Barnegat Freshman Wins Group II High Jump as Bengals Send Three to Meet of Champions

By DAVID BIGGY | Jun 05, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Barnegat’s Madison Cappuccio (right) celebrates with coach Rebecca Kane after Cappuccio snagged the NJSIAA Group II high jump championship with a height of 5 feet, 6 inches on June 1.

Barnegat — As an experienced cheerleader for one of the premier programs in the country, Madison Cappuccio has developed a unique brand of athletic ability. Not only can she leap high into the air, but her body has become accustomed to twisting and turning while doing so. This spring, that ability became an asset to the Barnegat High School girls track and field program, and on June 1 the Bengals freshman continued to reset the bar, literally, as Cappuccio set the school record for the high jump and captured the NJSIAA Group II title in the process.

“It’s a big deal because I was not expecting to get this far,” said Cappuccio, who for most of the year competes for the six-time U.S. All Star Federation World Champions, the World Cup Shooting Stars, based in Freehold. “But the sky’s the limit, literally. I just have to keep working hard and do my best to get the technical stuff down.”

Whatever “technical stuff” she apparently lacks, it wasn’t too apparent at the Group II Championships at Central Regional High School, where the Ocean County and South Jersey Group II champ cleared 5 feet, 6 inches on her first attempt to ultimately grab the group title ahead of Rutherford star Jenna Rogers, who has cleared 6 feet in past meets and was last year’s Meet of Champions runner-up.

The one thing Cappuccio doesn’t lack is exposure to large audiences, and she’ll have one at Northern Burlington High School for Saturday’s Meet of Champions, where she is among the favorites to challenge for the state crown.

“For cheerleading, I’ve competed on national stages with millions of people watching, so the bigger the audience the better,” said the 5-foot-8 Cappuccio, who also placed eighth in the triple jump with a top distance of 16 feet, 9 inches. “I really just want to do my best every time I’m out here, and I have a lot of confidence in myself. Obviously, I’m excited to be in the Meet of Champions.”

Cappuccio isn’t the only Barnegat athlete headed for Northern Burlington. Coach Rebecca Kane will have a trio of Bengals vying for state titles, including sophomore Jillian Jankowski and freshman Valencia Gosser. Jankowski placed third in the Group II long jump with a top distance of 17 feet, 1½ inches, while Gosser took third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.60 seconds.

“I can’t believe I have three going to the Meet of Champions,” Kane said. “We always talk about the quality of athletes we have in the program because we’re a small team and need a lot of girls to compete in multiple events. This spring, we knew we had some great athletes, so I knew, as a team, we would be something great. But they’ve surpassed my expectations, and I’m really excited for these girls.”

After Gosser finished eighth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.83 seconds, she expressed her own excitement for being among the crowd heading for the state’s finale.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Gosser, who admitted that she hadn’t even thought about the Meet of Champions until two weeks ago, when she finished second in the 100 at the sectional meet. “Most freshmen don’t make it to the Meet of Champions for anything, and I’ll be running with the best in the state. It’s really cool that we have three girls going, too. I’m really proud to be a part of this team.”

Junior Zanayah Harris delivered several solid efforts in the triple jump, finishing ninth with a distance of 34 feet, 9¼ inches, and the discus, taking 10th at 105 feet, 3 inches. And while senior Reannah Cooper, who ended up 17th in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.30, may have seen her career come to an end, she was happy with how the season turned out.

“Being one of the leaders of the team this season, my role was to keep the girls’ heads up no matter what happened and keep encouraging them to get better,” said Cooper, who has been part of the track and field team for three seasons. “This season has been incredible. We really proved ourselves, and I’m happy with how I’m leaving the program.”

Meanwhile, senior Sean Morris – the only individual competing for the Barnegat boys team – also fell short of reaching the Meet of Champions but finished his outstanding athletic career with three big efforts in all three Group II throwing events. Morris placed sixth in the shot put with a high mark of 48 feet, 9 inches, while taking seventh in the discus at 142 feet, 2 inches, and 13th in the javelin at 151 feet, 5 inches.

“I’m a competitor and, of course, I wanted to get to the Meet of Champions, but I’m satisfied with how I’ve ended my career,” Morris said. “Making it to the group championship meet in all three throwing events is a big accomplishment, and it shows how far I’ve come over the past couple of seasons. I’ve always put my best into everything I’ve done, and I’m definitely happiest about that.”

Pinelands Regional senior Jonathan Makar just missed qualifying for the Meet of Champions in the shot put, placing fourth with a top throw of 49 feet, 4 inches. To qualify for the finale, an individual athlete had to place among the top three in an event or be among the next nine highest performances from each of the two group-meet sites. Makar also placed eighth in the discus, at 140 feet, 8 inches.

“I can’t complain,” said Makar, who is ranked fourth in his class. “When I started as a freshman, I was throwing the shot put 35 feet ,and this season I topped out at 51-10, so I’ve definitely improved a lot over the past four years. To be able to compete at the highest level and have a lot of fun doing it, I couldn’t be happier with my career.”

Of course, Makar’s sister, Elizabeth, not only has another season to her high school career, but will go into the next school year as one among the shot put field at the Meet of Champions. She finished as the Group II runner-up with a high mark of 40 feet, 4 inches. In the discus, she placed 12th at 100 feet, 9 inches.

Also for Pinelands, freshman sprinter Isaiah Simmons completed his first season with a ninth-place finish in the 100 dash with a time of 11.52 seconds and a 14th-place time of 23.40 seconds in the 200.

In addition to Morris, two of Barnegat’s relays also fared well in the Group II meet, as the team of Gavin Wheeler, Ryan Fisher, Ralph Cruz and Justin Gomez took fourth in 43.41 seconds in the 4x100-meter race, while Gareth Aguilar, Josh Hutton, Peter Dizon and Tyler Grant combined for a time of 8:10.04 to swipe fifth in the 4x800-meter race.

Southern’s Bulger and Relays
Reach State Finale

If Karagan Bulger is going to place among the top five in this year’s Meet of Champions 400-meter hurdles event, she may again have to do so from the unseeded heat. In the Group IV Championships, the junior finished third with a time of 1:02.95, qualifying as the 11th seed for the finale.

Last year, Bulger ended up placing fourth in the state after winning the unseeded heat. Depending on whether all the seeded competitors opt to run in the event on Saturday, June 8, at Northern Burlington High School, she may be leading the unseeded heat alongside Rumson-Fair Haven’s Campbell Devlin or Watchung Hills’ Jessica Carrieri.

Regardless, Bulger will have two other options at a Meet of Champions medal as part of the Rams’ 4x400-meter or 4x800-meter relays. She combined with Hailey Hochstrasser, Shannon Flaherty and Caitlin Hambor to take second in the 4x400 with at time of 3:51.15, just over two seconds behind Rancocas Valley. She also teamed with Hochstrasser, Flaherty and Rachel Short to grab seventh in the 4x800 with a time of 9:27.60, earning a wild-card bid to the Meet of Champions.

As for the rest of Southern’s athletes, sophomore Maria Mezzo placed 15th in the Group IV pole vault by clearing 10 feet, while senior David Springstead placed 14th in the pole vault at 13 feet and classmate Liam Andersen finished 16th in the shot put with a high mark of 47 feet, 7 inches.

— David Biggy

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