by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School track and field team continued its excellent season this past weekend as it hosted the Essex County Outdoor Championships at Woodman Field.

The weekend was highlighted by the girls, who successfully defended their title with a come-from-behind surge on Saturday thanks in part to county-championship performances from thrower Shelby Bigsby, sprinter Nyjah Young-Bey and distance runner Meghan Hessler, along with a host of athletes who earned top-six finishes.

The Mountie boys struggled a little bit, landing in eighth place overall but with some great individual performances from Stefan Urquidi (third place 1600 meters), Charles Murphy Jr. (third in the high jump) and a strong fourth place finish by the 4x400-meter relay team.

Now, the Mounties turn their attention to the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV sectional championships, set for this Friday and Saturday at Clifton High School.

With rain in the forecast for the final day of the county championship meet Saturday, organizers crammed most of the meet’s events into Friday, in the hopes of mitigating the impact on the competition.

Those schedule changes included all the field events, save the boys discus.

While the last-minute scheduling plan may have thrown some competitors, it had no visible effect on Bigsby, the indoor Meet of Champions winner in the shot put.

Bigsby has continued to perform at a high level and Friday was no different as she successfully defended her Essex County shot put and discus titles with unbeaten throws of 46 feet, 2.5 inches and 117-2, respectively.

“In all my years, she’s the only person I can remember doing it two years in a row,” said Vincent Pelli, one of the team’s two shot put/discus coaches. “We’ve had kids who have won both, but for her to win it both as a junior and then come back and defend her title in both the discus and shotput as a senior, that’s a very special performance.”

Pelli thought it was especially special, since it was her final county meet.

“To go out and let Essex County know, she had a stellar career,” Pelli said. “She has a lot more to accomplish but it’s always great to throw well at the counties, especially since we host it.”

Meanwhile on the track, Young-Bey finished third in both the 100- and 400-meter dashes, before blowing the rest of the finals field away in a rainy 200-meter race on Saturday. Her 25.56 time in the 200 was nearly a full half-second faster than fellow Mountie Stephanie Webb’s 26.03, which was good for second place.

Hessler led the way in the longer distances. Hessler won the 3200 with a time of 11:30.63, with Matilda Ferguson finishing 30 seconds behind in third place. Hessler also finished second in the 1600 meters, with a time of 5:20.38.

Meghan Hessler (left) and Matilda Ferguson (right) lead the pack at the start of the girl's 3200 meter finals. Hessler finished first and Ferguson in third.
Meghan Hessler (left) and Matilda Ferguson (right) lead the pack at the start of the girl's 3200 meter finals. Hessler finished first and Ferguson in third.

The girls 4x400 relay team, featuring Young-Bey, Webb, Elizabeth Cummings and Victoria Liverpool, finished second as well.

As a team, Montclair’s point total of 102.5 blew away the rest of the field, 30 points ahead of second-place Columbia.

For the boys, aside from Stefan Urquidi and Murphy, Sebastian Urquidi finished in fifth during the 3200 meter race, Sheldon Bryan came in sixth throwing the discus and Reshawn Richards finished seventh in the shot put. Murphy also finished sixth in a tough field for the 400 meter dash.

For the both teams, the usual suspects will need to step up again as the competition level will kick up several notches. Bigsby, Hessler, Ferguson and Young-Bey will need to help buoy the girls efforts, but the team still needs to have some other athletes step up.

For the boys, the throwers will have to dig deep and help out the runners, though distance runners including the Urquidis, Dale Ross, Aiden Ward and Murphy always come to perform in big moments.