Princz’s Perspective

A weekly roundup of the youth sports scene in Highland Park

Track: There is a buzz as the first couple of weeks have come to fruition for both the boys and girls track teams at Highland Park High School. The girls are off to a great start at 3-0, having handily defeated Dunellen 82-48 on April 15, Wednesday, at the high school.

“I was 100 percent worried about Dunellen because they are a good team and have a great track program,” said girls head coach Keith Roig.

Leading the way was senior Rebecca Chant who captured the 800 in 2:47 and was part of the 4×400 team that included Gabby Sanchez, Yasmine Lekhal and Liz Girvan who were victorious with a time of 4:35. “Because of her varsity experience, Rebecca is our most talented runner,” Keith said.  “The girls beat their time in the previous meet against South River in the 4×400 by 16 seconds. I was really happy,” Keith added.

Freshman Anna Minakina captured the 100 hurdles in 16.8 and the 400 hurdles in 1:10. “Anna Minakina is a natural at hurdling and has a creative personality. From her first day, I noticed she runs like a gazelle and is amazingly talented,” Keith said.

Ms. Sanchez captured the 100 in 13.1 and 200 in 28.2. She led the girls in individual total points with 14, followed by Minakina and Jewel Killpack with 13, Ms. Chant with 9, followed by Ania Davilla and Lekhal with 7 points.  Ms. Killpack won the triple jump with a leap of 29-6. Daniella Hurst won the shotput with a throw of 23-6 and senior Zoe Hudgins captured the discus with a throw of 70 feet. Ms. Killpack finished second in the high jump with a leap of 4-6.

Despite falling to 1-2 on the season, the boys team dropped a close decision to Dunellen 68-59. “Our guys battled and I’m proud of their efforts. We just came up short,” said boys track coach Derek Nobles.

Junior Farhan Rozaidi led the boys in individual points with 14. He captured the 100 hurdles in 17.8 and the triple jump with a leap of 37-2. Junior Noah Pointer captured the high jump with a leap of 5-10 and the long jump with a leap of 19-2. Junior Ogemde Nwadike captured the 100 with a time of 11.6. Ethan Bull captured the 3200 in 11:17 and finished third in the mile in 4:57.

“Expect big things from Ethan, he’s been working really hard. Dunellen is always good. They have a great program and are always very consistent,” Derek said. Pointer was second in individual points with 13, followed by Bull, Luke Schroeder and Nwadike with 6 points.

Tennis: If you never have seen what a state champion looks like on the tennis court, please come out and watch senior star and 2013 state champion Maverick Lin of Highland Park play. After two early losses to start the season, the Owls looked forward to the return of the stalwart champion. Maverick Lin did not disappoint. With Maverick back and strong play from the first and second doubles teams, the Owls pulled off a stunning 3-2 victory over St. Joseph’s on Monday, April 13, in Donaldson Park.

Mr. Lin had a tussle with Adrian Lee of St. Joseph’s in the second set but looked like the Maverick of Old winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-3, using a variety of topspin shots and slices to frustrate his opponent. “Maverick was a little bit rusty but I’m happy with the win,” said head coach Tim Stark.

The play of both doubles team was the story as Amar Venugopal and Josh Chen of the Owls easily defeated Zach Dau and Sean Holland 6-1, 6-0.  “The first doubles did a great job of identifying the weaknesses of their opponents game plan and executing it. Amar has a great tennis mind and is a phenomenal leader,” Tim said.

The second doubles match was a battle of who could survive and the Owls did just that. Jisu Jeong and Jessie-McDermott Hughes won a first-set tiebreaker and then the match. Final score was 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

“Our second doubles didn’t have their ‘A’ game but fought and battled their way to winning the clinching match for us. I was proud of the resiliency and character they showed in their match,” the coach said.

Highland Park dropped a 4-1 decision to J.P. Stevens the next day then blanked Woodbridge 5-0 on Wednesday. Mr. Lin won both of his matches and has yet to lose a set or match this season. They currently stand at 2-3.

Softball: If there were was a word to describe senior pitcher Zoe Shombert of the Highland Park Owls varsity softball team, that word would be WARRIOR!  During last Friday’s (April 17) 23-8 loss to Wardlaw-Hartridge, the very first batter of the game, Brittany Wilson of Wardlaw lined a shot off the thigh of Zoe Shombert. With her coaches, trainer and others checking on the health of their ace pitcher, Zoe shook it off and pitched the rest of the game with a lot of resiliency and tremendous heart. The Owls continued to battle despite trailing 13-0 going into the bottom of third.

Nautica Dennis and Nyahjah Boykins walked to start the bottom of the third. Ms. Shombert grounded out to third for the first out and Sydney McManus Smith grounded out to second. With two outs, Carly Aversa smacked a single to right, driving in Nyahjah and Zoe to cut the lead to 13-2. On this day, Wardlaw kept scoring despite the grit of Zoe Shombert on the mound who fanned five. The Owls would score four times in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 18-6.  Mikaela Zirin walked and stole second.  Simona Moyal drove her in by smacking a double to left. Dennis reached first on an error. Ms. Boykins doubled to center to score Ms. Moyal. Ms. Dennis tried to score on a passed ball but was out at the plate. Ms. Boykins scored the third run on a passed ball. Ms. Shombert cracked a triple to center and Ms. Smith drove her in with a sharp single to center.

With Wardlaw up 23-6, the Owls added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to complete the scoring.  Ester Adiv walked and stole second. Ms. Moyal walked. Ms. Dennis singled to load the bases. Ms.Boykins walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run and Zoe Shombert drove in her teammate with a fielder’s choice grounder to short.  The defeat snapped a four-game winning streak for Highland Park which finished the week with a 3-1 record, 4-3 on the season overall.

On Monday, April 13, the Owls blew out Piscataway Tech 19-2. Ms. Aversa and Ms. Boykins each collected two hits and two RBI. Ms. Dennis collected two hits and scored two runs. Ms. Smith walked twice, scored three runs and drove in two, while Zoe Shombert went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.

The Owls on Wednesday, April 15, edged Timothy Christian 14-10 in an offensive slugfest. Hallie Lerner went 4-for-5 with a double, four runs scored and three RBI to lead the way. The Owls broke an 8-8 tie with five runs in the fifth. Ms. Aversa went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. Ms. Adiv went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Ms. Boykins went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and Ms. Smith collected three hits including a triple and three RBI. Pitcher Shombert scattered six hits and fanned eight. On Thursday, April 16, the Owls outlasted Perth Amboy Tech 15-5. Ms.Smith went 2-for-4 with 4 RBI and Ms. Aversa went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Ms. Adiv scored three runs. Moyal went 1-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. Vimerlis Mendez singled, scored two runs and drove in a run. Pitcher Shombert scattered six hits and struck out seven.

Baseball: The week of April 13 was a tough one for the Highland Park High School baseball team in which the Owls record was 1-3.

On Monday, April 13, the Owls were blanked by Piscataway Tech 2-0. The next day, Perth Amboy Tech came from behind to defeat the Owls 6-5, getting single runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to pull out the victory. Sawyer Conrad ripped a double and had two RBI while Ryan O’Shea and Mike Kovalchik collected two hits apiece.

On April 15, the Owls won their second game of the season crushing Timothy Christian 13-1. Highland Park smacked five doubles and two triples as part of a 12-hit attack. Ryan O’Shea doubled twice, knocked in a run and scored three runs. Sawyer Conrad tripled, scored two runs and drove in one while Jonah Beberman singled and scored a run. Sam Murphy and Evan Lanaris collected two hits apiece and knocked in two runs. Josh Rothberg singled and drove in two runs and Mr. Kovalchik singled, scored two runs and knocked in two for the victors. Pitcher Matt Sussman scattered four hits and struck out three to earn his first win of the season. Friday, April 17, the Owls dropped to 2-6 on the season with a 10-3 loss at home to New Brunswick.

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