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Mar 31, 2022

Indoor Track and Field Comes to a Close at Meet of Champions

By Tim Morris

After full indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country seasons in 2021, Middletown High School North’s Hailey Guerrieri anticipated that the 2022 indoor season would be a positive one for her. But she never expected that it would lead her to a state championship.

“I felt like I would have a pretty good indoor season,” the Lion senior said of the year leading up to the campaign. “I didn’t think it would it be like this. I’m still in shock.”

Throughout the season, personal bests and wins kept piling up for Guerrieri until she was the NJSIAA Group III champion in the 55-meter hurdles. The multi-talented Lion won the Monmouth County, Shore Conference and Central Jersey championships en route to her state title. Her closest race was at the SC where she won by .02 seconds with a lean at the line. Following her CJ III victory, Guerrieri’s thoughts, for the first time, turned to a state championship.

“After the sectional, I knew I could do better,” she noted. “I was thinking how special a state championship would be.”

Guerrieri was seeded No. 2 at the Group championships, but that didn’t deter her. She lowered her personal best to 8.59 seconds and won the race.

“I focused on running the way I was trained to do,” she said.

The season ended for Guerrieri at the Indoor Meet of Champions at the Bennett Indoor Complex in Toms River.

“I wanted to go in and run as fast as I can,” she said. 

Guerrieri did just that, lowering her personal best to 8.58 and winning a medal with her eighth-place finish in the final.

The biggest difference in Guerrieri’s hurdling this winter, she explained, was her speed over the hurdles. She credited drills that helped her snap her trail leg over the hurdle quicker with her improved time. She said she is still working on her start.

“I have to work on my reaction time out of the blocks,” she remarked. “When the gun goes off, I’m last to the first hurdle.” 

But that works for Guerrieri. She remains calm and turns her attention to the runners in front of her, she noted. She reels them in and picks them off one by one.  

Not all of Guerrieri’s highlights were individual. Early in the season, she and teammates Kathleen Mayhew, Ashley Cunningham and Kaitlyn Pederson won the Group II State Relay championship in 34.64, making school history.

“It was the first time a girls’ relay team won a state championship,” she noted. “It was a great achievement. I have a lot of great teammates to work with.”

Guerrieri is looking forward to the outdoor season with added motivation and confidence following her indoor campaign. In addition to her hurdling, she qualified for the MOC in the high jump. The Lion, who wants to be a multi-event athlete in college, will get to show her versatility competing in the long, triple and high jumps along with some shot putting and sprinting and 100-meter hurdles.

Guerrieri’s male counterpart at North, Levi Wilson, won a pair of medals at the MOC. Wilson tied for second in the high jump at 6-2 and was fifth in the long jump soaring 22-1 ½. During the season, Wilson won the Monmouth County high jump. The versatile Lion is also a sprinter.

Christian Brothers Academy’s Kam Coleman was also a double-medal winner in Toms River. The Colt was eighth in the 55 hurdles and fourth in the triple jump (44-5). His teammate, Robert Manse III, took fourth in the shot put. The CBA thrower tossed the shot put 58-8 ¾.

Middletown South sprinter Alec Stillitano took fifth in the 200-meter dash (22.64).

Red Bank Catholic’s Cate DeSousa posted a quick 4:53.83 in taking third in the girls’ 1,600 while South’s Lucy Afanasewicz clocked 5:01.21 in eighth place. Their times were personal records for both.

Their Shore Conference rival Lilly Shapiro, of Colts Neck, won the MOC title in 4:51.71.

Rumson-Fair Haven sprinter Clemmie Lilley was one of the discoveries of the indoor track and field season. After impressive runs for the Bulldogs during the relay season that showcased her potential, the talented freshman established herself as one of the best 400-meter sprinters in New Jersey. Lilley capped off her remarkable debut season, which included capturing the NJSIAA Group II state championship, winning a medal against the best of the best at the season-ending Indoor Meet of Champions. The frosh circled the 200-meter track at the Bennett Indoor Complex in Toms River twice in a swift personal record 58.42. Lilley collected a second place medal on Rumson’s 4×400 relay team that placed fifth (4:03.69). She teamed with Megan Burns, Chloe Dotts and Tyler Argilagos.

RFH Coach Tim McLoone said during the indoor season that Lilley could become the best sprinter the RFH program has had. She is well on her way, having already won a state championship.

Rumson’s 4×800 girls’ and boys’ relay teams also took their place among the state’s best with top eight finishes and MOC medals. The team of Thomas Shore, Patrick Simpson, Jack McBarron and Quinn Padovana were sixth in the boys relay, clocking 8:13.52. For the girls, Julia Shanes, Sarah Butler, Ryan Malone and Katie Murray were seventh in 9:49.60. Both relay times put the Bulldog teams in good stead for the Penn Relays.