Kardinals win crown for first time since 1992
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before the Hudson County Track Coaches Association’s indoor track championships, held last week at the New York Armory, Kearny track and field coach Al Perez had an inkling that his girls’ team could compete for the top prize.
“We felt we had a chance,” Perez said. “Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve had some pretty good teams and came close to winning a couple times. We would finish second by a few points, but we never won an indoor title.”
Last month, the Kardinals lost the HCTCA Relays Championship by just three points to St. Dominic Academy.
“I think that was a big eye opener for the team,” Perez said. “I think they started to realize just how good they could be. We used that as motivation to try to go out and win the county meet.”
But the Kardinals had not captured the HCTCA championship since 1992. St. Dominic has dominated the meet for what seems like forever.
“I knew if our big guns could do well and we could rely on the other girls on the team to get points here and there, like getting a fourth place, a fifth, that could add up.”
Sure enough, that’s what took place.
Led by the sensational Haley Durning, who won the 55-meter hurdles and the high jump and finished second in the long jump, the Kardinals had a solid team effort and defeated St. Dominic Academy, 73-58, with North Bergen finishing third.
“I’m absolutely very proud of them,” Perez said. “They scored in every event except one.”
Consistent scoring is vital in winning a team track championship and that’s what the Kardinals did.
Durning did her part, personally accounting for 28 of the Kards’ 73 team points.
“Since it is her senior year, Haley has really taken on the leadership role,” Perez said. “She worked very well with the rest of the team to get the title.”
The Kardinals also received solid contributions from their fine distance combination of Erika Alzamora and Aislinn Sroczynski.
Alzamora finished third in the 1,600-meter run and second in the 3,200-meter run. Sroczynski was fifth in both the 1,600 and 3,200. It meant that the Kardinals received 18 key team points from the two talented distance standouts.
“It’s great that they’re right by each other,” Perez said. “It’s nice to have that kind of 1-2 punch to get a lot of points.”
The contributions didn’t end there.
Anna Czykier was third in the 400-meter dash. Mariah Davila scored in the 800-meter run, the long jump and was part of the gold-medal winning 4×400-meter relay, along with Czykier, Elyssa Magee and Justine Curtis.
“They ran really well in the relay,” Perez said. “It certainly sealed the win and it was a nice way to finish the meet.”
The Kardinals dominated the long jump, with Durning finishing second, Curtis fifth and Davila sixth. That event alone gave the Kardinals 11 additional points.
Maria Angulo also chipped in by throwing the shot put 29 feet, three inches to finish fourth. It was a total team effort.
“Maria has been coming along and showing a lot of potential in the shot,” Perez said.
Durning and Angulo continued their fine season by moving on to the NJSIAA Group III state championships the following weekend. Durning was fifth in the 55-meter hurdles and sixth in the high jump at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III meet Sunday night, while Angulo threw the shot 30 feet, 10 inches to get fourth place at the sectionals.
The Kearny quartet of Durning, Czykier, Curtis and Davila finished sixth in the 4×400- meter relay at the sectionals in Toms River, punching their ticket to a return trip to the Bennett Center this weekend for the overall Group III championships.
Needless to say, Perez is overjoyed with the girls’ success.
“They got a little taste of what winning is like,” Perez said. “Hopefully, it can carry over into the spring season. It’s a nice thing for the girls, because it had been such a long time since we won the county.”
That was, until last Wednesday. Now, they have a county championship to hold on to.