Union County Championship Preview: The Return of the Johnson Poll

The Return of the Johnson Poll

Union County Championships: 1/24 4:30pm Jersey City Armory

That’s right, its time for me to write!

 I’ve spent most of the winter hibernating in a cave somewhere in the deep vales of the Watchung Mountains, but I recently awoke from my deep slumber and found myself with an insatiable hunger.  I feasted on crisp mountain berries and trout caught out of the icy depths of cold rivers, but my hunger was not abated.  (Bear with me as I beat this Bear metaphor to the bare bones.)  I wandered out of the forest into the suburbs and rooted through trash looking for even a tiny morsel of food.  Eventually I made my way to a computer and realized I hungered not for food, but for intelligent and engaging indoor track and field coverage.  Luckily, the Union County Championships are tomorrow and this Johnson Bear is able to blog about track until he hungers no more. 

Before I begin my meaty meet coverage meet me half way while I explain a couple o’ things about indoor track: (words are fun)

1.       Indoor Track is Not XC: There is plenty to like about indoor; packed field houses, short laps, ideal conditions, and really dry air to name just a few.  The mile and the DMR are two of my favorite races to compete in because of this excitement.  (Collegiately, the mile and DMR are unique to indoor track, which is why I associate these two events with indoor)  However from a coverage standpoint, indoor track is brutal.  When writing about a cross country meet, I wrote about one or two races.  Indoors there are 16 track events I could write about per meet and 8 field events I could cover.  Even for someone with my infamous industry, this is a lot.  So I’ve decided to once again let bias get the best of me and primarily cover distance events (800 and up)

2.       Indoor track is all about guile.  With a bunch of races crammed into a small amount of time, wily coaches try and maximize the amount of points they can get.  Coaches will try and guess what other teams athletes are running and enter their athletes accordingly.  The amount of guile that goes into meet entries is fascinating to me (yeah I’m a nerd) and I can and have looked over heat sheets for hours on end.  Sadly, heat sheets are often not released at the high school level.  I’ve scoured the internet for the entries for the Union County Meet (and by Scoured I mean I google searched for entries once) and came up empty handed.  This means I have no idea who is running what so rather than try and use my own guile reserves (which are considerable) to try and guess, I’m going to feature some athletes who should be in the mix for a Union County title in a couple of events.  (If you are reading this and know where to find heat sheets please let me know where to find them)

THE JOHNSON LIST (new name for a new format)

Boys to Watch

Kenny Evely, Sr, Union Catholic:  Evely finished second in county last year in the indoor 800, but the senior from Union Catholic has to be the favorite in the 800 going into the meet.  Evely’s PRs are impressive: 50 in the 400, 1:53 in the 800.  He has demonstrated good fitness this indoor season, running 2:37 for the 1000 and has been part of Union Catholics 4×400 (Non-Public A champs), 4×800 (county champs), and DMR (county champs).  I hate to pick a UC guy to win anything (see earlier Johnson Polls for the origins of my UC hate), but I don’t see anyone beating Evely in the 800 if he’s on top of his game

Andrew Ghizzone, Sr, Union Catholic:  Like Evely, Ghizzone is another key cog in UC’s relay machine.  At the Non-Public A relays, Ghizzone ran in the SMR, DMR, the shuttle hurdles, and vaulted 13-06 (WAT).  He also quadrupled at counties, replacing the pole vault with the high jump.  Ghizzone won all three running events and tied for the highest jump of the meet at 6-0.  Someone clearly has a future in the multi-events.   Ghizzone has prs of 1:56 and 4:25, won the 1600 at the indoor championships last year, and placed 5th at Union County XC.  Ghizzone could be entered in either the 800, 1600, or 3200 and is a contender in all three.  Ghizzone could probably score in 6 events (55h, 800, 1600, 3200, HJ, PV) but is limited to four.  At least one of these 4 will be on the track, and in my brash opinion I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ghizzone in both the 800 and 1600.

Harlan Clarke, Sr, Rahway: Clarke continues a long tradition of strong middle distance runners from Rahway.  Clarke has already pr’ed in the 800 and 1600 running 1:58 and 4:31 on the boards at the armory.  Clarke figures to feature in either the 800 or the 1600 and has a good chance to medal in either event.

Krhystof Sutherland, Sr, Governor Livingston: Like the three athletes discussed above, Sutherland is a jack of all trades.  At the Union County relays he ran in the 4×400, 4×800, and competed in the High Jump.  Sutherland led GL to a third place finish in the 4×800 and anchored the SMR to a top 6 finish at the Group Relays.  Sutherland will likely compete in the 800 at counties and has a good shot at winding up on the podium.

Matt Luppino, Sr, Westfield:  Luppino is no stranger to Union County competition, with two Union County championships under his belt already.  Last winter, Luppino competed in the 3200, where he lost to Leland Jones of Summit.  Luppino probably wants to get back at Jones for this loss and his loss in XC, but tomorrows meet is not the time or place.  Luppino comes into the meet with the best 1600 pr (4:16) of any runner in the county and should stick to with his best event.  If Luppino is on his game, he should add an indoor 1600 title to the one he gained last outdoor season.

Leland Jones, Jr, Summit: The 2013 Union County XC champ comes into the county meet a heavy favorite in the 3200.  After a convincing win in XC, the field will likely stay away from the 3200 not wanting to go toe to toe with Jones over the longer distance.  After a slow start to the year, Jones has performed well in the last two relay meets, anchoring Summit to a second place finish at Group 2 relays.

Jordan Price, So, New Providence: The New Providence sophomore is coming off a strong cross country season and figures to be in the mix no matter what race he’s in.  I think the best race for Price is the 3200, as I see the likes of Luppino and Ghizzone duking it out in the 1600.  This would leave Price in a great position to get the Silver.  (Silvers not bad, just ask Galen Rupp.)  Having run 4:21 and 9:44 as a Freshman, Price is clearly a talented individual and has already run 4:25 in the mile this year.  For those who see the 1600 and the mile as the same, a 4:25 roughly equates to a 4:23.  Considering the 4:25 mile was run indoors, Price is already back in peak shape for 2014.  If he can hang around until 400 to go, look for that mile speed to come in handy.

Girls to Watch

Gillian McIlroy, Sr, Summit: I feel like at this point there’s not much more I can write about McIlroy.  Barring catastrophe, McIlroy should pick up the dub in whatever event she enters.   Last year McIlroy preferred the 1600 indoors (I’m sure most people do).  Whatever she enters, McIlroy has a good chance of winning her ninth county championship. 

Jennifer Edobi, Sr, Union: If McIlroy is the dominate force in the distance events, Edobi is the dominant force for middle distance.  The 6 time county champion has won the last 4 800 county titles and a couple over 400.  Having already run 41.5 for 300 and 1:37 for 600 this year and with PR’s of 55 and 2:15 Edobi is the class of the field.  Nothing is a lock in track and field, but Edobi is about as close as it gets to a guaranteed win.  Ideally Mcilroy and Edobi show down over 800 meters for Union County supremacy, but sadly I don’t think that will happen.

Gabby Stravach, Sr, Westfield:  The 3200 is wide open if McIlroy sticks with the 1600.  Stravach, the runner up in XC, is certainly a contender if she enters the 3200.  Stravach had a great XC season and has solid PR’s of 5:19 and 11:26.  The 3200 is a wide open race, but Stravach is certainly capable of taking it.

Sophie Debode, Sr, Kent Place: Kent Place was one of the big surprises of the XC season, making it as a team to the Meet of Champions.  Debode was responsible for much of this success finishing third at Union County XC.  Debode was a member of the DMR that went toe to toe with Summit at the County relays and has an impressive 3200 pr of 11:23.  Like Stravach, Debode is a contender in the 3200 if McIlroy does only the mile. 

 

-That’s enough Johnson Polling for Today

Good Luck out der

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