May 2002
The Record
Shawn Gilroy crossed the finish line, turned toward the infield, and fell face down into the grass. Gilroy was alone for only a moment before his West Milford teammates appeared in a stampede, burying him in a rollicking pile of celebration.

By holding off Delbarton for third place on the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay, Gilroy's 50.7-second personal best in the event turned a one-point deficit into a one-point win over the Green Wave, 111-110. In dramatic style, the Highlanders had captured the Skyline Division title in the Northern Hills Track and Field Championships at Wayne Valley.

"This group is one of the best teams I've ever had in terms of character and balance," said fourth-year West Milford coach Scott Copperman. "To win this way is special."

Impressively, Highlanders scored points in every event, and needed every point they got.

From Gilroy's clutch third-place showing in the 200, to the team's 1-2-3 finish in the high jump, to George Day's sixth-place throw in the javelin, West Milford won it as a team.

"It's been great out here supporting the team and cheering everyone on," said Tim Cedrone, who won gold with a 6-foot high jump on Friday, but had no events on Saturday. "I was more nervous today than when I had to compete."

Matt Trudell, who took second in the 110 hurdles and third in the 400, credited Copperman for masterminding and reshuffling the lineup to get the most out of each event and each athlete.

"It's amazing because it was one person, it was everyone," said 4x400 leadoff man Jon Greenwald. "We worked so hard in practice. It was a lot of time and a lot of competition, but there's also a lot of fun and a lot of joy. It was truly a team effort."

"It was just like the movies," Trudell said of the meet coming down to the final race, the entire team spread out around the inside of the track to root on the relay crew. "Now it's like a legacy."

It was a moment Gilroy wasn't going to let slip away, still gripping the baton tightly 20 minutes after the race. "I didn't want to let it go," Gilroy said. "And now it's stuck in my hand."

Wayne Valley's girls squad teamed up like West Milford's boys to take second place in the girls competition. But no one contributed more than Jasmine Fenlator, who grabbed gold in the discus (113-5) and silver in the shot and long jump.

After watching her compete Friday, wrestling coach Gavin Banat, also Fenlator's gym teacher, called her "pound for pound the best athlete in the whole school." And she didn't disappoint the Indians' cause. Fenlator's discus throw would have placed sixth in the boys meet.

"A lot of the guys on the team tease me," said the junior. "They tell me I must be eating my Wheaties, and tell me I should have gone out for the boys team because I could score points for them."

Fenlator's teammates gathered around her behind the discus cage to root on her final throws Friday.

"All of a sudden they just grouped together -- it was great," she said, adding that is the kind of team mentality that has this young squad poised to do even more next season.

"She's an elite athlete now," said assistant coach Joann Mosely, who has been constantly impressed with improvements in four different technique events. "But once you step into the elite you have a third thing to get past -- pressure."

Fenlator's false start in the 100 hurdles may have been more the result of the craziness of her four-event day Friday afternoon. Regarded the second-best hurdler in the league, she was visibly upset after being disqualified, but still recorded 26 of her team's points in the meet.

West Orange ran away from the Indians late, winning the title by a 127-102 margin. But first-year coach Pat Slater, who received a cake in the face after the competition was over, also got a taste of the future.

"I'm very proud of them because they're a young team," he said. "I think the foundation was already here, but we got an influx of talent and had a heck of a freshman class. And in practice they all come together for a common purpose."

The Caldwell girls and Essex Catholic boys won their respective Suburban Division titles. As expected, Passaic Valley's Jesse Mizzone produced the best times in the 1,600 (5:16.19) and 3,200 (11:23.7). The only meet record broken over the weekend was recorded by Clifford Scott's Lance Wigfall, whose time of 47.51:2 eclipsed Alterik Suber's 1995 time by 1.2 seconds.

Jim Beennen Copyright ¿ 2002 All rights reserved.
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