SOUTH ORANGE – The Jaguar Track Team headed to the 2016 Hershey USATF Youth Indoor Championships March 11-13th prepared and ready to run after great performances at the Potomac Valley 14 and Under Invitational in Maryland.
At Nationals, the young Jaguars took the medal stand 20 times during the final meet of the indoor season held at the Ocean Breeze Complex on Staten Island, N.Y. Qualifying athletes from around the country competed in a variety of track and field events with the South Orange Recreation Department Jaguars achieving notable results.
The youngest Jaguars (U8), showed up strong with Sahar Ahad placing fourth in the 800 (3:06.87) and fourth in the 1,500 (personal record 6:15.90), Natalia Thompson placing sixth in the 400 (1:26.59) and setting a personal record in the 200 (34.97). Myles Richard represented the sub-bantam boys with impressive performances, including a personal best in the 200 (35.18), a fourth-place finish in the 400 (1:21.10) and a first-place finish as the National Champion in the 800 (2:55).
The bantam runners (U10) continued to shine with Peyton Hollis dropping an unheard of 17 seconds in her “favorite” event to place fourth in the 1,500 (PR 5:25.68), running a PR in the 400 (1:08.76), and clocking in at 2:42.56 in the 800. Ciara Taylor joined the team for her first Indoor Nationals and ran a PR in the 400 (1:16.13). The Bantam boys left it all on the track with Dylan Williams bringing home medals in the 55 (fifth-place finish, 8.09) and a fourth-place finish in the 200 (29.10). Amari Akakpo led the bantam boys mid-distance runners with a fifth-place finish in the 800 (2:40.63) and a PR in the 1,500 (5:27.27). Al-Qamar Rojas competed in the 400 (1:10.52) and fought hard in a competitive 800 field (2:49.26).
The 4×200 bantam boys relay (Al-Qamar Rojas, Amari Akakpo, Dylan Williams and Henry Cooper) had the crowd on their feet with a first-place finish and a PR of 2:01.51. The 4×400 bantam boys relay (Anthony Mack, Matthew Twyman, Ronald Palmer and Henry Cooper) ran an impressive PR (4:55.69) dropping 12 seconds from the qualifying round and took the medal stand in second place, a very narrow loss.
The 11-12 Jaguar boys set the stage for speed with PRs in the 200 run by Xavier Donaldson (27.19) and McKenzy Pierre (27.88), and Joziah Johnson in the 55H (11.41). The boys mid-distance runners showed their Jaguar swagger in the 800 with Shane Brosnan running a PR of 2:31.63 and Cormac Taylor running a 2:39.36. Taylor also set a PR (4.60m) in the long jump as one of the only Jaguars competing in field events at Nationals.
The midget boys relay teams once again showed their dominance on the track by running PRs across the board. The 4×200 A Team of Xavier Donaldson, Leo Grace, Edison Friday and McKenzy Pierre took third place with a time drop of over 2 seconds (1:53.17). The B Team of Joziah Johnson, Stokely Palmer, Nelson Ha and Shane Brosnan were right behind in fourth place (1:59.79). The 11-12 boys didn’t let their first relay wins go to their heads, and they powered around the track in the 4×400 with a second-place finish (4:25.03) for Team A (Edison Friday, Shane Brosnan, Xavier Donaldson and Cormac Taylor), and a sixth-place finish (4:46.52) for Team B (Leo Grace, Jozia Johnson, Nelson Ha and Stokely Palmer).
The Youth Jaguars (13-14), with many National appearances on their side, continue to show the young Jags how to perform on the big stage. Leena Morant battled tough competition to take fourth in the 200 (26.48 PR) and again took the medal stand with a fourth-place finish in the 400 (59.64). Mid-distance runner Morgan Williams and Ashley Bush both ran PRs in the 800 (Williams 2:31.38 and Bush 2:32.18), and Williams also took to the track for the 1,500 (5:23.67).
The Youth relay teams again proved they came to run with PRs across the board. The Jaguar A 4×200 team (Savannah Lee, Jordan Robinson, Natalie Gibson and Leena Morant) took fourth with a PR of 1:48.07 and the Jaguar B team (Olivia Grace, Ashley Bush, Morgan Williams and Morgan Jackson) ran a hard PR at 1:55:97.
The girls stepped up their game once again in the 4×400, and both relay teams took the medal stand. The Jaguar A team (Savannah Lee, Ashley Bush, Morgan Williams and Leena Morant) took first, shattering their PR with an improbable 11-second drop from their qualifier time to run a 4:07:04, and the Jaguar B team (Olivia Grace, Natalie Gibson, Jordan Robinson and Morgan Jackson) also ran a PR (4:20:05) with each leg running 4 seconds faster than their respective season best to take fourth place. Not to be forgotten was Talib Bilal, who strongly represented the Youth Boys with a PR in the 55M Hurdles (7.31) and a sub-60 400 (57.37).
The oldest Jaguars (15-16) took the track with a vengeance. Zarria Bethea placed fourth in the 400 (1:00.35 PR) and ran a PR in the 800 (2:28.6). The 15/16 boys battled tough competition in the 55M, 200, and 400. Jefferson Cajuste ran a PR in the 55 (7.17) and 400 (57.18) and battled strong in the 200 (25.22) and 55M Hurdles (10.20). Matthew Axt ran PRs in all of his events, the 55 (7.49), 200 (25.85) and 400 (59.01).
Dedicated coaching throughout the indoor season by the Jaguar staff of Shauna McFadzean, Iman Johnson, Derrick Williams, David Gibson, Marc Parlavecchio, Bruce McClamb along with team founders Andrea Johnson, and husband and wife, Maurice Cooper and Daneen Cooper, have spearheaded the early careers of these athletes. Given this past performance, the Jaguar Track Team continues to maintain its formidable reputation.