Lyndhurst’s ‘Jump Queens’ among local track standouts in county championships

They’ve been nicknamed the “Jump Queens” but on Friday, the trio of Asya Akar, Julia Tozduman and Yasemin Ugurlu could add a new moniker – history makers.

At the Bergen County Meet of Champions in Hackensack, the Lyndhurst trio did the unthinkable as all three of them medalled in the Girls Triple Jump.

Ugurlu, a junior, took second place with a personal record jump of 36-9.75. Tozduman, a senior, claimed fourth with a score of 35-8, while Akar, a junior, jumped a career-best 35-2.25 to take sixth place.

With Lyndhurst being one of the smaller schools among the 50-plus in Bergen County, the idea of having two athletes medal in the same event seemed hard to envision before this group. To have three on the medal podium is something that might be unprecedented.

“It was insane. These girls, they’re unbelievable,” head coach Rich Tuero said. “I don’t know if it’s ever happened in any other school, but I know it’s never happened here.”

Based on the numbers the trio had been posting in recent weeks, Tuero believed that the historic accomplishment was possible.

As a trio, Akar, Tozduman and Ugurlu won back-to-back titles in the Long Jump and Triple Jump at the Bergen County Relays the past two years.

“They’re the jump queens. They own the pit,” said Tuero. “We dominated every relay we entered this year. It was truly unbelievable.”

Individually, Tozduman won her first Bergen MOC title with a mark of 18-02.25 in the Girls Long Jump, the latest accomplishment in what has been one of the most storied track careers from The Observer area.

On the boys side, Lyndhurst’s Anthony Santana took home second place in the Long Jump with a personal best of 22-0.5.

Over at the Hudson County Championships in Secaucus, another “Big 3” shined as Kearny throwers Priscilla Castillo, Gabriela Pifano and Aracely Vazquez all had big performances during the two-day event.

Pifano, a junior, won the Girls Discus with an eye-opening mark of 114-01, while also taking second in Girls Javelin (98-07) and Girls Shot Put (34-06.50). She set personal records in the Discus and Javelin. It was Pifano’s first individual county title after posting multiple second place finishes in outdoor and indoor.

“Gabby’s been working really hard. She’s putting in a lot of extra time,” Kearny coach Al Perez said. “It’s not easy to do all three events. You don’t get someone that can score and score high in all three (often), but Gabby’s come a long way.

“She’s individually, had quite a number of second place finishes, so for her to get the individual county championship was great.”

Castillo, a senior, took third in the Girls Discus (87-01) and the Girls Shot Put (32-09), while just missing out on medaling in the Javelin as well, taking seventh place. Vazquez, a senior, finished fifth in the Girls Javelin (87-03).

Pifano wasn’t the only Kardinal to bring home gold this weekend as the quartet of Leandra Dos Santos, A’sya Brown, Sabrina Varela and Johanna Escalante won the Girls 4×400 Meter Relay with a time of 4:21.55.

Escalante, a junior, added a sixth place in the Girls 100 Meter Dash (13.58). Freshman Melissa Mota took third place in the Girls 400 Meter Hurdles with a time of 1:12.44 and Hadassah Dos Santos finished fifth in the Girls High Jump.

Robert Kennedy finished third in the Boys 800 Meter Run (2:02.07)

In Newark, at the Essex County Championships, Bloomfield’s Charles Lisa repeated as the Boys Pole Vault champion with a school record mark of 13-00.

“He is definitely the hardest worker in the room. He will practice, practice and practice,” Bloomfield head coach Terry Iavarone said. “He doesn’t do private training, which most pole vaulters do. He’s never had private training so everything that he does is basically almost self-taught. He’s the only one that I know that clears that height and does it all by himself.”

Teammates Nicholas Obiedzinski (11-0) and Christopher Escobar (10-0) took fourth and sixth place respectively.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Bengals had a county champ on both the boys and girls side as junior Mercedes Cruz-Fletcher took gold in the 100 Meter Hurdles with a personal best 14.73.

“She is so focused after going to nationals in the winter. She is dead center focused right now,” said Iavarone. “(Going to nationals) made her so hungry. It added fuel to the fire. She knew that she could run with all of these girls and that she herself was elite.”

Other medalists for Bloomfield on the girls side include Victoria Feliciano, who placed second in the Javelin with a throw of 99-1 and Angel Cruz-Fletcher, who jumped 35-0 to take third in the Triple Jump. Sophomore Thalia Bell claimed fourth in the Discus with a throw of 115-4, Kailyn Sayers took fourth in the 400 Meter Hurdles (1:06.99) and Ashley Toro finished fifth in the 800 Meter Run (2:23.40). Standout freshman Alana Dennis took sixth in the 100 Meter Dash with a time of 12.59.

On the boys side, Alexander Travers finished second in the 400 Meter Hurdles with a time of 58.27, while James Fields finished fourth in the 200 Meter Dash with 22.20. Dave Louis was fifth in the Discus with a throw of 132-3, Cristian Silva placed fifth in the Javelin with a throw of 142-4. In addition, the Bengals’ 4×400 Meter Relay team took second place with a time of 3:22.68.

For Nutley, Meya Ranges took fourth place in the Girls 3,200 Meter Run with a time of 11:56.00. The duo of Ava Iacona and Chaaya Patel finished tied for fifth in the Girls Pole Vault with a mark of 7-6.

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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.)