Red Bank Catholic junior Tess Darnell. Darnell was eighth in the 200 and 400 meters at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Rich Hundley photo
Red Bank Catholic junior Tess Darnell. Darnell was eighth in the 200 and 400 meters at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Rich Hundley photo
James Bivins provided the legs, Bryanna Wilson added the arm and Donovan Catholic’s track & field program reaped the benefits.

Bivins won medals in the 55 meters and long jump at the March 8 NJSIAA Meet of Champions, while Wilson medaled in the shot put at the Ocean Breeze Track & Field Facility in Staten Island.

“It was a good day,” coach Ken Oliver said. “And the best part is they’re both juniors so we’ll have them back next year.”

Photo Gallery: Meet of Champions

Bivins qualified for three events and took third in the 55 meters in 6.46 and fourth in the long jump 22-¾.  He also finished 16th in the 200.

“I think he had his sights on trying to win the long jump,” Oliver said. “He was right there, but [Highland’s Floyd Whitaker] stepped up and really performed well. James … jumped over 22 feet, which was impressive. He was No. 1 after the trials; he went into the finals in first place and a couple guys jumped past him in the finals and he ended fourth.

“He wasn’t going in just to compete. He wanted to go in and try to win it. He'll return next year as one of the best in the state. I just wanted him to perform well, and I thought he had a good day. He put himself in the mix.”

In the 55, Bivins missed second by 3/100ths of a second, and missed the gold by 12/100ths of a second as Nottingham’s Louis Akpadago won for the second straight year and set a meet record of 6.34.

“The first, second and fourth-place finishers were all seniors, so James comes back as the top gun next year,” Oliver said.

The MOC capped a strong winter season for Bivins. He broke a 36-year-old Shore Conference record with a long jump mark of 23-1½. That was the state’s second best jump during the indoor season, and his 55 time of 6.39, set in early February, was an Ocean County record and the second best time in New Jersey.

“He’s a very good sprinter, he had a very good season in the 200 this year as well,” Oliver said. “He can pretty much do it all, but I think long jump is his favorite event and that seems to be where he’s making the most progress. He’s got great jumping ability and with his speed it kind of makes him a natural long jumper.”

After struggling with an ankle injury last winter – but still making the MOC in the 55 after winning the Non-Public A meet – Bivins exploded in the spring and won the 100, 200 and long jump at the Ocean County Meet while taking second in the 400. This past winter, he won the Ocean County, Shore Conference and Non-Public A meets in the 55, and qualified for MOC in the long jump and 200 at showcase meets.

 “He had a really strong season, and we’re hoping it carries over into the spring,” Oliver said.

The Wilson name has certainly carried over at Donovan Catholic since Alyssa Wilson left for UCLA after setting pretty much every shot put record in the book. Younger sister Bryanna is carrying on the legacy at the Toms River school, as she finished third in the MOC shot with a throw of 41-9¾. 

Although she did not win the gold, Wilson had the state’s top throw this year at 45-3½ . She won the Shore Conference and Non-Public A championships, but finished behind Pinelands Elizabeth Makar in the Ocean County meet and the Meet of Champions.

“Her expectation was to win, and going in as No. 1 in the state, other people expected that, too,” Oliver said. “She and [Makar] have kind of gone back and forth. She [Makar] beat Bryanna in the county meet, and Bryanna came back and beat her in the Shore Conference meet. They’ll go head to head a lot the next two years [including this spring]. It makes for a good competition, and they’re very friendly with each other.”

Oliver said the Wilson sisters are similar in several ways, which makes sense since they have both been coached by their father, Jamie, and by the Griffins throws coach, Chad Dougherty.

“She’s [Bryanna] a strong athlete, she’s a hard worker, very focused, and she had a great year,” Oliver said. “In the winter when Alyssa was home from UCLA, she came in and was helping out with the throws. The kids love her here, she’s like an idol.”

He continued, “Bryanna has learned a lot from her sister. They’re both spinners. Some of them glide across the circle where they kind of step across and throw, but she’s a spinner, like you do in the discus and hammer throw.”

Several other runners in the Diocese brought home medals with top-eight finishes.

For the girls, Red Bank Catholic junior Tess Darnell was eighth in the 200 and 400 meters, while RBC’s Julianne Kopec just missed a medal by finishing ninth in the 1600. St. John Vianney’s Caroline Larkin was fifth in the pole vault.

For the boys, CBA had a strong day. Liam O’Hara took second in the 400 while Shaw Powell was second in a controversial 1600 race that was reduced to 1400 because a bell went off signaling the final lap, but it was one lap too early, causing chaos to ensue. Troy Hill was seventh in the medals given out to a second group for their finish over 1600 meters.  The Colts also got a third from Eros Botino in the shot.