By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League Relays Championships were held recently, Kearny head track and field coach Al Perez thought his girls’ squad had a solid chance to come away with the team title – even though Kearny had never won a league title in Hudson County before.
“I felt we had a good shot,” Perez said. “We were targeting it as one of our goals in the preseason. We lost by a few points in the indoor relays, so we were targeting the outdoor as our main goal. We felt we had a full team healthy and a stronger team.”
The HCIAL Relays was a two-day event at Jersey City’s Lincoln Park. To be able to have a chance to win the team crown, you have to do well in the first day of competition, with three field events on the slate.
“We won the javelin, came in second in the long jump and fourth in the discus,” Perez said. “That gave us 22 points and we were in the lead. We felt we had a lot of our stronger events coming up. To do well in the first three events was very promising.”
Lisette Villalta and Melanie Garcia combined to throw 160 feet, eight inches in the javelin to capture the gold. The long jump relay just missed coming away with first place by a combined distance of a foot and a half. The discus relay was a solid fourth.
But the 22 team points gave the Kardinals something to build on for the rest of the meet.
“The first event on Saturday was the 4×1,600-meter relay,” Perez said. “We won that and from that point, I felt pretty good.”
The quartet of Wendy Carranza, Noemi Campos, Aislinn Scrozynski and Erika Alzamora came home in 24:31, some 18 seconds ahead of runner-up Memorial, and the Kards were well on their way.
“Erika was able to cruise home in that race, so we were able to keep her strong for races later in the day,” Perez said. “Aislinn and Erika have emerged as leaders on the team and that’s really been a blessing. It gives us a foundation for every meet, to be able to rely on them. They’re a great 1-2 punch.”
The two junior leaders combined with Mariah Davilla and Anna Czkier to win the 4×800- meter relay as well in 10:49.7.
Not to be outdone, Scrozynski and Alzamora also led the Kards to victory in the 4×400-meter relay, running with Czkier and Justine Curtis, crossing the line in 4:32.3.
It meant that Scrozynski and Alzamora combined to give the Kards an astounding 30 team points.
Senior standout Haley Durning, who competed in the high jump, high hurdles, intermediate hurdles and high jump, collected four medals. She combined with Amber Crispin to win the high jump in 9-2, finished second in the long jump and was second in both hurdles relays.
“She was great,” Perez said of Durning, who contributed 34 team points. “She does everysports thing we ask of her.”
The end result was 102 points, compared to runnerup North Bergen, which had 80.
“To win a team title, you need to score in almost every event,” Perez said. “That’s what we did. We scored a lot.”
The Kardinals only failed to receive a medal in the 4×100- meter relay. The rest of the meet, the Kards were golden.
“It was a great day,” Perez said. “We never won before. We came close a couple times, but never won. This was something that we were going after to try to win.”
Perez gave credit to some of his unsung heroes, like Mariah Davilla.
“She was excellent,” Perez said. “She does a bunch of things for us, from the 200-meter to the 1,600, as well as the long jump and triple jump as well. She’s matured a lot and developed a lot of mental toughness.”
Sophomore Chelsea DaSilva was also impressive, competing in the hurdles for the first time and helping the Kards come away with two gold medals.
“It was nice to get the whole team involved,” Perez said. “A meet like this is truly a team effort. It was a bit of a challenge for the kids and the coaches, especially with the strategy involved, putting the right kids in the right places.”
Perez credited assistant coach Jim Cifelli for helping with the strategy.
“We went back and forth a couple times with it, over which kids to use,” Perez said. “Jim was a big help.”
And the Kardinals had a county championship to celebrate.
“It really is a nice feeling,” Perez said. “They all came together to get it done. It was a very good meet for us.”