Adversity can’t stop Ridgewood girls track team at state sectional en route to record win by Paul Schwartz of The Record
CLIFTON – Their best athlete was there on crutches, their distance team had its worst meet of the season as individuals, and they were up against not only state Group 4 indoor champion and defending sectional champ Randolph, but Essex County champion Montclair, and Passaic County champion Clifton in the North 1, Group 4 sectional championship at Clifton Stadium Saturday.
The Ridgewood girls track team could have crumbled. But then the Maroons wouldn’t have been the Ridgewood girls track team.
“We fight and fight because we all have a passion for doing this and doing this together,’’ said junior Virginia Morley, who stepped up in the absence of injured classmate Katherine Muccio to take second in the 400 hurdles, third in the 800, both in personal bests. “This team is like a family and we stay together.’’
The Maroons capped off their second straight sectional title Saturday with their fastest 4-x-400 relay since 2007, running 3:59.38 for second place, clinching a record 12th sectional win, defeating Randolph, 96-85 ½.
The 4-x-400 relay included seniors Meghan Adams and Evelyn Kotch, who had both come up agonizingly short of qualifying for the state Group 4 championship in individual events, but excelled all weekend, like Morley in the relay events that the Maroons thrive on.
Ridgewood won the 4-x-800 Friday with Maddy Grassi joining the trio and the second in the 4-x-400 included junior Victoria Purritano, who had earlier been sensational in earning 16 points with personal bests in the 400 hurdles, long jump and open 400.
“You can’t let that hold you back,’’ said Adams, speaking of her near-miss in the open 800. “All you can do is go out there in the relay and give all you have left.’’
Even in the 4-x-100, juniors Julia Peterkins, Ciara Emmanuel and Nicole Ghazali joined freshman Josie Maasarani in a huge seasonal best run of 50.02 and six big points for third place.
And then there was Lexi Uzoaru. The Monmouth-bound senior has always been a solid performer to be depended on for points in big meets. This time she went into a different class and carried her team with her.
Friday, she finished second to state champion Shelby Bigsby of Montclair in the shot, throwing a school record 40-5 ½ and having the best series of her life. Saturday, sitting in fourth position with just one throw remaining in the discus, she unleashed another PR of 125-9 to win the event. Both throws are among the top 25 in Bergen County history.
“It came all together for me this weekend,’’ said Uzoaru. “I always try to bring the same intensity to every meet I’m in. But today was something special.’’
So too, was the performance put in by the Hasbrouck Heights team that won North 1, Group 1 for the second straight year and sixth time overall.
Led by seniors Kassie Ketcho, Monika Lucic and Giana DeLascio, the Aviators scored in every event but the 100 and 400 and held off a very good Wallkill Valley team, 132½-122.
Lucic, the Bergen County pentathlon champ who won the 100 and 400 hurdles, took second in the 800 and anchored the winning 4-x-800 team, talked about the same bond that the Ridgewood girls all spoke about.
“Being part of this team changed my life,’’ said Lucic. “It let me be with people I probably wouldn’t have become friends with in school and gave me so much self-confidence and saw how strong I can be.’’
For DiLascio, who also ran on the 4-x-800 and scored 10 points in the 1,600 and 3,200, the bond helped through some health issues that stymied her individual improvement.
“We really learn to do everything for each other,’’ said DiLascio. “Everybody supports everybody and it gets you through the hard times and helps you go forward.’’
The top six finishers in each event advance to the Groups 1, 4 and Non-Public A meet at Franklin on June 1 and 2.