New Balance Nationals
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, ``It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’’ for the Christian Brothers track and field team on the nation’s biggest stage.
No sooner had the Lincroft school endured one of the strangest and most frustrating relay races in the program’s history – and surely the state’s as well – than it rebounded by claiming one its most satisfying championships Saturday at the New Balance Nationals inside Aggie Stadium.
CBA had its 4XMile relay time ruined by an official's mistake, but came back to win the national title in the shuttle hurdles.
East Brunswick junior Sam Mattis, the state’s freshman, sophomore and junior class record-holder in the discus, won his first national title with a throw of 197-4 while Lakewood senior Essence Mayers won the national long jump title with a 19-3.
``It was a roller-coaster day, obviously, with a lot of different emotions,’’ Christian Brothers coach Karl Torchia said. ``Thankfully it ended with some incredible performances. All 12 guys that came down gave us everything they had.’’
The day began with Christian Brothers aiming for a national title in the 4xMile, but the team encountered more problems than just a loaded field, which included 11 teams from eight states. With a lap remaining on his third leg carry, junior Conrad Lippert saw that every team’s anchor leg, including his teammate, junior George Kelly, was lined up and ready to receive the baton.
``I yelled to George, I only did three, I only did three,’’ said Lippert, who clocked out at 3:20.33. ``It’s either everyone and the officials miscounted, or I miscounted, so that’s why I handed off.’’
So Kelly split 4:13.97, but lost his last-lap duel with Elias Geydon from Loyola of California. Geydon split 4:11.69 to win in 16:14.32 and Kelly finished second in 16:15.14. The race stood, but every team finished a lap short because of the mixup.
Christian Brothers, which received splits of 4:21.18 from junior Tim Gorman and 4:19.68 from senior Dan Mykityshyn, was aiming for a perch high on the all-time state list. The team’s distance coach, Chris Bennett, estimated his team would have finished in around 17:16, which would be third in state history.
``It was one of the all-time greatest 4xMile races in history, and they blew it,’’ Bennett said of the meet officials. ``As athletes, our identities are tied to our times, and now they’re not going to have anything to show for it.’’
But Christian Brothers would have something to show for their trip to Greensboro. About an hour later, the senior foursome of Phil Reid, Nick Berger, Matt Pozo and John Engels won the shuttle hurdle national championship in 59.29, No. 2 in meet history and No. 10 in state history.
The victory was meaningful because hurdles coach David Duh was there to watch after he missed the indoor nationals attending to family matters. And because the senior foursome wanted to soften the blow for the team, still reeling from the 4xMile disaster.
On top of Christian Brothers earning a national title in the shuttle hurdles, the quartet of John Turi (50.0), Clark Mangini (51.0), Zach McDermott (1:00.2) and Theo Foster (48.49) won the Emerging Elite 4x400 relay in 3:19.69, smashing the school record of the hand-timed 3:19.6, which was set in 1983.
``I think a national title dwarfs all the other things I’ve ever done,’’ said Mattis, who has won the last two NJSIAA Meet of Champions discus titles. ``I don’t think anything can compare to being No. 1 in the nation – at least for today.’’