TOMS RIVER >> Seneca High School junior Julia Greeley won the pole vault at the NJSIAA State Group Indoor Track and Field Championships Feb. 29 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex here.
Greeley, who was victorious in the event at South Jersey Group 2 meet two weeks earlier, tied her personal-best with a jump of 11 feet for the state Group 2 crown.
The junior passed the first two heights of the competition – 8-6 and 9-0 – and then made 9-6, 10-0 and 10-6 all on her first attempts. Greeley cleared 11-0 on her third attempt for her first state title and then missed three tries at 11-4.
In the finale 4-by-400-meter relay, senior Nicole Wheeler, sophomore Madeline Epps, junior Hailey Melvin and senior Lara Sweet won their heat and placed seventh overall out of 20 teams in Group 2 with a season-best time of 4:14.77.
Senior Evelyn Locke, competing in her first state meet, placed 13th in the Group 2 1600-meter run with a time of 6:08.05.
Senior Morgan Hough, also a state-meet first timer, was 18th in the Group 3 3200-meter run in 12:34.63.
Senior Tyler Jackson placed seventh in the Group 4 1600-meter run with a personal-best time of 4:23.41, sixth fastest in school history.
Marc Pelerin (4:15.16 in 2002), Justin Kelly (4:18.48 in 2018), Shawn Wilson (4:18.50 in 2012), Ethan Wechsler (4:18.70 in 2019) and Steve Burkholder (4:19.97 in 2010) are the five ahead of Jackson on Cherokee’s all-time list.
Jackson, who also qualified for the state meet in the 800 but chose not to run, advances to the Meet of Champions as a wild card and is seeded 15th in Sunday’s race.
Seniors Ethan Wechsler and Chase Miller both earned top-six medals in the Group 4 3200-meter run.
“The 3200 was quite a race. Both Ethan and Chase ran great!” said Cherokee distance coach Steve Shaklee. “After finishing fifth at sectionals with an indoor PR of 9:37.32, Chase came back even stronger at the state meet. He placed sixth and established a new overall PR of 9:28.81, beating his best time from last spring by a second. He goes into the Meet of Champions as the 13th seed.”
Wechsler was faced with the tough task of racing the two runners who beat him last week at the sectional meet, Cherry Hill East senior Oliver Adler and Southern Regional junior Jackson Braddock , as well as two other strong runners who won their sectional races – Ridge sophomore Jackson Barna (North 2) and South Brunswick junior Vidhur Polham (Central).
“The race was honest from the start and the first 1600 passed in 4:37 with Braddock leading,” said Shaklee. “When it started to slow, Polham went to the lead. Ethan covered each move and stayed in position to contend for the win. With one lap to go and four runners still in contention, Ethan put his head down and went to the lead with an aggressive move. He kept it up down the backstretch but, Adler still managed to close the gap. Coming off the last turn, Ethan found another gear and pushed to the finish with Adler responding in kind. At the line it was too close to call, but the auto-timing showed that Adler had just edged in front by the smallest of margins - .03 seconds.”
Shaklee continued: “Despite the loss, it was, without a doubt, one of the best races Ethan has ever run - definitely a race to be proud of! Ethan’s last 200 was covered in 27.7 seconds and he finished in 9:12.90, eight seconds faster than his time from last week and only two seconds off of his outdoor personal record.”
Wechsler is now only a second off of the Cherokee indoor 3200 record of 9:11.86 run by Marc Pelerin 18 years ago.
“That record is certainly in danger on Sunday at the Meet of Champions,” said Shaklee. “Ethan will go into it as the fifth seed, but only .13 seconds off of the No. 3 seed time.”
For the Cherokee girls, freshman Kelsey Niglio finished third in her section and seventh overall in the Group 4 800-meter run with a personal-best time of 2:22.28, No. 6 in school history. Niglio earned a wild-card spot in the Meet of Champions and is seeded No. 24 in Sunday’s race.
“I believe that Kelsey becomes the first freshman in school history to advance to the Meet of Champions as an individual,” said Cherokee coach Mark Jarvis. “She’s really excited at the opportunity.”
Senior Fejiro Akiri placed 11th in the Group 4 shot put with a throw of 34 feet 6 inches, which was well off the personal-best throw of 37-7 ½ she had when she won the sectional crown a week earlier.
“Fejiro unfortunately did not have the kind of series that she wanted (at the state meet),” said Jarvis.
Senior Clarice Kubacki ended her indoor high school career with a personal-best throw of 33-9 ½, good for 15th overall in the field of 24 Group 4 shot putters.
Senior Emma Della Femina was one of eight high jumpers to finish tied for 13th in the Group 4 high jump at 4-10.
“Emma cleared opening height of 4-10, which is her personal record on her first attempt,” said Jarvis.
“I’m very proud of her since it can be challenging to come in (the competition) at your PR in the vertical jumps.”
Senior Amanda Demko earned a fourth-place medal in the Group 3 400-meter dash with a time of 58.98.
Demko also anchored the 4-by-400-meter relay team of junior Brooke Tenet, freshman Elizabeth Bell and senior Claire Hauser to a 13th-place time of 4:17.32.
Hauser just missed a medal in the Group 3 1600-meter run, placing seventh overall in 5:18.09.
Lenape senior Jake Mohnacs finished tied for eighth in the Group 4 pole vault competition with a personal-best height of 13 feet.
“Jake had a great series last Saturday (at the state meet) and I am looking forward to him advancing to the Meet of Champions as one of the wild cards,” said Lenape coach Steve Fardella.
Senior Margaret Boyer placed eighth out of 24 competitors in the Group 4 shot put with a toss of 36 feet.
The season-ending NJSIAA Meet of Champions will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 8 at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island, N.Y.
The meet will feature the top high school track and field athletes based on their performances from the six group meets held last weekend in Toms River. There will also several showcase events contested as well.