TOMS RIVER, NJ — The Livingston High School boys’ track and field team recently took on 16 other teams at the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV State Sectional Championship held at Bennet Arena in Toms River. Beginning their 2019 state tournament run, the Lancers competed in running, jumping and throwing events with the goal of placing in the top six to advance to the next round.
Lancers standout Philmon Mehari completed a grueling double by competing in his two specialty races: the 1600 and 3200-meter races.
Despite struggling with slow pacing and a crowded track, which is known to complicate distance racing, Mehari broke through and finished his 1600 meters with a respectable time of 4 minutes, 31.97 seconds—earning fifth place and a trip to the Group IV Championships. According to head coach Nancy Petryna, Mehari’s frustration in the first race only fueled his determination in the 3200.
“Knowing that he was racing with an elite group, he vowed to stay with the lead pack no matter how tired he may be from his prior race,” she said.
Mehari’s strategy worked, as he exhausted all the energy he had left to sprint toward the season’s best time of 9:39.69 for a fourth-place finish and another ticket to the Group IV meet.
The team’s biggest surprise of the night came from senior co-captain Philippe Jallow, who is typically found sprinting or jumping for the team but entered the Shot Put for the meet. Power and athleticism, as well as the adrenaline rush that typically accompanies a big meet, led Jallow to throw his personal best of 43 feet, 25 inches to earn fifth place in the section and another Lancer ticket to the Group IV championship. Jallow also competed in the High Jump, finishing ninth with a personal best 5 feet, 6 inches.
The night ended with the 4x400 meter relay team of Jamar Vincent, Jacob Kogut, Johnathan King and Tafari Attoh, who faced some of the fastest squads in the state. Kogut, King and Attoh had all previously run the 400-meter dash in the open division and were completing the most difficult sprinting double of the day.
Vincent ran first for the team and handed off to Kogut, who muscled his way into the passing zone and completed an impressive leg before handing off to King. King showed off his experience and strength for the third leg, and Attoh brought the squad home as the anchor.
Ultimately, the Lancers came up just short of the cut-off for the next round with a ninth-place finish and a time of 3:41.10.
Also competing for the Lancers at the meet were 800-meter racers (Sean Miller (2:07.98) along with Adam Dzieszko (2:19.27) and Daniel Silva (2:23.09).
Jonathan Chen (4:55.49) and Jonathan Ackerman (5:19.71) joined Mehari in the 1600-meter race, and Jackson Petryna (7.28 seconds), Attoh (7.09), and Vincent (7.06) ran for 55 meters.
Andrew McMane and Siraj Akmal pole-vaulted, while Michael Gagliano (30-2) and Ryan Militello (29-3.25) competed in the Shot Put.
The Lancers will compete in the Morris County Coaches Invitational before heading to the remaining portion of the state tournament.