IN THE NEWS: MSDA Junior Gianna Mangili '22 Spring Track & Field Essex County Championships 2021

IN THE NEWS: MSDA Junior Gianna Mangili '22 Spring Track & Field Essex County Championships 2021

Essex County track: Rookie sensation wins 4 golds, Montclair & Seton Hall take team titles

By Patrick Lanni | NJ Advance Media for

Newark Tech senior Sincere Robinson is six weeks into his track and field career, but he’s no ordinary rookie.

Robinson, a talented first-year find, has emerged as one of the state’s most-gifted athletes and won four gold medals at the Essex County Championships on Friday as he alone vaulted Newark Tech to a third-place finish in the team standings during a brilliant — and busy — afternoon at Schools Stadium in Newark.

With wins in the high jump (6-2), long jump (22-0), triple jump (45-0) and 110 hurdles (15.14), Robinson bounced between events with ease as a steady rain poured throughout the second half of the meet.

Seton Hall Prep won the boys meet with 99 points while Montclair was second with 67. Robinson, scoring 40 points by himself, was Newark Tech’s only scorer, and his point total was enough to beat 18 other schools, including Irvington and East Orange, which finished fourth and fifth with 36 1/2 and 29 points, respectively.

Unlike other first-year athletes, Robinson looks the part of a seasoned veteran. So much so that his coach Kcyied Zahir says he looks like a combination of Usain Bolt and Carl Lewis.

It’s the way he walks, his first step out of the starting blocks and how he performs with such ease that sets Robinson apart, Zahir said.

“I know those are the biggest names in the sport, but he looks the part,” said Zahir, a former State Coach of the Year during his time at Weequahic High. “My other thought is what if. ...

“What if he was a junior?”

“What if we had another year?”

“What if COVID didn’t happen?”

Regardless, Robinson is making up for lost time. In the final three weeks of his only high school track and field season, Robinson will try do what only a handful of athletes have been able to do — qualify for and try to medal in four events at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

He got his first test in the 110 hurdles Friday when North Star Academy’s Jayden Rodriguez pushed him to the line. Even with a steady rain making it that much harder to get over the hurdles, Robinson crossed the line in 15.14 to Rodriguez’s 15.33.

It’s the high hurdles that’s his best event, Robinson said. But he also thinks he can get over seven feet in high jump. He currently ranks in the top three in New Jersey in triple jump and sees 24 feet as a realistic possibility in the long jump.

“You’re looking at six weeks of work,” Zahir said. “He has a gift of being able to control his body but he doesn’t have much knowledge about the events.”

Less than two month ago, Robinson never took off down a runway. Now, he’s hoping to jump to the next level as a Division 1 athlete and erase some of the what ifs clouding 2021.

“It’s a season of what ifs, and we’re just hoping he can find a place in college and continue to progress,” Zahir said.

Seton Hall sweeps, Montclair sneaks by

Seton Hall Prep left no doubt it was Essex County’s top team on the boys side while Montclair picked up its second close win over West Orange to win the team title for the girls meet.

In the final event, Montclair won the 4x400-meter relay in 4:11.03 while West Orange took second. The win helped Montclair preserve its lead and clinch the title 92 points to West Orange’s 85.

Last weekend, Montclair defeated West Orange to win the Super Essex Conference American Division title. That meet was decided by a single point. West Orange, however, started off the season with a win at the Essex County Relays earlier this month.

Montclair’s only individual win on the track on Friday came from senior Krisantha Spencer, who won the 800 in 2:25.69.

Seniors Stephanie Webb, Violet Ross and junior Kiya Lawson added multiple top-four finishes on the track. Webb was third in the 100 (12.83) and second in the 200 (25.61). Lawson was third in the 200 (25.76) and second in the 400 (1:01.68) while Ross was third in the 1,600 (5:34.54) and second in the 3,200 (12:06.46).

In the field, junior Elizabeth Fitzgerald placed in three events to lead the way. The junior cleared 10-6 to win the pole vault, tied for second in the long jump with a 17-6 and was fifth in triple jump with a 33-9.

Seton Hall Prep, ranked No. 17 in the Top 20, won the Essex County triple crown with titles at the Essex County Relays, SEC divisional meet and Essex County Championships.

Scoring 48 of its 99 points in the three throws, the Pirates got a big boost from senior Tim Polizzi who won the shot put (47-2) and discus (137-6) and took second in the javelin behind his teammate Joe Lambiase, who launched a 140-0. Polizzi was second with a 137-8. William Polizzi also placed in the shot put and discus with a 43-0 1/2 and 132-2.

On the track, senior Kevin Harvey won the 3,200 in 9:56.89 and was fourth in th 1,600 while sophomore Ryan Matulotis placed in both hurdle events after running 56.50 to take second in the 400 hurdles and 16.02 to take fourth in the 110 hurdles.

Other top performers

West Orange’s Andree Celestin had a disappointing performance in high jump but got plenty of encouragement from her teammates to win two other events.

Celestin, a senior, ran 15.40 to win the 100 hurdles. She also won the javelin with a 95-9 and tied for second in the long jump with a 17-6. When she toed the line for the hurdle finals, the rain intensified and the wind was whipping.

“The time wasn’t my best but considering the rain, it was pretty consistent,” said Celestin, who ranks third in New Jersey after running 14.96 last weekend.

  • Cedar Grove junior Tara Smurla was a double winner in the distance races after winning the 1,600 in 5:25.80 and the 3,200 in 11:56.76. Smurla ran mostly alone and won by 10 seconds in the 3,200 and got a slight push from Millburn’s Emily Mayo in the four-lapper.
  • Both winners of the 100-meter dash did not win in the preliminaries. Montclair Kimberley’s Isiah Udofia won a talented group of finalists when he crossed the line in 11.18, ahead of Montclair’s Truman Williams and Irvington’s Al Jay Henderson. Udofia, who also won the 200, was second to Seton Hall’s Xavier Donaldson in the prelims.
  • On the girls side, Mount St. Dominic junior Gianna Mangili closed in the final 10 meters and out-leaned North Star’s Gbarper Dwah at the line. Mangili ran 12.63 to Dwah’s 12.67. Dwah was the winner in the prelims while Mangili was third.
  • It was quite the show at the sand pits, especially on the girls side. West Side junior Paula Marie Brown went 18-10 to win the long jump, a distance that’s just off her NJ #2 19-1. In the triple jump, West Orange took the top two spots after junior Kourtney Adams (37-5) and senior Tiara Wilson (37-2) took first and second, respectively.
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