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Indoor Track

Wis overcomes pain for gold

Julia Mszanski won the pole vault at the Morris County Indoor Track Championships. Photos by Sandy Seegers Julia Mszanski won the pole vault at the Morris County Indoor Track Championships.
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MADISON _ Leah Wis listened to rap music while pacing and bouncing between long jump attempts at the Morris County Winter Track Championships.

Wis, of Montville, went through the impromptu antics to help her forget about the pain she was experiencing.

"It's a long list," said Wis of the knee, hip flexor, quad and calf injuries she has been dealing with of late.

When clearing the bar, Wis, a junior, looked like her old self, repeating as long jump titlist at the championships held at Drew University on Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Randolph took top team honors, beating out Mendham 45-42 to claim the 14th crown in school history. The Rams last prevailed in 2011. For all of its other titles, Randolph dominated. This time, the Rams, with several athletes battling lingering injuries, did not take first in any event.

Wis, who returned after two weeks off, matched her career-best indoor record of five feet, five inches. Her outdoor PR is one inch higher.

The bar was at five feet when Wis told an official that she was hurting. She didn't intend to quit, she just wanted to tell someone the way she was feeling.

For quite awhile, Wis has had chronic knee pain. A right hip flexor and quad pull, the result of overstriding while running, also have plagued her.

While sidelined, Wis watched video of herself and realized what she was doing wrong.

"I was running heel to toe instead of on the balls of my feet," Wis said. "I tried to correct my form. I didn't ease into it and strained my left calf."

Wis, who competed in the shot put while foregoing the high jump, said she was "extremely happy" to defend in her best event. At the beginning of the indoor season, she was upset that she was only jumping 5-2.

"My personality is that I want to be at the top of my game," Wis said. "If I'm not, there is a lot of doubt. I didn't like being in pain but winning made it all worth it."

Montville assistant coach Deirdre VanDeursen was impressed with the way Wis persevered.

"It's wonderful," VanDeursen said. "Leah had missed two events. That seems like eternity to someone like her. Leah's competitive drive enabled her to put whatever was plaguing her out of her mind. She keeps working hard. It's very clear that she wants to win." 

Whippany Park junior Nickolette Dunbar broke a meet record, sending the shot put 45-3 to beat the mark of 42-3 established by Randolph's Rena Antanelis in 1981. Dunbar had flu-like symptoms last week that left her feeling subpar. She said she felt "pretty good" going into the championships but still had a cough.

"I'm a junior and this is my first season of indoor track so I only have so many chances left," Dunbar said. "I give it my all every time but try even harder because I'm still new to winter track."

Still honing the spin technique she adopted last year, Dunbar attained the record on her last throw.

"I was nervous because my spin isn't always the best," Dunbar said. "I have to put everything into throwing my arm and get my feet down. I have good hand speed so I guess I will be OK. I need to be faster. I want to stand up straighter and not lean back."

Mendham junior Julia Mszanski and Villa Walsh senior Monica Benz battled for first place in the pole vault, going to a jumpoff to determine the champion. Mszanski captured first place with a vault of 11-0.

The pole vaulters were tied at 11 feet. The bar was raised to 11-6 for the jumpoff but both girls failed to clear it so it was dropped three inches. Once again, neither athlete got over it.

"This is one of the most incredible wins I've ever hard," Mszanski said. "Monica is so competitive. She blows me away every time we meet. I felt determined. I've had a rough start. I've been at 10-6 and wanted to get back to my PR of 11-0."

Having never been in a jumpoff, Mszanski was nervous.

"It was OK," she said. "I was going to work as hard as I could. No matter which one of us won, we would have been happy for the other one."

Simone Kirton, a sophomore from Chatham, unseated defending champion Elly Scherer of Randolph in the 55-meter hurdles with a meet record of 8.40. Scherer's time in the preliminaries was 8.52 while Kirton ran 8.61.

Casey Lyness of Morris Hills was first in the 55-meter dash (7.47) and the 300 meters (42.94). Another double winner was Roxbury's Olivia Viparina, who garnered gold in the 1,000 meters (3:03.56) and 1,600 meters (5:10.01). Christine O'Kane of Morristown ran the 3,200 in 11:25.67. Mount Olive's Micaela Poggi took the 600 meters in 1:37.89. Mendham prevailed in the 4x400 relay, posting a time of 4:10.58.

Rams coach Len Pietrewicz was shocked by the team title because of his runners' injuries and the fact that many other schools were in contention.

Liz Lansing and Carole Harsch have had stress fractures. Harsch did not take part in the championships. Nora Mae McSorley has been hampered by a strained arch. Margaret Thomson had the best showing - runnerup in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200.

"This is the first one we didn't plan to win," he said. "Many times in the past I felt we had a good shot. Everything fell into place. We put girls where we thought they would do well."

Last modified onFriday, 27 February 2015 07:53
Sandy Seegers

Sandy will post her bio soon

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