right coaching, the right process as far as building it, they usually end up doing pretty well.”

That doesn’t always translate to success in the long jump.

“The long jump is one of those events that you either have it or you don’t.”

A lot of the success in the triple jump has come via junior Isas Waxter.

A football player in the fall, the multi-sport Waxter is a naturally athletic kid, which Hughes said helps give him an edge over some other jumpers.

Hughes could see the athleticism when Waxter showed up, but knew that was only part of what they needed for success.

“You see the natural ability but you never really know what you’re gong to get,” he said. “You just know it’s probably going to be something good as long as you stick with him and you have him conditioned pretty well. You work on the strength, work on the form, get him a nice routine going. And then he pretty much takes care of the rest.”

Having Waxter has also made it easier on the coaching staff.

“Having him around makes it a lot easier,” Hughes said. “It allows you to be in two places at once. A veteran guy like him, makes that possible, and he has the technique and know-how down, so he can kind of teach the younger guys which way to go. And with triple jump, where you have so many small features and nuances that aren’t exactly to teach, having another example around makes things a lot easier.”

Waxter’s leadership has paid off too, as he has certainly helped other jumpers push themselves — enough to where Waxter was actually beaten by his teammate, Elwin Hughes, who jumped a personal best 43 feet, 1.25 inches at the Non-Public B meet.

With the offseason here, Hughes now can start looking forward. He’s planning on sending his squad emails with everything from nutritional tips to work out suggestions for the offseason. Anything he and his staff can do to help set the team up for an easy transition back to school in the fall.

He’s also looking at expanding the events the Lions will participate in down the road.

“We’ve leaned heavily on jumps and hurdles, but we may eventually want to branch off into mid-distance events,” Hughes said. “That’s something that can help us in the future. We had a little bit of 400 hurdles this year, but the 800 is an event I really would like to take advantage of.”


MKA’S WILSON  QUALIFIES to Meet of Champions

The Montclair Kimberley Academy track and field team also had a successful weekend at the NJSIAA Non-Public B meet, with Nick Wilson’s pair of individual medals and a strong pair of 4x800 relay performances leading the way.

Wilson took second in the 1600 meters and third in the 800, and he will compete in the 1600 at Saturday’s Meet of Champions.

In an email, MKA head coach Matthew Bach said both relay teams fought hard to come from behind and finish in second place by very small margins.  

Both MKA’s boys’ and girls’ 4x800 relay squads took second place and will also compete at the MOC. The girls’ squad is comprised of freshmen Kelsey Freeman and Sarah Hobbs, sophomore Anna Bradley and junior Anna Schaller, while the boys’ relay team skews slightly older, with seniors Wilson and Matt Petrocelli joined by junior Victor Magnusson and sophomore Charlie Koenig.