By Tim Morris
Mater Dei Prep boys track head coach Mike Tursi knew that the versatility of Isaiah McClain would come in handy this indoor track and field season.
The senior, who excels as a sprinter, long and high jumper who also picked up the hurdles this winter, gave the Seraphs an invaluable multi-event scorer, Tursi pointed out.
“Isaiah brings a lot to the table,” the head coach remarked. “He does a lot for us.
“He’s willing to do what it takes for the team,” Tursi added. “He buys into the team concept.”
McClain proved his worth competing in four events at the NJSIAA State Relays on Jan. 19 at the John Bennett Indoor Sports Complex in Toms River, leading the Seraphs to the Non-Public B state title. The Seraphs scored 56 points in delivering Mater Dei’s first-ever state relay championship.
“It was a total team effort,” said Tursi.
The Seraphs used just 10 competitors and all scored points, Tursi noted. Several competed in multiple relays led by McClain, who contested four events.
“He (McClain) came through for us,” said Tursi.
McClain ran on the winning 4×55-meter shuttle hurdles relay and was part of the sprint medley team that was second, the 4×200 squad that took third and the high jump relay that finished fourth.
“I was exhausted but at the end of the day, it (championship) feels great,” said McClain. “That was the goal.”
Of all the relays, McClain enjoyed the shuttle hurdles the most. He took up hurdles this year to help out the team.
“Anything the coach needs I’ll do,” he said. “It (hurdling) has been great. I only had a couple of practices before the relays.”
Griffin Cole, Patrick Mastro and Patrick Osborn completed the relay team that won by almost two seconds in 34.24.
The runner-up sprint medley relay line-up was Griffin Cole, Sincere Saunders, McClain and John Spinelli. They clocked 3:54.80.
In the 4×200 it was Mastro, McClain, Griffin and Saunders finishing third in 1:40.41.
McClain cleared 5-10 in the high jump and Mastro did 5-0 to finish fourth.
Mater Dei won two relays in addition to the hurdles en route to the state championship.
Osborn, who displayed his versatility as well in Toms River, joined with Jake Roberts, Joseph Ramos and state Non-Public B cross country champion Spinelli to win the 4×800 (8:42.28).
Mater Dei got 10 big points in the field where Joe Cerrato (38-1 ¼) and Pat Gorman (37-4 ½) teamed up to win the shot put relay.
The Seraphs also picked up a second place in the 4×400 (3:40.87) with the busy Osborn, Ramos, Roberts and Saunders.
McClain said he recalls watching track and field meets on television and being drawn to the sport before he came to Mater Dei. Once there, he wanted to try everything.
“I like doing all the events,” he explained. “I’m looking into doing a decathlon.”
The jump events stand out as his favorite. McClain said in those races a big personal best “can come out of nowhere.” When McClain first started jumping, he couldn’t clear 5-0 in the high jump yet not he’s up to 6-0. In the long jump he has surpassed 20-feet (20-9).
“When you are floating in the air it feels like nothing else,” he said.
McClain, who is 5-10 and 165 pounds, was a three-year starter at outside linebacker for the Mater Dei football team that made the state playoffs each year and made the state finals his final two seasons.
“It was great to be a part of a program that was developing history,” he said.
McClain loves the physicality of football and remarked he’d like to play both sports in college.
“I love both sports,” McClain said. “Running is a different passion, it’s one-on-one and in football you work as a unit.”
The next goal for McClain and the Seraphs is to win the Non-Public B state title on Feb. 17. From the results at the relays, Mater Dei certainly is, at the very least, a serious contender.
McClain is looking to set personal bests in all of his events and he hopes to find a long jump competition so that he can qualify for the Eastern States Championships.
RFH Girls, CBA Boys Win
Rumson-Fair Haven’s girls and Christian Brothers Academy also picked up state championships at the relays.
RFH won the Group 2 state relay crown by scoring in every track event for a winning total of 35 points.
RFH head coach Tim McLoone credits the addition of lacrosse players, competing in indoor track to help them get ready for their spring season, with transforming the Bulldogs’ program. Known as a distance running power, the addition of a stable of talented sprinters and hurdlers have made the team more balanced and dangerous when it comes to putting together relay teams. It’s been a win-win for the lacrosse players and the track and field team.
Rumson’s lone victory at the Jan. 20 meet was in the Sprint Medley where Julia Tambaro, Martlee Dotts, Kaitlyn MacGillis and Grace Jamin were victorious in 4:18.24.
The other teams scoring were: the 4×200 of Nikki DeVito, Campbell Devlin, Lily Orr and Maddie Orr, fourth place (1:48.86); 4×400 with MacGillis, Caroline Coleman, Devlin and Lily Orr, second place (4:08.51); 4×800 with Olivia Rehder, Mia James, Tambaro and MacGillis, fourth place (10:04.46); distance medley of Eva Farr, James, Tambara and Carolyn Trent, sixth place (13:07.32); and the shuttle hurdles team of Alina Arko, Devlin, Jamin and Olivia Turi, second place (33.90).
CBA put their depth on full display scoring in every single event and rolling up 72 points at the Jan. 18 championships. Even though they had just one win in the distance medley, their ability to score points everywhere helped them hold off Union Catholic, which tallied 66 points.
Tim McInerney, Luke Reid, Brian Hill and Troy Hill combined to the DMR in 10:38.16.
CBA sprinters were third in the 4×200 with Ethan Arce, Andrew Canale, Rafael Coppola and Nathaniel Giallanza in 1:32.86 and second in the 4×400 with Nick Hanlon, Coppola, Kyle Foltz and Liam O’Hara in 3:31.26.
Stepping up in distance, the 4×800 team of Tanner Crochet, Brian Hill, Troy Hill and William Huntley placed second (8:20.04).
Arce, Canale, Hanlon and McInerney were second in the sprint medley (3:36.65).
Hurdlers Kyle Foltz, O’Hara, Lars Enstrom and Miles Enstrom were second in 32.06.
In the field, Corey Palazzo was first in the high jump clearing 6-0. Teammate Charles Ciraolo jumped 5-6 and the Colts were fourth overall.
Ryan Bragg (11-0) and Lars Enstrom (10-0) were fourth in the pole vault while throwers Dan Mead (50-4 ½) and Nicholas Morse (50-3) were second in the shot put relay.
Shore titles to RBC and CBA
Back at the Bennett Center on Jan. 26, Red Bank Catholic’s girls and CBA added the Shore Conference team titles to their Monmouth County crowns from earlier in the month.
The Caseys edged Southern, 31-29, while CBA was untested piling up 53.5 points.
Individual champions for the girls included: RFH’s Lily Orr, 400-meter dash (57.81); Holmdel’s Emily Levonas, 3,200 meters (11:10.39); Middletown North’s Katelyn Reid, 55 meter hurdles (8.65); Colts Neck’s Brianna Longo, high jump (5-2); and RFH’s 4×400 relay squad of Tambaro, MacGillis, Lily Orr and Devlin (4:02.98).
The boys individual winners were: CBA’s Canale, 400-meter dash (51.37); Shore’s Drew Maher, 1,600 meters (4:16.81); Middletown North’s Mark Anselmi, high jump (6-6); RFH’s Dekker Buckley, pole vault (13-6); and Middletown North’s 4×400 relay team of Joseph Guerrieri, Anthony Sclafani, Frankie Marrone and Raphael Goos (3:31.53).
This article was first published in the Feb. 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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