Stafford Leader Winter Sports Previews

Southern Regional Girls Indoor Track and Field Squad Aims Big Again This Winter

Dec 14, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Following a fantastic spring season in which she placed fourth in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions 400-meter hurdles, Karagan Bulger will be among the leaders for the Southern girls indoor track and field this winter.

Last season, Southern Regional girls track and field coach Jason Church had a few minor issues to contend with, particularly developing some younger athletes and finding solid roles for them and injuries to a couple of the team’s studs. Still, the Rams found ways to win an Ocean County title, as well as a county relays crown, and land second in the Shore Conference.

“Hopefully, we are poised to defend our county titles in January, and then we’ll have to see how things shake out for the Shore and state parts of our schedule,” Church said. “I’m hoping the sophomore class is ready to take the next step and contribute at a higher level, and this group will be buoyed by several athletes who were with us in the spring but not last winter. We’re better than last year, and certainly more ambitious.”

No doubt the Rams are in better condition to take on the big guns of the county, conference and NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV, and given the success last spring and the increased experience and maturity of many athletes, Church probably can’t wait to see the results come February.

The leaders among this year’s winter class figure to be seniors Caitlin Hambor, a sprint and jumps specialist, jumper Emily Leonard and distance runners Gianna Citarella and Kaitlynn Brischler, both of whom just completed fantastic cross-country seasons.

Of the seniors, Hambor is considered to be one of the contenders for a couple of county and sectional crowns in multiple events. She placed third on the county 400-meter dash before taking ninth in both the conference and section.

The juniors will be led by the extremely versatile Karagan Bulger, whose athleticism seems to know no bounds, as Church tested her out in many events. In the spring, she dazzled in the 400-meter hurdles, finishing fourth in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Unfortunately, that event is contested only in the spring, so Bulger likely will be relied upon to score indoor points in the 400, 800 and 1,600 on occasion. Last year, Bulger won the 400 and 800 county titles, finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in those events at the conference meet, and took second in the sectional 800.

Otherwise, the juniors are a solid group that will provide added depth and points in several events. Lauren Bakker is the lead thrower of the squad, and last season she finished 11th in the county and 10th in the conference for the shot put. Besides Bakker, Emily Furlong, Jaelyn D’Amelio and Alexa Mulch likely will score the bulk of the points in the distance races.

As for that sophomore class Church mentioned, the girl with the clout is likely to be Maria Mezzo, not just one of the school’s standout gymnasts, but also a competitor who took on multiple events last winter and spring, becoming a viable contender in the pole vault. Mezzo also will help out in the hurdles and sprints. Additionally, Church expects jumper Ali English, sprinter Bella Hanvey, sprinter and jumper Bailey Hradek, and sprint/jumps/hurdles athletes Brookelle Kline, Gianna Crawford and Tiffany Ortner to be big contributors.

The freshman class will be led by Olivia Horton and Rachel Short, two newcomers who also just finished solid cross-country seasons, as well as sprinters Gabby Bates, Hailey Hockstrasser and Shannon Flaherty, and thrower Kelly Enterline.

Regarding the boys’ squad, which had a bit of a rough season a year ago and graduated a couple of its top athletes, probably will be continuing through a slight rebuilding phase. The team’s most competitive athletes should be senior David Springstead, who last year won the county and sectional titles in the pole vault and was the county runner-up in the high jump, and sophomore distance runners Jackson Braddock, seventh in the county 1,600-meter run last winter, and Mike Chanda, sixth in the county 3,200-meter run last season.

David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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