MADISON _ A meet record fell and several athletes garnered gold with first-place finishes when Mountain Lakes captured its second consecutive sectional title.
Although senior Maggie Smith came in second in her event, the pole vault, at the North Jersey Section 2, Group II meet, her performance was just as significant. Smith, who began competing in pole vault last year, cleared 9 feet to set a school record.
"It's so nice to have the school record," Smith said. "It's great. I give a lot of credit to my pole vault coach (Jim Murmane). I'm graduating but, with him still around, it'll be broken soon. He's really, really good."
The Lakers, paced by another senior, Kyra Velock, took top honors in a new group and section at the two-day meet that concluded on Saturday, May 27. In 2016, they claimed top honors in North Jersey Section 1, Group I and went on to nab the Group I crown. Velock took first in the 400-meter dash, 1,600 meters, 800 meters and was on the triumphant 4x400 team. The 2:13.45 she clocked in the 800-meter run set a meet record.
Lainie Seijas, Class of 2017, had a big meet for Mountain Lakes, finishing atop the field in the triple jump and long jump. She ran a leg, too, of the 4x400.
Smith got 9 feet, 3 inches in a practice meet two days before sectionals and realized she could better her current mark.
"That really helped," she said of the practice meet. "I figured out where to hold, where my step was. I was nervous during the meet but kind of controlled. I wanted it."
Murmane worked with Smith on her technique and "how to fix things." A mechanical engineer, Murmane, of course, has advanced analytical skills and a knack for developing successful plans.
"He taught me to see others' mistakes. I look for them now," Smith said. "I use those mistakes to help me."
Mountain Lakes co-coach Sue Bessin noted that Smith could only get over the bar at 7 feet last year and lauded her for her "incredible improvement."
Velock, Izzi Gengaro and Therese Olshanski finished 1-2-3 in the 1,600 meters on the opening day of the meet. On the second day, Velock, Gengaro and Olshanski swept the 800 meters.
The Lakers took the 4x400 and 4x800 relays. The 4x400 participants were Seijas, Sierra Lore, Hailey Sheppell and Velock. The 4x800 runners were Gengaro, Ally Jin, Lucie Smith and Therese Olshanski.
Several of the athletes won or placed at the meet. Olshanski, a senior, was third in the 800 and 1,600. Senior Sydney McDonald was second in the high jump and fourth in the 100 hurdles. Sophomore Jaelyn Gawley was third in the javelin. Sheppell was third in the 200 and a member of the unit that was second in the 4x100.
"This group is a pleasure," Bessin said. "Many of them are experienced and know what they're doing. It trickles down and affects the younger athletes. They do the right things. They all get to practice on time. They warm up. They cool down. They have the right equipment."
Gawley said that the upperclassmen have been a great help to her.
"The younger girls just click with the older ones," Gawley said. "We're so close. The most important thing they tell me is to think about myself. They tell me not to worry if I've had a bad day. They want me to think about all of the time I've been throwing."
Gawley is seeking redemption at the group meet after a lackluster effort as a freshman.
"I didn't do very well," Gawley said. "Going back is redemption. I hope to do better."
Gigi Bello, a junior, was fifth in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 3 inches, a personal record. Bello fouled on her initial two attempts before getting the PR.
"I'm excited. I never got this far before," Bello said. "It was a really nice day, just perfect for jumping."
Going into the meet, Bello was nervous. After fouling, she made several adjustments, including taking a few steps back before beginning her run.
"I moved back a foot," Bello explained. I ran really fast. I gave it all I had and extended a lot."
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