Kayla Carrino is pure gold for Golden Bears

Kayla Carrino wasn’t going to be content with second place this time.

It had been 11 months since she took the silver in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs at the NJIC Liberty Division Championship. Last Tuesday, Carrino got her chance to avenge those second place finishes and the Lyndhurst junior wasn’t about to take advantage of it.

In a performance that Carrino called the best of her career, she took home first place in both the 1,600 (5:30.19) and 3,200 (12:19.70) and fourth in the 800 (2:34.08). All three times were personal bests for Carrino, who was selected as The Observer Athlete of Week.

“All the time,” said Carrino when asked how long she’s been thinking about those second place finishes. “I’ve been training ever since and I was really motivated to win first this year.”

“Oh without a doubt that’s been on Kayla’s mind since those races ended last year,” head coach Rich Tuero said. “That girl is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around, in any sport. I knew that she set out to win it this year without a shadow of a doubt.”

Carrino’s busy day began with her favorite event, the 1,600, where she edged her teammate Liliana Malinowski by a second. Then, after taking fourth in the 800, Carrino capped off the busy afternoon with a victory in the 3,200, once again holding off Malinowski for the title.

“She is peaking at the right time,” Tuero said. “I credit her distance coach Isaiah Aviles. He has been training her and doing a great job. She wants to win the section, she’s hungry and that’s why she’s our captain.”

“It’s difficult, especially being a distance runner since we don’t have much of a break in between (events),” Carrino said. “I really have to catch my breath after the race.”

Unlike most distance runners, Carrino plays soccer in the fall, rather than run cross country. For Carrino, a starting center back on the Golden Bears’ defense, she only started running as a high school freshman to improve her stamina for soccer.

“I was very surprised because I just joined track to get into soccer shape,” said Carrino. “When I found out that I was decent at it was when I fell in love with the sport.”

Carrino’s next goals are to qualify for the sectional and group meets for the second year in a row and also qualify for the Meet of Champions. Another goal is to lower her time in the 1,600 to under 5:20.

Now a junior captain, Carrino is part of a talented core of sophomores and juniors that led Lyndhurst to a ninth-straight division title.

In the meet, sophomore Julia Tozduman claimed first in the long jump and second in the triple jump and 200 meter dash. Sophomore Michelle Bysina took first in the high jump and pole vault with fellow sophomores Rola Mustafa and Natalie Boza taking second in those events.

Malinowski and Angela Ellis, both juniors, freshmen Sophia Nazzaretto, Asya Akar and Yasemin Ugurlu, plus sophomores Elise Ferschweiler and Tai Weber medaled in the meet.

“We have a really young sophomore core group and powerful junior distance runners,” Tuero said. “Our sophomore core group is really, really strong and we’re looking to do that for the next couple of years.

“I’m really excited about their growth from last year to this year and the sky’s the limit for these girls.”

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)