BOONTON _ Given the choice, Randolph's Carole Harsch would trade all of her individual medals for a team title.
"I think winning as a team is the best," said Harsch, a junior. "I'd rather have that than a top six in everything. Team championships are special. They have more meaning."
That explains why Harsch was charged up and sporting a wide smile at the conclusion of the 2014 Morris County Track Championships.
The Rams girls earned their second crown in four years - their first since 2011 - by scoring 63 points over two days at Boonton High School on May 13 and 14. Randolph, whose boys also garnered top team honors, did not take gold in any events but was a consistent presence. The Rams, many of whom were members of the cross country team that captured the Meet of Champions crown last fall, had only five more points than second-place Mendham.
"Sharing this with the boys team is great," said Harsch, second to Mendham's Mackenzie Barry in the 3,200. "I am so happy. This shows how good Randolph track is."
Randolph attained the title despite being without Liz Wellman on the second day of competition. Wellman, second to West Morris' Kylene Cochrane in the 1,600 on Tuesday, was present on day two but had her left leg in a boot because of pain in her lower shin.
Wellman was slated to be in the 800 and likely would've taken one of the top spots. She also was going to be part of the 4x400 relay squad. The Rams already have been without Liz Lansing (stress fracture) for much of the spring.
"Liz ran yesterday even though her leg was bothering her," Harsch said. "That's pretty impressive."
Aliyah Huland El, Morris County's all-time basketball scoring leader, boys or girls, contributed to the title with a second-place showing in the triple jump and a third-place finish in the high jump. Besides Harsch, whose 10:41.63 in the 3,200 was a PR, Nora May McSorley (800) and Elly Scherer (100 hurdles) were runners-up in their events.
There were many other highlights at this year's championships, which featured records by veteran athletes and superb performances by underclassmen.
Cochrane, a senior, bid farewell to the meet by prevailing in the 800 and 1,600. Barry, denied by Villa Walsh's Megan Curham last spring, won the 3,200 for the third time in her career. Bria Saunders of Parsippany ran a meet record 24.49 in the 200-meter dash, breaking the mark of 24.53 she established in 2012 and 2013. Mount Olive's Keturah Orji ruled in the triple jump, posting a meet record 42-11.5, and in the long jump.
Simone Kirton, a Chatham freshman, was first in the 100-meter hurdles in 14.9. Parsippany sophomore Kathryn Campbell shattered her PR in the javelin with a throw of 131-7, which was 10 feet better than her previous best. Jefferson's Julia Murawinski, a sophomore, topped the field in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5-4.
Cochrane and Barry were understandably sad but determined to go out on a high note after subpar performances a year ago.
"I didn't win anything last year," Cochrane said. "I wanted to show myself I'm still in it. The county meet is big. There's great competition. I've made so many great friends over the last four years."
The keys to winning, Cochrane said, were pacing herself and "trying not to worry about anyone else."
Barry went into the second day of the meet feeling confident yet, as her event drew nearer, she was melancholy and undertain.
"I kept thinking that it was my last county meet," Barry said. "I had self doubt before the race. There was negative energy. I was psyching myself out. That's probably what killed my legs. Before the last lap, I said 'I have to go. I have to do this for my team.'"
So, with Harsch close behind, Barry pushed. Her final lap was her fastest, 1:13.
"I've had a nice four years," Barry said. "People keep reminding me that this is the end. I'm going to miss it. Morris County girls are like family. I've made so many good friends."
Campbell shocked herself with her showing in the javelin. She made two adjustments - moving faster down the runway and keeping her arm higher - prior to her throw of 131-7.
"I honestly did not expect this," Campbell said. "After fixing a few things, the javelin flew out of my hand. I'm shocked by what I had today and what I had previously. It's a huge difference."
Campbell, also a volleyball player, began throwing the javelin as a freshman. The Red Hawks' javelin and discus coach, Jerry McMickle, saw her throw a ball in gym class and encouraged her to try track and field. She was going to play softball, just like her older sister, Grace.
"I didn't know much about it," Campbell said. "I used to go to my sister's softball games and that's when I saw people throwing sticks. I decided to give it a try."
Kirton, on the other hand, was very well versed in her event when she entered high school. She started three years ago and has competed on the national level. Kirton already owns a school record and helped the Cougars to a first-place finish in shuttle hurdles at the Morris County Relays.
"I feel really accomplished by winning at the Morris County Championships," she said. "I want to help our school and Morris County get recognized. There were good girls in the 100 hurdles like Danielle (Beniulis of Jefferson) and Elly (Scherer of Randolph). I was worried about them."
Erin O'Connor, a Chatham quad captain, deserves some credit for Kirton's success. Before the finals, O'Connor suggested Kirton swap out her spikes for bigger ones.
"My spikes were nubs," Kirton said. "I think changing them definitely helped."
Mendham's 4x400 team, which was comprised of Audrey O'Neill, Cali Heffernan, Margo Medenbach and Sierra Tonnesen, topped the field, clocking a 4:00.13.
For complete results, please see mctrack.org.
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