FRANKLIN, NJ -- Three members of the Livingston High School Track & Field team qualified for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, based on their performances in last weekend's Group 4 meet at Franklin High School.
Philmon Mehari, Tafari Attoh and Joe Cullen all advanced to the Meet of Champions. They will be joined by Connor Sweeny, who will represent the Lancer boys squad in the wheelchair shot put and javelin competition.
Livingston had 17 members qualify in 14 events for the Group 4 State Championship meet May 31 and June 1. Seven Lancers qualified in more than one event, with Tafari Attoh advancing in all four of his events from the sectional meet. The Lancer boys squad was represented in the 400m high hurdles (Victor Lopez Simpson), the 100m dash (Attoh), the 1600m (Philmon Mehari), the discus (Nick Boffa) and the high jump (Philippe Jallow) on Day One.
Livingston qualifiers participated in Day Two events in the 3200m (Mehari), the 4x100m relay (Chris Werner, Jackson Petryna, Jamar Vincent, Attoh), the 200m (Attoh), the javelin (Cullen/Boffa), the long jump (Werner) and the 4x400 (Werner, John King, Vincent and Attoh). The girls team had advanced in the long jump (Rachel Drill), the 4x800 (Kylie Prendergast, Vicky Choe, Lindsay Anan and Stella Scheier) both on Friday and the 4x400 (Kayla Hudson, Prendergast, Kayla Parsons and Choe) on Saturday.
Only the top three individual finishers from each event from each group would be automatic M of C qualifiers, with the next nine best performances from all three groups on site that day for a total of 18 individuals would earn the chance to compete at the M of C next Saturday at Northern Burlington County Regional High School.
In Friday's 400IH. Lopez Simpson ran a 61.07. Attoh built speed throughout and clocked a 11.21 in his event to just miss the finals. He would have to wait and see if he would qualify for the final round of the state tournament as a wild card. Conflicting schedule issues kept Drill (LJ), Jallow (HJ) and Boffa (discus) from competing during Friday's section of the meet. Mehari, who was a long shot to qualify in the 1600, was advised to save his energy for the 3200--the stronger of his two events-- the following morning.
The last event on the track for the evening was the 4x800. The LHS girls broke the line at 10:02.
As the results of the day were all posted, the coaches were able to determine that indeed Attoh would advance as a wild card.
The 3200m was moved this year to the first event on Saturday at 10 a.m., giving the athletes some respite from running the longest race of the competition at the height of the day's heat. Mehari, who was seeded eighth, got out on pace, not allowing the pack to slow down the tempo and favor the fastest kickers at the end. Mehari went right to the front and did much of the pacing work for the early laps. Finally, the two favorites took over that job, as the field began to stretch out. A pack of four gained a bit of separation from the rest with Mehari going with them.
"As they entered the bell lap, Mehari was in a good spot," said Livingston track coach Dave Czeizinger. "On the final back stretch, a few runners made moves and passed him, but with patience, he felt he had enough left to get his position back. With about 150 to go, he had done just that and was gaining on third place, the final automatic qualifying spot. The crowd was roaring as the two runners burst into a flat out sprint to the finish."
Mehari nipped his competitor at the line in 9:29.37, a personal best time to earn third by a mere .11 seconds. Mehari assured himself of his fourth M of C berth in as many seasons.
In the javelin, Boffa got out a throw of 144'-5” despite a slip in the moist grass, to grab 20th place, and Cullen hit a throw of 166'-05” to finish in fifth place, in the medals but he too would have to wait until all throwing was done for the day to see if he would be a wild card.
Attoh's time of 23.03 in the 200m dash was good for 19th place was against a strong headwind on the straightaway. Meanwhile, Werner was getting in his jumps at the long jump pit with the other 22 athletes. He got a jump of 19'11.5”, placing him in 16th.
The last race for LHS on the track was the 4x400. The girls had qualified with a finish in 4:11 the previous week, knocking higher-seeded teams out just to get here. The boys similarly clocked a 3:29, grabbing fifth.
"The girls gave it their best on this hot, humid, oppressive day, passing well, but they were up against top tier competition with 16 teams coming in under four minutes the girls were outmatched," Czeizinger said of the 4x400. "The squad ran hard and well, but did not have the firepower to match that kind of strength, bringing their run to an end at this meet. The boys had to utilize two alternates, Jacob Kogut and Sean Miller in their 4x400 effort and both responded to the challenge. Alas once again the competition was fierce in this event, and though running well with a time of 3:31, they would also see this as their final 4x400 of the 2019 season."