MADISON _ Emotions rarely come into play on days when Jefferson hurdler Katie Hatler is getting ready to compete.
Hatler has prided herself on the ability to be calm and focused.
Those two attributes were not with Hatler when she entered the Simon Athletic Center at Drew University on Thursday, Dec. 13 for the Jack O'Leary Lid Lifter.
Shortly after arriving, she was shaking and her eyes were tearing up. Then, Hatler, out for much of last season with mononucleosis, began telling herself 'I can't do this.'"
The anxiety and uncertainty subsided when Hatler, whose 2011-12 winter season ended in the cavernous facility, took her place on the starting line before her event.
Suddenly, the old Hatler was back. She breezed through the 55-meter hurdles, coming in first with a time of 8.89.
"Once I got in the starting position, I was OK," said Hatler, the gold medalist at the Morris County Indoor Track Championships as a sophomore. "You forget you're nervous. You look down the lane and focus. I did what I had to do. I got in the zone."
Being back at Drew greatly affected Hatler. This venue was special because she claimed the county title here. It was also the place where she felt lightheaded and "nearly passed out" at a meet. The next day, she was diagnosed with mono, which caused her to be sidelined for more than a month.
Being out of action bothered her, of course. Hatler was able to attend school but couldn't participate in track. She spent some of her newly-found spare time on extracurricular activities, including her school's peer development program.
"I was able to watch meets and that made me emotional," she said. "Then I thought 'What can I do?' I was sick."
Hatler didn't plan on taking part in the sectionals because she just received clearance to resume sports. On the bus on the way to the meet, she decided to participate and borrowed spikes and a sports bra from teammates. Hatler was fourth and went on to groups.
"I was hesitant to run because I didn't want to get hurt," she said.
Last spring, Hatler, likely headed to Lehigh in the fall, got her time down and was second at the Morris County Championships.
Carrie Wasdyke, a senior, was the Falcons' other winner, coming out on top in the shot put with a throw of 38-10.
Parsippany junior Samantha Pignatello prevailed in the 3,200, crossing the finish line in 11:48.01. Pignatello missed nearly all of last season with a quad strain.
"Being out was hard," Pignatello said. "That was my first injury. It was a big deal. I did physical therapy for weeks on end. It took awhile to build back up.
"I would've liked a better time. I need to keep going 100 percent and get it way, way down."
Pignatello learned much from being injured. She attributed the injury to training too hard for winter track after soccer season.
"Overtraining got to me, I think," Pignatello said. "Winning tonight feels good. It's kind of bittersweet because I wanted a better time. All I can do is give it what I've got."
Kylene Cochrane of West Morris was the winner of the 1,600 meters in 5:14.11 and couldn't have been more pleased.
Cochrane struggled at the end of cross country season. She was plagued by severe allergies, causing her to feel dizzy and weak.
"My allergies were made worse by (superstorm) Sandy," Cochrane said. "Everything got worse when all of the trees were down. Cross country turned into a bummer. I was upset. I was disappointed but the past is the past.
"I did well today and my confidence is back up. We'll see what happens after this."
Keturah Orji of Mount Olive got off to a fine start by winning the 55-meter dash in 7.32 and helping the Marauders to gold in the 4x200 relay. Joining Orji on the relay team were Alicia Warren, Kellie Sagi and Suzie Nimoh.
Claudia DiSomma of Sparta and Ulana Thompson of Morris Hills were Nos. 1 and 2 in the 600-meter run. Later, DiSomma, who ran a 1:39.84, was a member of the Spartans' triumphant 4x400 team along with Claire Incantalupo, Emily Mead and Lindsay Cappeta.
Hanover Park's Alexa Perkins continued her dominance in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 2 inches. The 1,000-meter run was won by Reagan Kolakowski of Mendham in 3:08.57.
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