Stafford Leader Spring Sports Previews

Southern Loaded With Talent for Girls Track and Field

Apr 12, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy REACHING HIGHER: Senior Caitlin Hambor is one of the premier sprinters for Southern’s girls track and field squad this spring.

After many years of dominance, Southern Regional girls track and field has found itself trying to regain the Shore Conference Class A South throne during the past couple of seasons. This spring, the Rams again will face stiff challenges from several teams.

“Our expectations are to compete for A South and Ocean County titles, which eluded us last year,” said head coach Jason Church, whose crew abounds with talented and experienced athletes. “We might be a year away from being a favorite in the Shore, but we were very close last year, so who knows? At the state level, the plan is to qualify as many kids to the group meet and Meet of Champions as possible, but South Jersey Group IV is as tough as ever.”

Every season, Church sets the bar high for his Rams, and this spring is the same. The difference this time around, compared to last spring, is the experience factor. Southern has a whole bunch of returning athletes prepared to rise to new levels.

Of course, many other teams in A South, the Shore Conference and throughout NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV have lots of returning athletes doing the same, so the question of whether the Rams will have enough peaking at the right time remains to be answered. Nonetheless, Church’s crew is solid at its core and will be better than last spring.

Among the seniors leading the charge are sprinter Caitlin Hambor, jumper Gabby Conforti, thrower Kari Klimek and distance runners Gianna Citarella and Katelyn Brischler. Hambor last spring placed fourth in the conference 400-meter dash and ninth in South Jersey, while Conforti took 10th in the conference triple jump before taking ninth in the sectional. Klimek, a bit of a surprise in the javelin a year ago, swiped 11th in the conference and followed it up with a sixth-place effort in the sectional.

The highlight-reel athlete of the junior class is Karagan Bulger, who not only helps score big points in middle-distance events and relays, but last spring also developed into one of the best 400-meter hurdlers in the state. After winning the Ocean County and Shore Conference titles, Bulger took second and fifth in the sectional and Group IV meets, respectively, before finishing the season with a huge fourth-place effort in the Meet of Champions. She also won the county title in the 800-meter run.

In addition to Bulger, the junior class features one of the Rams’ premier throwers in Lauren Bakker, who a year ago finished fourth in the county discus event, then followed with a pair of third-place efforts in the conference and sectional meets. And then there is the distance trio of Emily Furlong, Jaelyn D’Amelio and Alexa Mulch – who transfer their prowess from the cross-country course to the track for the spring.

As for the sophomores, Maria Mezzo is the top returning athlete, after last season finishing second in the county pole vault before swiping third and 11th in the conference and sectional meets, respectively. Mezzo also adds depth in several sprint events as well as the 100-meter hurdles, in which she snagged second in the conference a year ago. Adding depth at pole vault is classmate Ali English, who finished ninth in the county and seventh in SJ4.

As for versatility, Brookelle Kline provides a lot for the Rams, as she will contribute in several sprint events as well as hurdles – she was second behind Bulger in the 400 hurdles at last year’s county meet – and jumps. Tiffany Ortner, Gianna Crawford and Bailey Hradek each had solid winter seasons and should be bigger contributors this spring.

Among the freshmen, sprinters Hailey Hochstrasser, Shannon Flaherty and Sarah Perry, along with distance runners Olivia Horton and Rachel Short, both of whom had excellent cross-country seasons back in the fall, will add even more depth on the track.

On the boys track and field team, head coach Scott Baker has several prominent athletes returning for a final go this season, with seniors David Springstead, Joe Guglielmo and Liam Andersen the main headliners for the Rams.

Springstead returns as the team’s top pole vaulter and high jumper, and should be a viable contender at the county, conference and sectional level after a phenomenal winter season. He also will lead the way in the hurdles events. Guglielmo is one of the better javelin throwers in the state, qualifying for the Meet of Champions the past two seasons, and will add some depth in the discus. Andersen is among the Rams’ better guys in the shot put and discus, and will be called upon to rise higher following the graduation of Joe Miele last June.

Additionally, Southern should be improved in several sprint and jumps events, and the depth at hurdles seems to be legitimate. For evidence, the recent Rebel Relays at Howell High School saw the 4x110-meter shuttle hurdles crew of Alex Thaler, Nicholas Fabrizzio, Hank Gallacher and Springstead win the top spot.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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