BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Five athletes have been named Delicious Heights Highlander Athletes of the Week for winning the Union County Championship titles and NJSIAA Group 2 Relay Championship in their respective events. Champions include swimmer Sarah Montagna along with Indoor Track stars Victoria Vanriele, Andrew Aguilera, and Leah and Lauren Saifi.

  • Sarah Montagna swam past Scotch Plains-Fanwood's Caroline Warren by three 100’s of a second – 5:16.09 to 5:16.12 to win the Union County Championship title in 500 Freestyle. This win provided crucial first place points for GL in their third place team finish behind Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield.  
  • Victoria Vanriele set the new Indoor Track school record of 2:15.91 and skimmed .97 seconds off the 800 M Union County Championship record set last year by Amari Onque-Shabazz of Union Catholic. Vanriele subsequently won the NJSIAA Central Group 2 Sectional title in the 800 M and was a member of the sectional championship winning 4 X400 M Relay team along with Nicole Trezza, Cristal Vilasoa, Danielle Petryk.
  • Andrew Aguilera ran a personal best 7.51, currently ranked third in NJ, and broke the school and meet record [set by Jason Cission Jr. of Plainfield last year, by .01 seconds]. Aguilera also took second in the 55 m dash in 6.55.  Aguilera followed this up with two NJSIAA sectional titles in the 55 M hurdles in 7.69 seconds and the 55 M dash in 6.53 seconds, a new school record. 
  • Leah and Lauren Saifi had a repeat pefrormance taking home their second consecutive NJSIAA Group 2 Relay Championship title by clearing a combined 23 feet. The sisters set a new Group 2 record and tied the All Group relay record. Leah jumped an indoor personal best of 12’ 6” and Lauren jumped her indoor personal best of 10’6”.  Leah’s 12’6” jump puts her at #1 in NJ and #10 in the US for the indoor season. The 10 points earned by the Saifi sisters' first place finish helped the Gov. Livingston Girls Team to their second place overall finish. Subsequently, Leah and Lauren placed first and second at the NJSIAA Central Group 2 championships.

Additional comments from the athletes:

Junior swimmer Sarah Montagna

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Records broken: 100 Backstroke by Carol Hickey in 1979 and 200 Medley Relay

TAPinto: How did you get started in your sport and how long have you been swimming?

Sarah: I've been swimming for as long as I can remember. I joined the summer swim team in Mountainside when I was seven. Growing up, I tried pretty much every sport possible, from basketball to ice skating. What we quickly learned is that I'm horrible at all sports on land. Swimming was different. I didn't embarrass myself when I swam. So, since then, I've been swimming. It wasn't until I joined the Summit YMCA swim team when I was 12 that I became serious in swimming. 

TAPinto: What do you like most about your team?

Sarah: My favorite thing about the GL swim team is how close we all are. Everyone is friendly and supportive of one another. If you ever go to one of our swim meets, all you'll hear is people cheering for one another and having a blast. 

TAPinto: Do you have any pregame rituals/superstitions?

Sarah: Before every meet, I make sure to listen to my pre-meet playlist. It's a bunch of fast paced songs that get me pumped up and ready to race. When I'm behind the block getting ready to swim, I like to think about my goal for my race. This helps me focus on what I have to do and gets me ready to swim my best. 

TAPinto: Have you met your Season Goal?

Sarah: I started off this season with many goals in mind. I haven't been able to meet some of these goals yet, such as getting the MOC cut in the 500 freestyle. While some are still a work in progress, I'm glad to say that some goals were reached. For one, our medley relay was able to beat our record from last year. Now, my main goal is to win the sectional finals with my team. 

TAPinto: What is your favorite class/professor/why?

Sarah: I would have to say my favorite class is concert band with Mr. O. I've been taking the class with him since I was a freshman. He's a great teacher who is really passionate about what he's teaching. Concert band is great because I'm able to get away from all the stress of my other classes for an hour and make music with my friends. 

TAPinto: Future plans -- College and major? 

Sarah: As of right now, I haven't given much thought of where I would like to go to college. The only thing I'm sure of is that I want to swim in college. As for my major, I definitely want to do something in the sciences. I really enjoy biology and I'm considering going into a pre-med program. 

TAPinto: Favorite athlete of all time?

Sarah: My favorite athlete would have to be Michael Phelps. It's probably the most common answer you'll get from a swimmer, but I find him amazing. He is the top swimmer in the world and he has so many achievements. 

Freshman runner Victoria Vanriele 

TAPinto: How did you get started in your sport and how long have you been running track?

Victoria: This is my fifth year of running track.  I started off having my greatest success with the 1500 meter distance.  Then with more speed work and conditioning, I have been improving my 800 and 400. 

TAPinto: What do you like most about your team?

Victoria: I love training with my teammates.  Our coaches develop great workouts.  We all take our events seriously and want to represent our school well.  At practice, we push each other and encourage each other. The other day, our state champion pole vaulter Leah Saifi was running up and down the field cheering me on when I was racing the boys.  I couldn’t disappoint her.

TAPinto: Do you have any pregame rituals/superstitions?

Victoria: I like to watch videos of athletes who are really good at the events I will be running. Each time I watch a video, I observe strategies about starts, form, pace, positioning, and finishes.  

TAPinto: Have you met your Season Goal?

Victoria: Winning County’s and breaking the meet record in the 800 were definitely goals for this season.  Next, I want to progress from State Sectionals to State Groups, and then to State Meet of Champions in the 800.  I am also hoping that our 4x400 relay progresses all the way to the MOC.  I have already obtained open cuts for the Eastern Regional Championship and the National High School Championship, so I’ll be participating in those meets at the end of the indoor season. 

TAPinto: What is your favorite class/professor/why?

Victoria: I love playing the saxophone and my band teacher recently formed a wind ensemble in which I was invited to play.  When I am playing in the ensemble, I love the professional feel to it.

TAPinto: Future plans -- College and major? 

Victoria: I’m a freshman, so I have a couple of years before focusing on college.  However, I am taking challenging courses that demonstrate my strong academic capabilities.  Ultimately, I plan to select a college that will provide me a great academic experience.

TAPinto: Favorite athlete of all time?

Victoria: My favorite athlete is definitely the Kenyan runner David Rudisha.  He is the world record holder in the 800 and the two-time Olympic champion.  I can watch his videos endlessly.

Andrew Aguilera and Leah and Lauren Saifi provide additional comments in Champions Named Delicious Heights Athlete of the Week: Part 2.

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Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.