The boys’ winter track teams at both high schools in the WW-P Regional School District are making their mark as being among the top schools in the in the state in their sport.
High School North took the Group III title on Feb. 16, and High School South took second place in Group IV the following day, narrowly missing out on first to East Orange by only three points.
The top performances at the group championships followed first-place finishes by both teams in the group sectionals earlier in the month.
Adhwin Sridhar made his biggest contributions to the High School South boys track and field team when they most needed it. The junior, who is in his third season with the Pirates indoor team, broke out with a pair of top three finishes in the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional championship on Feb. 10, which helped the team advance as top seed to the Group IV championship
One week earlier at the same venue, it was the High School North boys who won their second straight sectional, this time in Central Jersey Group III, after winning North Jersey 2 Group III a year ago.
“In winter track, everything is coming together this year for me,” Sridhar said. “Last year, as a sophomore, we did well as a 4×8 group, but individually I never managed to make such a big impact before. It’s nice to know my training is getting me to where I need to be and my races are going well.”
The win at sectionals was the first for South after being moved to Group IV.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Sridhar said. “We got a bunch of individual wins and also a team win so it’s something very special for us, especially for the juniors and seniors. Winning our first team title is a big deal for us.”
Meanwhile, for North, repeating as sectional champions was important. They were moved to a different section this year, and dominated CJ III with 64 points. Runner-up Jackson Liberty had 40 points.
“Over the last couple years, the guys have really come around at the right time and performed to the best of their ability at the big meets, which is hard to do,” said WW-P North head coach Brian Gould. “The group we have now is developing a culture and tradition of rising to the occasion in the big meets.”
It was the first indoor sectional crown for any current athletes on the WW-P South team. It was its third sectional crown in seven years, but this one came in the biggest group.
“We won in 2011 and we won in 2013,” said South head coach Todd Smith. “The other two were in Group III. This one was Central Jersey Group IV so there were some serious heavy hitters in the section. It’s pretty rewarding for the kids. To do it in that section was pretty impressive.”
“We really didn’t even talk about a team championship,” Smith added. “We just talked about the kids running the best they could run. Our big wild card was Xavier Smith, the hurdler. That was the first time he raced all year. He’s been battling a foot injury and we didn’t know what he was going to do. He ended up taking second place and that was big for us.”
“We had a big group of distance guys do well,” Gould said about his team’s performance at sectionals. “What was very exciting was Myles Williamson was seeded seventh or ninth and won the whole thing. We had Tommy Doyle PR in the high jump by 6 inches to medal and move on. We had two guys in the 55, and the 4×4 relay with some younger athletes move on. “
The top six finishers in each event reached the group finals, and the Group III state championships brought another thrill two weeks later for the Knights. WW-P North scored 44 points, six better than Pennsauken, to win the Group III team championship.
“The team set a goal early in the season of winning that section,” Gould said. “Coach (Matthew) Warren and I looked and thought if things go well, they’d have a chance to win the state also. The guys responded to that. That was something they got excited about. We were fortunate to have a week between to get back to training and focus.
“I think what these guys do well is they focus on controllables and go out to do the best they can on that day and they let the uncontrollables, like place, fall in where it has to. That played out with them winning a state championship.”
Advancing to the Meet of Champions for North, which was held after the WW-P News’ deadline, were Luke Johnson, who won the 1,600 meters in 4:20.24 and was fifth in the 800, Vedang Lad who won the 3,200 in 9:20.57, Matthew Santamaria after placing second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600, Atharv Kulkarni who was second in the 800 and Julian Zhang, who earned a wild-card entry with his seventh in the 55 meters.
“Having five guys there, they train hard on a daily basis,” Gould said. “We want their teammates to see that consistent hard work pays off.”
South had three athletes advance to the MOC based on their performance in the Group IV Championship. Das won the 3,200 meters in 9:24.37 and was second in the 1,600. Smith placed second in the 55-meter hurdles and A’Nan Bridgett was second in the high jump.
“It’s been a pretty good season,” Todd Smith said. “I know we haven’t competed in as many meets as other teams have, and I think we were just training the kids to get fast now and we didn’t want to worry about any races in the middle of the season. Hopefully our plan takes off and the kids keep getting better and better.”
Sridhar said he was happy to do his part in the first stage of the state championship meets. He has continued to improve each year, and capitalized on his opportunity at sectionals.
“I thought I ran well for the mile and the 8,” he said. “I ended up winning the 8 which was a great moment for me. Time-wise, it’s not really where I saw myself being by the end of the season, but I have a couple more meets left and more training. I’m still happy about our results as a team and how we did overall.”