By Jim Hague
Kearny’s latest three-time Hudson County champion in track and field almost never had a chance to carve out her place in school history.
When Esther Alfaro first enrolled at Kearny High School almost four years ago, she had plans to try out for the girls’ soccer team.
“I was a soccer player at first,” Alfaro said. “But I missed the first day of practice. So I then decided to go out for cross country. I was going to give it a chance and see what it was like. I ended up staying there.”
Kearny track and field coach Al Perez knew that Alfaro had potential to become a fine athlete.
“When she came out as a freshman, we could see that she was talented, but very raw,” Perez said. “She was just a baby, but you could tell she was going to be good.”
Alfaro has continued to put in the time to develop her skills, slowly and steadily.
“She progressively got better and better,” Perez said. “Since this was her senior season, we knew that she was going to do well. She was ready to go. She’s a little older and a little more physically developed as an athlete.”
Alfaro has emerged as Kearny’s top performer in both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles as well as the long jump. Her versatility is a tribute to her dedication to the sport.
“The big thing is that she’s put in 12 seasons,” said Perez, referring to Alfaro’s commitment to the sport through cross country season in the fall and indoor track in the winter. “That goes a long way. She’s been here all the while.”
Apparently, that experience is paying off in huge dividends this season, especially last weekend at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships at Secaucus High School.
Alfaro won three events at the meet, the 100-meter high hurdles, the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and the long jump.
Alfaro won the 100 hurdles in 15.3 seconds, the 400 in 1:05.7 and jumped 15 feet, one inch in the long jump, setting two new school records in the hurdles events.
For her efforts, Alfaro has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Alfaro joins teammate Cayleigh Solano as a three-time county champion. Solano earned the feat last year as a junior.
However, it’s a very rare feat, so Alfaro has earned her spot in school history with her performance.
“I didn’t believe she could win three,” Perez said. “But Esther has really improved in the long jump. She had a very good day with the long jump and I think that carried her.”
“I had a good feeling I could do pretty well at the meet and maybe run a PR (personal record),” Alfaro said. “It’s a tough meet. I just was excited to be a part of it and wanted to do well. Mr. Perez told me I had a really good chance to win (the hurdles), so that kind of pushed me. I like to push it a little when I have the tough competition.”
The long jump competition took place on Thursday, prior to the running events, so the victory gave Alfaro the impetus and drive to keep going.
“It made me feel good and feel even more confident,” Alfaro said. “I thought the tough competition would come in the intermediate hurdles, but I was ready for that race as well. It was a great meet.”
Alfaro said that she had been willing to try every event since she joined the track team as a freshman.
“The hurdles just sort of happened,” Alfaro said. “At first, I didn’t like it, but I got used to it, like cross country. But I just want to go out and get as many points for the team and do what’s best.”
Alfaro collected 30 points with the three wins, helping Kearny to a third place team finish at the HCTCA championships behind champion McNair Academic and runner-up St. Dominic Academy.
“It feels good to have the feeling like I did something special,” Alfaro said.
Alfaro will now take her talents to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group IV championships in Randolph this weekend, where she is among the favorites to win in both hurdles events.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” Alfaro said. “I just want to do my best.”
“Winning three in the county is a big deal for sure, but let’s see now what she can do on the state level,” Perez said. “But winning three puts her in a rare group that has had that kind of success. She is in position now to do even better things.”
Alfaro is a very humble young lady. She had no idea of the magnitude of winning three county titles.
“She is very humble,” Perez said. “She probably doesn’t truly realize it.”
“It really hasn’t sunk in,” Alfaro said. “When I joined, I just wanted to be on the team. I didn’t think it would lead to anything. It’s pretty amazing.”
Alfaro has already secured a scholarship in track and academics to New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she plans to study biomedical engineering in the fall. Alfaro will graduate from Kearny High School among the top 25 students in the Class of 2011.
“I take a lot of pride in my running and my academics,” Alfaro said.
So the former soccer player has developed into one of the all-time greats in Kearny history.
“I’m glad I stayed at cross country practice way back then,” Alfaro said.
So is everyone else.