Christian Brothers Academy’s Jason Gentile continues his leg of the boys 4x800-meter after a handoff from Connor Clifford; the Lincroft foursome took seventh place. Rich Hundley photo
Christian Brothers Academy’s Jason Gentile continues his leg of the boys 4x800-meter after a handoff from Connor Clifford; the Lincroft foursome took seventh place. Rich Hundley photo

After running the 3200 meters for the second time in her high school career and setting the NJSIAA Non-Public A state record, Cate DeSousa had a decision to make.

Should she take a chance in the 3200 at the June 18 Meet of Champions? Or should she do the 1600, which is the race which which she is most familiar?

The Red Bank Catholic senior opted for the 1600 and combined with Freehold Township’s Emma Zawatski and St. Rose of Belmar’s Tilly O’Connor to make for one of the day’s most thrilling races at Franklin High School in Somerset.

Zawatski won in a time of 4:88.88 while DeSousa was a mere 1.03 seconds behind in 4:49.91 and O’Connor was 0.41 seconds behind DeSousa in 4:50.33.

For DeSousa, the near-miss, runner-up finish resulted in mixed emotions.

“My goal going in was to win the race,” the Oceanport product said. “Everyone in New Jersey wants a Meet of Champs win because it means so much to beat such steep competition.

“But walking off the track I was still happy,” she continued, noting that the time of “4:49 ties my PR (personal record) and it was a very windy day, so to be able to do that on a windy day, I was happy.

“And it definitely gave me some confidence knowing that I was peaking at the right time in the season. I wasn’t burnt out in May, I was still going in June, so that was a great feeling. And I was happy for Emma; we’d actually been friends for a while. I was a little disappointed, but I think that I was happy overall with that race.”

DeSousa was proud of the fact that the top three finishers in the 1600 were from Monmouth County and the top four were from the Shore Conference.  

“It definitely shows how great our county and our conference [are],” DeSousa said. “We face that Meet of Champs level racing multiple times throughout the year. It’s the old saying, ‘iron sharpens iron.’ We all make each other better, and as one person gets better we all rise to it. It’s so helpful having such great girls in the conference.”

In looking back on her 1600, DeSousa feels the one thing she would have done differently was to start her kick sooner.  

She got tripped up in the first lap and was relegated, as she puts it, “in the middle of the pack but kind of towards the back. So that was a little different.” Cate finally settled in fourth place for most of the race and coming down the stretch she passed O’Connor and Toms River South’s Lily Oliver. But she couldn’t quite catch Zawatski.

“I definitely started my kick too late.” DeSousa said. “I was kind of in front of her earlier, but by the time I started my kick there wasn’t enough room left in the race to close.”  

In defeating O’Connor, she topped the girl who won the 800, 1600 and 3200 in the Non-Public A meet a week earlier.

“She’s great, we race against each other a lot,” DeSousa said. “I have so much respect for her and the other girls. It was great that coming down the stretch it was so close with us all.”

DeSousa was coming off a sub-par 1600 in the Non-Public A meet, running 10 seconds off her PR and finishing third. And yet, while running the 3200 for just the second time, Cate annihilated the 11-year-old meet record with a first-place time of 10:30.97. The old mark was 10:43.83 by Bishop Eustace’s Holly Bischof.

In her first attempt in the 3200, DeSousa ran a 10:25.54 at Holmdel’s Night of the 3200s.

Despite her wild success in the longer race, the decision was made for Cate to run the 1600 at the MOC.

“It was definitely an option that my coach and I weighed,” she said. “I was thinking about it going into MOCs but, then again, for only running two 3200s in my life, it would be hard to do that [on] back-to-back weekends. Also, I was doing Nationals the next day so if I did the 3200, I would not come back in the mile at nationals, and I would rather do the mile.”

DeSousa had a nice effort at the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia, running the mile (which is nine meters longer than the 1600) in 4:54 for a 15th-place finish.

“It went pretty well,” she said. “It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad at all. I think it was a pretty solid double after running a 4:49 the day before.”  

While DeSouza and O’Connor were the only girls from area Parochial schools to earn a medal, several male athletes secured a top-eight finish necessary to earn some hardware.

Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft had the biggest haul, as medal-winners were Nicholas Sullivan (fourth, 1600, 4:21.44), Jack Ryan (fourth, javelin, 171-7) Tyler Mayerhoff (fifth, discus, 186-04), Robert Manse III (sixth, shot, 56-09.25) and the 4x800 relay (seventh, 8:15).

St. Rose of Belmar’s Joshua Huisman took fourth in the shot (56-6.75) and Donovan Catholic of Toms River’s Kyree Drake took seventh in the 100 meters (10.96).

OTHER GIRLS RESULTS

Holy Cross Prep Academy, Delran: Sara Sherlock, 16th in 800 meters (2:22).

Mater Dei Prep, Middletown: Lucy Jackson, 17th in high jump (5-0); 18th in 100 hurdles (17.29).

Notre Dame, Lawrenceville:  Neayla Jones, 10th in 100 meters (12.67); 4x100 relay, 11th (50.82).

Red Bank Catholic: Kennedy Miller, 24th in shot (33-0), 25th in discus (81-08); 4x800 relay, 12th (9:56.65) 

St. John Vianney, Holmdel:  Alexandria Scott, 9th in 400 hurdles (1:04.81); 12th in 200 meters (26.66); Fiona Drew, 18th in 400 hurdles (1:09.96); Rachel Hayes, 18th in 800 meters (2:28.39).

Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, Hamilton:  Kayla Oliphant, 18th in long jump (14-08).

OTHER BOYS RESULTS 

Holy Cross Prep Academy: Blake Wadley, 12th in 200 meters (23.31); 19th in 100 meters (11.37), 24th in triple jump (40-4.25).

Notre Dame: 4x400 relay (14th, 3:38); James Primerano, 17th in javelin, 147-08; Nicholas Cramer, 18th in high jump (6-0); Ean Chambers, 19th in 400 hurdles (1:02.53), 4x800 relay, 19th (8:50); Rasheen Young Jr., 20th in shot (50-00.75).

Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft:  Chris Brown, 10th in high jump (6-2);  Matt Herman, 11th in 400 hurdles (57.07); 16th in 110 hurdles (16.05); Conor Clifford, 12th in 800 meters (2:00); Joe Barrett 12th in 3200 (9:39), 4x400 relay, 13th (3:37); Kam Coleman, 14th in 110 hurdles (15:32); Code Abutel, 13th in javelin (152-06); Aidan MacManus 14th in 400 meters (51.50);  Jack Falkowski 14th, 1600 (4:29); 18th in triple jump (41-10.5), Jack Ostrowsky, 15th in javelin (1:49.07);  Alex Kemp, 17th in 3200 (10:11); Robert Manse III, 18th in discus (155-08); Joe White, 22nd in long jump (19-8).

Donovan Catholic, Toms River: Kyree Drake 10th in 200 meters (22.70).

Red Bank Catholic:  Patrick Coyle 15th in 800 (2:05)

St. Rose, Belmar: 4x800 relay (16th in 8:36);

Trenton Catholic Prep: Jace Nazario, 20th in triple jump (41-5.5).