FRANKLIN (SOMERSET) – They’re both headed to top colleges and are among the state’s best middle distance runners.
But even for Old Bridge’s Nicholas Medeiros and Westfield’s Katie Hamilton, well, it’s hard competing back to back days at high levels.
“The hardest part is rolling out of bed,” Medeiros said. “But once you’re here, once you’re warmed up and hyped and seeing everyone around you and the fans – you want to run. It doesn’t matter if you ran yesterday. Two days before. You want to get at it. So I was definitely ready to go crazy.”
Indeed, both ran like it.
At Saturday’s NJSIAA Group IV meet, Medeiros won the 800 meters and set a new PR (1:50.98) after setting a PR in taking the 400 on Friday (48.33).
Hamilton blazed to the 800 gold medal in (2:10.86), a day after winning the 1600 in (4:51.47) and the 4×800 relay.
Besides Group medals, athletes competed for bids to next Saturday’s Meet of Champions at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield.
For individual events, the top three finishers in each group qualified. Additionally, nine wildcards from each group site qualified based on the next best performance. In all, each individual event at the MOC will have 45 competitors.
For the relay events, the top two finishers in each group and six wildcards from each site will advance to MOC. In all, 30 teams will make each relay event.
Groups 2 and 4 were held at Franklin High School. Groups 1 and 3 were at Pennsauken High School and Non-Public A and B took place at Neptune High School.
At Franklin, there was certainly much excitement over the two days, as several competitors from the Home News Tribune and Courier News-areas earned medals.
Westfield’s Hamilton Cruises
Sometimes, it’s just hard to pick a favorite in something. One can have two favorite TV shows or pasta dishes, after all. Why not in track and field?
So, does Hamilton have a favorite event to run in?
“You know, my preference keeps changing,” she said with a laugh. “Freshman year, I absolutely loved the 800 and then sophomore year I loved the (1600). And then last year, I mainly focused on the 1600 in the winter. Obviously, we didn’t have a spring season. This year, still waffling between them. I haven’t really decided yet.”
Both races have its advantages for Hamilton.
“I like that in the 16, you have more of the opportunity to kind of make a move at any point during the race,” she said. “The 800 is just so quick. There’s less time to think and you can’t necessarily be as strategic as you can in the 16, but it’s also nice for it to be shorter. So you’re in and out a lot faster.”
The Westfield senior, who is head to Duke University, will likely have to choose one in the Meet of Champions if she also competes in the relay. Friday, Hamilton and Isabel Boufarah, Caroline Collins and Sonia Olson won the 4×800 in 9:25.82.
For now, she’ll just enjoy her three gold medals.
“It was definitely a challenge because I ran the 16 and the 4×800 yesterday,” she said, “so then doubling and coming to the 800 today was a bit of a challenge, but we got it done. Definitely didn’t feel as good as doing it on fresh legs, but it’s OK.”
Medeiros Runs Strong
Medeiros has long been one of the area and state’s top runners. The Georgetown-bound senior, though, didn’t have a regular weight training regimen.
For Christmas, his parents got him a weight bench, some curl bars and he got into a routine – which has helped take him to another level this spring.
“I’ve been doing a lot of legs,” he said. “A lot of arms and that’s helped with my speed. I’m finally running fast (400s). I feel more confident having a little more muscle on me. It’s awesome, thanks to them — gotta appreciate mom and dad. So it’s awesome having that because I run. I lift. I run, I lift and it’s all showing.”
Medeiros called it “a big mix of lifting and confidence and training.” Considering there was nothing last spring, it’s just a relief to get back on the track.
“It’s been a really fun season,” he said. “I think that it’s been pretty good competition. Today and yesterday, I really pushed myself really hard in the four and eight. I think there’s a lot more guys in group four that can take me to the well, be there with me until the end of the race. It showed today. I got a new PR in the eight. I got a slight PR in the four. Competition has been great and I think this is really the peak of my season. So I’m ecstatic to really show what I’ve got this week.
“… The fitness has always been there since March. It’s just more executing, and today I finally did that and I’m just very happy. I’m not satisfied yet, but I’m very happy with where I’m at.”
Piscataway’s Mitchell Has A Leap
Initially, Kaelen Mitchell focused on sprinting after doing some long jump in middle school. While he noticed progression, he just wasn’t the fastest.
So, he decided to try long jump again and watched YouTube videos for tips. In his first indoor meet in 2020, he jumped a 23-3.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was really just up from there.”
Saturday, the senior won the Group IV long jump in 23-11.50.
Mitchell, who is attending Kennesaw State University in Georgia, has been able to utilize his sprinting speed while studying the nuances of the event.
“It’s really just a matter of getting the steps right,” he said. “Don’t switch up your stride patterns. So I just tried to focus on that type of stuff.”
And what about the idea to try long jump again?
“It was probably the best decision I could make,” he said with a smile and the gold medal around his neck.
Serrao Excels in Hurdles
Training during the pandemic was tough on everyone. East Brunswick hurdler Chris Serrao used some ingenuity in staying sharp while at home.
He’d leap over lawn chairs and made a wooden structure with his dad, consisting of two legs and a top bar.
“I would set stuff up to make it look like a hurdle – around hurdle height – and do what I could,” he said.
Once track officially returned, it was back to business for the junior. Saturday, he won the 110-meter hurdles in 14.15. Earlier in the season, he set a personal best with a 14.12 en route to a victory at the Greater Middlesex Conference Championships.
Friday, he placed third in the 400-meter hurdles to qualify for the Meet of Champions.
Montgomery Duo Claims Gold
Montgomery’s Caroline Mehlhorn was another competitor who showed the ability to excel on both days. Friday, she placed third in the Group IV 1600 in 4:56.42, a personal best and the first time she went under 5 minutes.
Saturday, the junior won the 3200 in 10:55.01 — another career best.
“She never ceases to amaze me,” Montgomery coach Tim Bartholomew said. “She did a phenomenal job.”
In the pole vault, the Cougars’ Lauren Cashman captured the gold medal (12-0).
This season, the sophomore has also competed in sprinting events for Montgomery and that cross training has helped in the pole vault.
“That transfers over very well to the pole vault,” Bartholomew said. “This year she spent a lot more time running. So I think that had a lot to do with her success, but mostly she’s an extremely talented girl who works hard and she’s very knowledge in the sport.”
Toward late afternoon Saturday, most of the teams had left and the Franklin volunteers were cleaning up and moving tables.
One event, though, was still going strong — the Group IV boys pole vault.
It was well worth the wait as East Brunswick senior Brian McSweeney set a Group IV meet record with 16-feet.
Also Saturday, Hunterdon Central’s Suzy Lacombe captured the high jump (5-04) and took second in the pole vault (12-0). Ridge’s Carly Cambria won the discus in 121-10.
Scotch Plains Fanwood won the 4×400 relay in 3:50.10 (Grace Kennedy, Corinne Lyght, Jenai Berry, Julia Jackson)
In Group II, South Plainfield senior Sofia Watson took the triple jump in 37-03.25. North Plainfield’s Jason Agyemang won gold in the 100 hurdles (14.98),
Friday in Group IV, North Brunswick’s Adelaide Asante won the 400 hurdles (1:01.79). Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Jackson captured the 400 meters in 55.67.
On the boys side, Ridge’s Luke Roberts won the 400 hurdles in 53.88 and the Red Devils’ 4×800 relay won in 7:54.52 (Andrew McCabe, Will Pinto, James Kisker, Hudson Yu).