Kearny’s Vazquez comes back from injury, wins South Hudson title

This outdoor track season has taken on an added meaning for Aracely Vazquez.

In early January, Vazquez severely sprained two ligaments in her right ankle, an injury which not only brought a premature end to the Kearny senior’s basketball season, but put her outdoor track season in jeopardy.

While still limited by the injury, Vazquez is making the most out of her final season for the Kardinals.

During Tuesday’s South Hudson Championships, Vazquez set a personal best in the javelin with a throw of 91-5. The throw propelled her to first place in the event and earned Vazquez The Observer Athlete of the Week honors.

Sparked by the performance of Vazquez and others the Kardinals cruised to the team title.

“I was very nervous about the season,” said Vazquez, a three-sport standout best known for her time as Kearny’s starting goalie in soccer. “I was supposed to continue running (before the injury) and I wasn’t sure if I was to even be able to go this season. So it’s a lot more meaningful doing the throwing events and kind of picking off where I left off last season.”

When Vazquez initially suffered the injury, there was a strong possibility it would require surgery. Instead, after more than six weeks of physical therapy, she was not only able to avoid surgery, but was cleared to resume track shortly after the start of the season.

Due to the lingering effects of the injury, Vazquez is unable to participate in the jumping and sprinting events she competed in last spring.

“I was still doing PT when the season was starting so I wasn’t 100-percent sure if I’d be cleared on time or if it was even worth competing this season,” Vazquez said. “But I started training slowly but surely and little by little, I eventually got back to where I was (last season). It’s not 100-percent yet, but I’m at right now, it’s really good compared to where I was two or three months ago.”

“She’s a true competitor and a tough athlete,” said Scot Weaver, Kearny’s throws coach. “Every day she shows mental and physical toughness in preparation and work ethic.”

Vazquez’s throw of 91-5 marked a significant improvement from where she was a month prior after missing the preseason. Her score was nearly 20 feet farther than in her first event of the season – the Metuchen Relays on April 6. In the HCTCA Championship on April 20, Vazquez threw an 82-4 in the javelin and personal best 69-0 in the discus.

“We were a little worried coming into the beginning of the season if she was going to be ready or not,” Kearny track & field coach Al Perez said. “We had to take it a little easy (at the start), and then she built back up right to where she left off in the previous season.”

“I was surprised (to throw 91-5) because I hadn’t thrown that far since last season and I wasn’t expecting it,” said Vazquez. “I was anticipating it to happen in a future meet, but I was surprised because the throws before weren’t that great and my technique wasn’t the best. So when I threw it, all I was thinking was to get my chest up so I could throw further and that’s what happened. I threw it with my chest facing up to the sky.I surprised myself for sure.”

This fall, Vazquez was the starting goalkeeper on Kearny’s Hudson County Tournament championship team. In the final at Red Bull Arena, she made one of the biggest plays in recent Kearny history when she made a diving save in the eighth round of penalty kicks to clinch the Kardinals’ 14th consecutive county title.

In basketball, she was set to be a starting forward for Kearny before the injury, recording eight points and nine rebounds in a season opening win against St. Dominic.

Now that Vazquez has returned to her previous form, she anticipates even bigger numbers the rest of the season, starting with Thursday’s Hudson County Championships in Secaucus.

“I feel like I’m finally reaching back to where I had left off,” Vazquez said. “And I have no doubt in my mind that it’ll continue to go up from here.”

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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 (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)