By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
BRIDGETON — Absegami sprinter Neyshka Garcia Perez is one of the smallest track and field athletes in the Cape-Atlantic League, standing just about 5 feet tall — with her track shoes on. Her nickname, fittingly, is “cosita” which is Spanish for “little thing.” Well, “little thing” came up big at the league championships at Bridgeton High School on a sweltering Thursday afternoon, winning the 100-meter dash in a personal-record time of 12.38 seconds. It was the first league gold medal in any event for the diminutive senior, and a thrilling moment in her career, even if she was forced to run the race twice.
A timing glitch meant the runners in the second heat had to run the race over again a few minutes after competing the first time. That forced OLMA’s Iyanla Kollock out, as she was experiencing some tightness in her hamstrings. Pleasantville’s Rebekah Clark also was a scratch, as she chose to run in the 400 meters only. That left the door wide open, and Garcia Perez took advantage — even if she did have to run the race twice.
“I ran it the first time, so I just tried to treat it like trials, then finals,” Garcia Perez said. “They told me to go sit down and relax, so I went and did that. I was tired, a little bit, but I just said to myself to just do it, get it done. It’s really cool (to be a league champion). I’m surprised. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw (Oakcrest’s Kierston Johnson) and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to win this.’ I wasn’t expecting it at all, so it’s a nice surprise.”
Ocean City had a solid day all around, on both the boys and girls side, and were led by some stars who have gained names for themselves in other sports. Jacob Davis, one of the school’s top cross country runners, clocked in at 4:35.16 in the mile, edging out Lower Cape May’s Will Berger and cross country rival Daniel Do of Absegami, who took third. Luciano Lubrano, star of the boys basketball team, took second in the long jump behind Bridgeton’s Basil Williams, and Mickey Baker — who helped lead Ocean City’s girls basketball team to a South Jersey championship this past winter — ran a 2:22.60 to win the 800 meters, beating out Holy Spirit’s Angela Bannan by two seconds.
In addition, Ocean City’s Steven Jernee came up with perhaps the biggest upset of the day, as he edged out defending state javelin champion Cade Antonucci of Holy Spirit. Jernee’s best throw was 189 feet, 8 inches, while Antonucci checked in at 184 feet. Antonucci also finished second in the discus, but didn’t leave without a gold medal, as he was able to beat out Egg Harbor Township’s Brandon Truong for the shot put title.
“It feels pretty good. At lot of hard work goes into getting it down,” said EHT’s Tyler Anzisi, a junior who tossed 156 feet to win the discus ahead of Antonucci’s 152-2. “I took a year off my freshman year, but I’ve been doing this since middle school. I started playing football, and that got me athletically able to do this. Last year, I really wasn’t in shape enough, but this year I’ve come out and made huge PRs by about 40 feet.”
Anzisi said he knew going into the CAL championships he had a pretty good shot at winning a gold medal.
“I really thought I had it in discus because all this training I do, it all comes together — the football training and the discus training in the offseason, winter track, shot put, that all goes into it,” he said. “It feels great. Going from literally nobody to somebody who is going to nationals by the end of the year is pretty good.”
Davis said he knew he was in for a challenge in the mile from guys such as Berger, Do, Billy Francz of Buena (fourth) and Lower Cape May’s Mark Nelson (fifth).
“My goal was to run under 4:29. I was talking to Daniel before the race and we were trying to push each other, because our times were about the same,” Davis said. “He’s a great competitor who I’ve raced a lot in cross country. It’s nice to beat him, but I have a lot of respect for that kid. We were racing on our home course (in cross country) and I was going for our home course record, and Daniel ended up beating me in the last 1,000 meters. It was difficult having that happen, but I have a lot of respect for him and it was nice to come in here and have another shot at him.”
The victory was the first league title for Davis, who took second a year ago in the 3,200 meters.
“It means a lot to me, especially since this is just my second year doing this. It just shows how much you can do if you put your mind to it,” he said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work with the team and everybody around me has been pushing me. I have a lot of respect for my coaches, too, for getting me to where I am now.”
Davis had the lead coming into the final 100 meters, but didn’t risk a look around to see where Weber and Do were.
“I had coach Purdue yelling at me for the last 200 meters saying, ‘don’t look back!’ He puts the fear of God in me sometimes, so I just had to keep going,” Davis said.
The Mainland Regional girls squad had a big day, led by junior distance phenom Alyssa Aldridge, who edged long-time rival Alexa Weber of Ocean City in both the mile and two-mile. Aldridge ran a blistering 5:11.02 mile, while Weber’s time of 5:20.03 was impressive, too. Mainland also got a boost from Yvette Assongba, who won the 200 meters and also ran a leg of the winning 4×100 relay team that also included Nicole Lombardo (second in the high jump), Ava Broux and Alyssa Nguyen.
Absegami senior Joshonda Johnson and Atlantic City sophomore Claudine Smith had a nice little battle going in two events, as Johnson won the 100 hurdles ahead of Smith, who returned the favor by beating out Johnson in the long jump. Ocean City took gold medals in the pole vault with Sydney Couval and the high jump with Rachel Wright.
There also was an interesting competition going on in the boys sprint races between Bo Melton of Cedar Creek, Revell Williams of Bridgeton and EHT’s Amir Brock. They finished 1-2-3 in both the 100 and 200 meters, as Melton took home two gold medals. He ran a 10.7 in the 100 and clocked in at 21.71 in the 200.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN