TOMS RIVER — Hasbrouck Heights’ boys and girls capped off an extraordinary 48 hours Saturday by winning both North 1, Group 1 indoor track championships at the Bennett Center.
The Aviator boys, who won the boys small school title Thursday at the Bergen County relays, scored in every event but the 400 meters and won their fifth title in the eight years of the event, 72 3/4-44 over Wallkill Valley.
The girls’ win, their first, was much more dramatic. The Aviators trailed Newton for most of the meet, but pulled into a tie with the Sussex County school by taking three places in the shot put, the eighth of 10 events.
Newton went back ahead in the 3,200 when Emma Kline finished second behind race-winner Alex Walter of Glen Rock, but Danielle Dallara of Hasbrouck Heights ran what Heights coach Rob Brady said “were the best last six laps of her life” to take third and keep the team in position going into the 4-x-400 relay.
Then Jillian DiGiacinto, who already had taken second in the 800 and a narrow win in the 400, blistered the second leg of the relay in 1 minute, 1.5 seconds to give Heights a big lead. Sydney Fontalvo and Brooke McKnight finished it off with a 35-meter win as Newton finished fifth, making the final score 52-46 for the Aviators.
“We talked about how hard it was to come back after a tough loss (by three points to Ramsey in the Bergen Relays) and that we had to put it on the line [Saturday],” said Brady. “To get Gabby [Tuzzo] to get a two-foot [personal record] in the shot for second and freshman Victoria Vizzacchero to score in her first meet was big and Shellie Nielsen hung in there after barely making finals to take fifth.”
Then DiGiacinto, who spent six months in a back brace after suffering a stress fracture last April, continued her recent run of success by running three terrific races, two days after earning the Lou Molino Award for outstanding girls performer at the Bergen Relays.
“She’s our leader on the track and an unbelievable inspiration off of it,” said Brady.
The boys team is solid without a star in the mix, winning just two races.
“We’re just one big team,” said junior Clarence Reyes, who won the 55 hurdles and took third in the 55 dash. “We have a close relationship on and off the track and are there to support each other, which helps keep the pressure off. We know we have to work hard to succeed and hard work pays off.”
Hard work certainly is paying off for Carleen Jeffers of Ridgewood, arguably the best athlete of the meet.
The Brown-bound Jeffers easily won the 1,600 in 5:12.41 and the 3,200 even more easily in a North 1, Group 4-record 10:55.41, coming within a few feet of lapping the field.
“Sometimes I zone out during a race because I get into a rhythm and don’t hear anything going around me,” said Jeffers. “My unspoken goal has been to win the state championship this winter and everything is going toward that goal.”
Noah Osterhus of Westwood was the only triple winner, taking the Group 1 400 and 800, and anchoring the Cardinals’ to a 4-x-400 win.
“I really wanted to try and win all three and I wanted to get the school record in the 400, but I just missed it,” said The College of New Jersey-bound Osterhus, who missed the record by just .03 by running 51.67. “I’ll try again at the [state group meet].”