By Ken Weingartner
Ernestine Conteh, like many of her teammates, started running track when she was in middle school. And as much as she liked the sport at that time, she really found her stride when she got to Ewing High.
“High school track was a whole new level of competition, and I liked that part of it so much,” said Conteh, who is a senior on the Blue Devils’ track-and-field team. “It was a whole new environment. I think it’s what I’m going to miss the most after I graduate from Ewing.
“My whole life is track,” added Conteh, who plans to continue running in college. “Every day when I wake up I think about practice, the meets we have to run. I just like to do it. I like the dedication.”
The dedication has led to numerous successes. Conteh was third in the 100-meter dash at the Mercer County Championships in mid-May and placed fourth in the 200. She also was part of the Blue Devils’ 4×100-relay squad that finished fourth.
Earlier in the year, Ewing won the 4×100 at the Mercer County Relays with a squad that featured Conteh, Jacquelyn Gummel, Jade Hall, and Danielle Ansley.
Conteh and Ansley, who both battled injuries this spring, are two of the best sprinters around. During the winter indoor season, Ansley finished third and Conteh finished fourth in the 55-meter dash at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Championships. They both finished among the top seven at the statewide group finals.
Last spring, Ansley won the state sectional championship in the 100 and Conteh finished fourth. Conteh also finished fourth in the group meet and then 15th at the Meet of Champions. In addition, she reached the Meet of Champions in the 55-meter dash during the indoor campaign.
“I think that was one of my biggest accomplishments,” Conteh said. “I never did indoors my freshman or sophomore year, so I decided to do it last year.”
Of course, Ewing’s successes are not limited to Conteh and Ansley. Freshman Chibuzo Amonu finished fifth in the shot and sixth in the discus at this spring’s Mercer County Championships. Ugochinyere Opara finished fifth in the high jump.
At the Mercer County Relays, the duo of Lauren Lawson and Kaitlyn Forst won the triple jump and Lawson teamed with Gummel to finish second in the long jump. The 4×400 team of Shykira Scott-Strong, Beth Cuniff, Conteh and Hall placed third.
“The season has been going pretty well,” said Ewing coach Megan Soltysik. “We perform best as a team, which is good. We have a lot of pretty good young athletes, which I’m excited about.”
“We’re losing a couple girls (to graduation), but I think the other girls will step up next year and fill in nicely.”
Hall, only a freshman, is one of those good young athletes. She appreciates, though, being able to learn from the girls that have been on the team for a longer time.
“All the upperclassmen have been there to give me their experience and I’ve learned from them,” Hall said. “It’s made me better and I have to work harder to compete with the people on my team.
“We work really hard in practice and the dual meets have been going pretty good. Everyone helps each other out. It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it. I most enjoy getting better and seeing my hard work pay off in meets. I’m hoping to just do my best. It’s my first year and I just want to get some experience and see where I stand against other competitors.”
Scott-Strong, a senior, said the camaraderie is the strength of the team.
“We get along great,” she said. “We work out on the weekends when we don’t have practice and we collaborate to get the most out of each other. We also have good coaches to push us.
“I just love running; that’s my passion,” she said. “I just love running and pushing myself every day.”
The girls’ work ethic and ability to work together, not surprisingly, are keys to success.
“They’re a good group of girls to work with,” Soltysik said. “They have a really good spirit. They get really excited when we go out to the dual meets and really cheer each other on. It’s nice to see them gather around each other and support each other. It’s all the kids working together across all grade levels, which is cool to see.”