Passaic junior Luis Peralta gets gold, and redemption at SMOC by Paul Schwartz of The Record
COLUMBUS – A lot has happened since Luis Peralta left the State Meet of Champions a year ago, a very disappointed runner after finishing 10th in the 800-meter run, a race he had been expected to easily medal in.
He won the Passaic County cross country championship, then took the State Meet of Champions 800 title indoors and followed it up with a third place finish from the unseeded heat at New Balance Nationals.
And his outdoor season included trips to Arcadia, California, the Dominican Republic and the Penn Relays for races which including winning the Dominican senior national title.
But his eyes were always on Northern Burlington High School and the 2018 State Meet of Champions and redemption for his 2017 finish.
Saturday, that long journey ended in a magnificent triumph as Peralta led the race from the opening gun and won the one race that eluded him last year, and running a sensational 1:49.63 to boot.
“Since winter, I did a lot of things but I kept thinking about this meet and what happened last year,’’ said Peralta. “I ended last year on a bad note and I didn’t want it to happen this time.’’
Peralta, who had led the event in New Jersey all year, went out hard as he usually does and ran a sub 54 second first 400. And just as he normally does, he extended his lead in the third 200, opening a large gap over Sean Dolan of Hopewell Valley, who had battled him at indoor nationals.
And he went to win by nearly 10 meters, running the third fastest time in the nation this spring and one of the top times in New Jersey state history. He also became the first Passaic boy to win a Meet of Champions title.
“I had a plan and I went out and did what I wanted to do,’’ said Peralta. “I felt great all season and had some amazing races, but this is want I really wanted to do.’’
By running as quickly as he did Saturday, Peralta insured himself a very busy summer. The Dominican track federation told Peralta after he won the national championship in April that if he broke 1:50 that they would send him to the World Under 20 championships in Tampere, Finland in mid-July. He was also scheduled to run at the Central American championships in Colombia in late July.
“After that I just want to take some time off,’’ said Peralta. “And then it’s cross-country season again.’’
Tiffany Bautista of Paramus Catholic had a day for the ages, winning two individual field events and taking third place in a third jump. And she earned a gold medal in the 4-x-100 relay as well, anchoring the Paladins to a 47.17 upset win over Egg Harbor Township.
But unlike in the jumps, Bautista had help, lots of help.
With junior Isabelle Dely, sophomore Mariah Fede and junior Lindsey Desir as the first three legs, the Paladins were at or near the lead throughout the race and became the first North Jersey team to win the event since the 4-x-100 returned to the championship program in 2010.
“Because we were in (outside) Lane 8, all I had to worry about was focusing on our lane and our baton passes,’’ said Dely, the leadoff leg, who also took an individual medal, finishing 8th in the 100 hurdles.
And the passes were important as the team was unhappy with their execution in last week’s runner-up finish at the Non-Public A meet.
“I sort of ran up on Lindsey last week,’’ said Fede, who was sixth in the 200 Saturday. So we worked on our passes all week.’’
The pass was executed perfectly to Desir who ran a great third leg and then passed it perfectly to Bautista and tried to see if it was enough to get the win.
“I really couldn’t see if we won but when I saw Tiffany dip her head (for the final lean), I felt pretty good about it.’’