Ridgewood sweeps North 1, Group 4 sectionals, winning in different ways by Paul Schwartz of The Record
TOMS RIVER — Everything seemed to go right for the Ridgewood girls at the North 1 Group 4 sectional meet on Saturday at Bennett Center while the boys seemed to have nothing work at the same time.
But both Maroon teams managed to win state sectional titles at the meet, the girls with a dominating 90-71 win over defending champion Randolph and the boys with a shaky but ultimately satisfying 48-38 win over Memorial of West New York. It marked the second time in three years that Ridgewood had swept and the first time ever that Bergen County teams had swept the four group 1 and 4 sectional team titles indoors.
The girls took advantage of an early false start by a co-favorite in the 400 to go 1-3 in the meet’s opening event with juniors Katherine Muccio and Victoria Purritano grabbing the spots, but it was the eye-opening kicks by junior Cassie Keyes and senior Meghan Adams for second and third in the 1,600 that set the tone for the day.
It enabled the Maroons to break even in the event with Randolph despite a 1-4 finish by the Rams. Randolph went 1-2 in the high jump as expected, but even there the Maroons grabbed six points behind Ellie and Lizzie Veenhof who finished 4-5.
Muccio and fellow junior Virginia Morley went 3-5 in the hurdles, unexpectedly outscoring Randolph again in the event and then came the hammer.
Passaic Tech’s Carly Spinnler won the 800 for third straight year with a diving finish to beat Ridgewood’s Evelyn Kotch but the Maroons with Morley and Adams followed in third and fourth as Randolph was shut out.
Halfway through the meet Ridgewood had a 25 point lead and its victory seemed secure.
“From the time we got here as freshmen, we all knew each other from a distance even though some of us went George Washington Middle School and others went to Ben Franklin,” said Morley as she watched her team wrap up the win with a winning 4-x-400 performance, anchored by Muccio, who also won the 55 and set a sectional record. “When we started running track in high school, we just bonded together and the bonds are why we’ve done so well.”
Ridgewood scored in each of the 10 girls events, even though it suffered a setback when two-time state group champ Nicole Lester, just off a bad case of the flu no-heighted in the pole vault.
While the girls’ win was a thing of beauty, the boys’ win was a slog. Only shot putter Austin Engelhardt scored a victory, and that was unexpected as Englehardt had not won a meet this winter and hadn’t broken 45 feet until a big series at the Varsity Classic Monday.
“I was having trouble pulling through and finishing my throws,” said Englehardt, who threw 48-2 1/2 to beat Clifton’s Sonny Ruiz by less than three inches. “It finally came together Monday and continued today.”
Ridgewood trailed for most of the meet as Clifton got off to a hot start. But the Maroons picked away with Matt Tai taking a fifth in the 400 and a sixth in the 55 despite a balky leg that kept him out of the relay. Will Baginski and Sid Wagh went 2-4 in the 1,600 but Baginski was beaten by a strong finish by Memorial’s Francis Martingale. Danilo Romero got fourth in the high jump and Baginski was third in the 800. Tai’s sixth place in the finish finally brought the Maroons even.
“We needed a big race in the 3,200 and we got two,” said a relieved Patrick Ryan, the Ridgewood coach. Ryan Fahey was third in a big PR of 9:49.69 and Wagh came back in fourth in 9:51.13 to open an eight point lead on Memorial, which went 1-2 in the event, but didn’t field a relay team.