by Andrew Garda

RANDOLPH — The Montclair Kimberley Academy track & field team had a successful weekend at the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B sectional championships this past weekend. Led by long-distance runner Billy Massey, the Cougars boys placed third in team standings, finishing with 66 points.

Dwight-Englewood took the boys’ team title with 120 points, ahead of Newark Academy’s 101.

MKA will now send nine members of the boys team to the Non-Public B championships this Friday and Saturday at Egg Harbor Township High School.

In many ways it’s a fitting tribute to the Cougars’ longtime head coach Tom Fleming, who passed away this year at the age of 65. His team kept fighting this season, which is exactly what he taught them to do when faced with adversity.

The Cougars who will be heading to Groups are James Lukenda (fifth in 110-meter high hurdles, third in pole vault), Ronny Bhatia (sixth in 110-meter high hurdles), Billy Massey (first in the 1600 and second in the 3200), Nick Wilson (third in the 1600, fifth in the 800), Matt Petrocelli (first in the 3200), Davis Cook (fifth in the 800), Michael Bromley (fifth in discus), Ishaan Bhalodia (fourth in javelin), and Eric Mendelson (sixth in shot put). The 4x800-meter relay team (first place) will also be going.

For the girls, Anna Schaller (fifth in 3200-meter), Rachel Boardman (sixth in 3200-meter), Brynnae Newman (fifth in discus) and the 4x800-meter relay team (fifth place) will be traveling to the group championship.

Massey continued to run at a pace above most of the competition. He posted a personal best (and a school record) time of 4:17.13 on Friday during the 1600-meter finals, running just over 18 seconds faster than the second-place finisher, Jeremy Bronstein of Dwight-Englewood.

Teammate Nick Wilson also ran hard in the 1600-meter, finishing just over a second behind Bronstein to place third, and 4.75 seconds ahead of fourth-place finisher Justin Augustin of Hawthorne Christian Academy.

He and teammate Matt Petrocelli then set the pace during Saturday’s 3200-meter finals, gradually lengthening their lead until they were nearly half a track ahead of the next runner.

In fact, as they crossed the finish line — Petrocelli first, followed closely by Massey — they did so over 28 seconds ahead of the next runner.

While Massey insisted post-race that he wasn’t holding back and Petrocelli “won fair and square” it’s hard not to think the senior wasn’t leaving a little in the tank for next week. He led the entire race, and Petrocelli only passed him during the final lap.

“Matt’s a great runner, he trains with me all the time. So do Nick Wilson and Davis Cook,” Massey said after the race.

“[Massey] is a great guy. Today was about the team for him,” said coach Alden Basmajian.

“Today was really just focusing on getting through to the next round,” Massey said. “I ran hard yesterday so, today was really nothing too crazy. Just taking it easy and running with my teammates.”

With the sectionals out of the way, the Cougars can concentrate on the Non-Public B competition and reaching the June 10 Meet of Champions.

For Massey, it means he has to make some decisions.

“Groups is definitely a little bit different,” he said. “I have to figure out what events I’m going to run and which ones I really want to focus on. For me I’ll probably run, not including relays, one event. So the difficult part there is to make sure I can run a fast enough time and fast enough to qualify for the Meet of Champs in a fast heat.”

Massey says he is deciding between the 1600-meter and the 3200-meter, though he is leaning toward the longer race. His goal, though, is to make sure that no matter what he runs, he ends up in the fastest heat for the Meet of Champions.