STATEN ISLAND, NJ — The Livingston High School (LHS) boys track and field team started the new year on a high as the Lancers matched up against the fastest teams in Essex County at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.
Competing against 26 other teams, the Lancers combined efforts in various in relays of various distances, including the shot put and high jump, to come away with two medals and a new school record.
“The team continued to show improvement in their speed, strength and endurance as they entered the championship portion of the season,” said head coach Nancy Petryna.
The Lancers’ first medal came in the second event, the Distance Medley, which Petryna said was one of the premier events of the day.
Junior Sean Miller led off for Livingston, running 1200 meters to establish a presence on the track. Miller passed the baton to sprinter Jacob Kogut, who lent his speed to the distance runners with a quick split in the 400-meter leg before passing off to senior co-captain Jonathan Chen.
“Chen, typically a miler, has gained speed and poise each year as a Lancer,” said Petryna. “[Chen] finished the 800 leg of the race with the Lancers in about the middle of the pack of 15 racers.”
The baton went next to Philmon Mehari, who set his focus on “methodically passing the racers in front of him one by one,” according to his coach, finishing the race with a sprint that "stunned many of the other runners." His performance placed the Livingston squad firmly in second place with a time of 11:08.64.
Following the distance event, LHS senior Brian Leechow started for the Lancers in the Sprint Medley.
“[Leechow] ran a quick first 200 with such determination that he tumbled out of the hand off and rolled expertly off the track before the stampede of other runners as he reached for the hand of Kogut,” said Petryna, adding that Kogut completed the second 200 with little rest from the previous race.
Lancer co-captain Philippe Jallow followed Kogut, racing the 400-meter leg before passing the baton to Miller in his signature 800-meter leg.
The team ultimately placed 11th out of the 23 teams that competed with a time of 3:59.87.
Fresh from a record-breaking performance the previous week, the four members of Livingston’s 4x200-meter squad took the track for the next event. Designated to the third, slower heat, Petryna said the quartet “knew that they had their work cut out for them when the gun blasted.”
First up was Jamar Vincent, who fought his way to first in the heat before placing the baton safely in the hand of Johnathan King. After extending Livingston’s lead, King passed the baton to co-captain Jackson Petryna.
Petryna maintained the lead, running “one of his fastest legs of the year,” his coach noted, before handing the baton to Chris Werner. Despite jostling the baton slightly, Werner maintained his composure as he raced around the track.
With a strong challenge from Weeqhuaic High School, Werner dove for the finish line, preserving the first-place finish in the heat and moved the squad to an impressive sixth-place finish overall in the county.
With the medal came a new school record with a time of 1:35.75.
Chen led off the team, followed by sophomore Adam Dzieszko, as the varsity runners competed next in the 4x800 meter race. Jonathan Ackerman ran next before Mehari took over the role of anchor.
The team ultimately landed in the middle of the 16-team field with an eighth-place finish and a time of 9:10.04.
In the field events, Jallow and freshman Quin Devlin joined forces in the high jump. The senior co-captain cleared 5 feet and 6 inches, and Devlin added his clearance of five feet to finish in seventh place overall.
Michael Gagliano and David Samaan competed as a two-man shot put team, combining their throws for 56 feet and 9 inches.
Up next, the Lancers will compete in the East Stroudsburg Invitational and the Frosh-Soph-Novice Meet, which highlights the development of the newer athletes.
The varsity team then heads to Toms River to compete in the Group IV State Relays, where Livingston will face other large schools from throughout the state.