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Aug 05, 2021

Area Track Athletes Compete at the Meet of Champions

By Tim Morris

Colts Neck High School’s NJSIAA Meet of Champions (MOC) track and field winners went different routes to their titles.

Although Cole Tucker and Lilly Shapiro were both favorites to win, only Tucker had experienced the role of favorite. It was a new experience for Shapiro. Tucker has been “the man” in the shot put throughout the season. While winning All-American honors during the indoor season, the senior was accustomed to being the one to beat. He hadn’t lost a competition all spring.

“When you walk in and find all eyes on you, it’s a cool feeling,” said Tucker.

The only thing missing from Tucker’s high school resume was an MOC crown. He was deprived of that opportunity outdoors in 2020 and indoor ’21 because of the pandemic. This past spring, he took care of that challenge at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield, home to the MOC.

Tucker continued his year-long winning ways with a 64-10 ½ heave that overwhelmed the competition. He won the event by five feet to win his first MOC title. It’s now onto Boston University for the Cougar state champion.

Shapiro, a junior, was the pick in the 1,600-meter race, having set a new state record in the event, 4:40.15, earlier in the campaign. However, she was not without competition as Westfield’s Katie Hamilton, a senior and 4:51 miler herself, loomed large with her kick. Shapiro’s goal was to take the sting out of Hamilton’s late race speed. A pedestrian first 800 in 2:36 set it up for Shapiro to take off on the penultimate lap.

“I was hoping to go out a little faster,” she said. “I was going with 700 all along.”

Shapiro couldn’t shake Hamilton, however, and the Westfield runner sprinted past her in the last 100 to win in 4:51.95 with Shapiro settling for second, 4:52.89.

Looking back at the race, Shapiro said she thought she let the pressure of being the favorite get to her. She said she was too tentative on that third lap and could have pushed the pace faster. 

Luckily for Shapiro, tough, there was another race for her, the 800, and an opportunity for redemption.

“I tried to put the emotion behind me and prove I could win a state title,” she said of her approach to the 800. “Once the race started, I forgot about the 1,600.”

A slow first lap made for another race that would come down to a kick. But, in this race, the Cougar was the fastest finisher.

“It was tactical,” the Cougar recalled. “The pace was pretty slow. I was a little nervous about getting boxed in. With 200 to go, I was pretty confident. I went all out. I didn’t want what happened in the 1,600 to happen again.”

It didn’t as Shapiro out-kicked Shore Regional’s Caroline Donohue, 2:13.05 to 2:13.39, for her first MOC crown, proving she had what it takes to be state’s best.

Red Bank Catholic’s Cate DeSousa, who had battled Shapiro all year, was fourth (2:15.05).

Several area athletes earned medals at the MOC led by Holmdel sprinter Sydney Goldson who earned silver in the 400 (55.39).

Middletown High School North’s Rett Schnoor also took silver in the girls’ long jump, leaping 18-0 ¼.

Also finishing in second was Mater Dei Prep shot putter Chika Efobi (41-8 ½).

Rumson-Fair Haven’s sprinters placed third in 4×100 relay. Marlee Dotts, Arabella English, Megan Burns and Chloee Dotts clocked in at 48.89 and took the bronze.

For the boys, Middletown South sprinter Aaron Stillitano placed in two events. He was third in the 100 (10.72) and fourth in the 200 (21.91).

The Cougars’ Matt Bogdan took fifth in a quick 1,600 (4:12.64). 

In the 400 intermediate hurdles, Christian Brothers Academy’s Peter Jaworski finished fourth (54.87) just ahead of Rumson Fair-Haven’s Joseph Aglione (55.12) in fifth.

CBA throwers scored in three events. Robert Manse III was fifth in the discus (171-8), Liam Miksic took third in the javelin, and Andrew Krall placed eighth in the shot put (53-4 ½).