Strong senior class led Riverside boys to first sectional track title

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Seniors Manny Harris (left) and Jeanquai Morton (right) helped guide the Riverside boys' track and field team to the first sectional title in program history.

Seniors Jeanquai Morton and Manny Harris received most of the attention this season as the Riverside boys’ track and field team won the first sectional title in program history.

But the senior-led Rams were much more than a two-man show.

“This was not a team of two stars and a bunch of followers,” said head coach Mat Postell. “There was so much depth and athleticism on this team.”

Morton and Harris, who qualified for Saturday’s Meet of Champions at Northern Burlington, led a senior group that consisted of Mychael Combs, Gustavo deSouza, Jody Johnson, Jordan Lewis, Mike Monteiro, and Patrick Tillinghast. Morton, Harris, Johnson, Lewis, and junior Alex Stockton were also key members of the Riverside basketball team, which reached the quarterfinals of the Central Jersey Group 1 tournament in the winter.

“Having a team where everyone is involved and wants to be successful played a key role in our accomplishments,” said Morton.

The road to a sectional title started during Postell’s first year as head coach in 2017, when the Rams went undefeated en route to the program’s first Burlington County Scholastic League Freedom Division regular-season title. After inclement weather canceled the BCSL championships, Riverside finished three points behind Shore Regional in the Central Jersey Group 1 meet.

Morton became a star hurdler after missing most of his sophomore year of 2016 with an ankle injury. His jaw-dropping performances throughout the 2017 season lifted the morale of the team.

Knowing a sectional title was possible, the Rams entered 2018 with great confidence.

“Our team had a meeting very early before the season started,” said Morton. “We knew we had the ability to win a divisional tittle as well as a sectional tittle. In order to do so, we all knew we had to put our all into everything we did going into the season.”

The first part of the equation was completed when Harris won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races at the BCSL championships, leading the Rams to 174 points and a Freedom Division team title. Freshman Caleb Esposito won the 3,200 run. Combs, Monteiro and Esposito took the top three spots in the pole vault, respectively, and the team of Stockton, Daniel Hamlin, deSouza, and Esposito beat out New Egypt in the 4×400 relay. New Egypt finished second in the meet with 101 points.

Led by Morton, the Rams outscored Metuchen, 100-76, to win the Central Group 1 title at Howell. Morton won the high hurdles in 15.15 seconds and the 400 hurdles in 57.89. He also jumped 6 feet for fourth in the high jump and 19 feet, 9 3/4 inches for fourth in the long jump.

Harris, who bounced back after suffering a quad injury on the first day, took first in the 200 dash in 22.62 and was second in the triple jump at 42-9.

“Winning a sectional championship is a really big deal to me after losing the year before,” said Harris. “Personally, it is an amazing feeling knowing that I contributed and was a part of a championship team.”

Stockton placed second in the 400 hurdles (58.43), fourth in the high hurdles (15.58), and third in the triple jump (41-9 3/4). Johnson was third in the long jump (19-10 1/4) and fourth in the triple jump (41-9). Combs and Monteiro went 2-3 in the pole vault, with Combs tying his personal best of of 11-0 and Monteiro clearing 10-6.

The team of Harris, Johnson, Lewis, and freshman Khy’Jaron Moore ran 45.19 for second in the 4×100 relay. Esposito got sixth in hurdles, and the 4×800 team was sixth.

Riverside followed up the sectional crown with a fifth-place finish at the NJSIAA Group 1 championships. Harris won the triple jump (personal best 45-8 1/2) and Morton finished third in the high hurdles (personal best 15.02) and high jump (6-2).