SHERRARD -- Moments after its 4x200-meter relay was disqualified for exceeding an exchange zone on Wednesday evening, the Mercer County boys track team wondered if a potential title was lost as well.|
Rather than crumble, the Golden Eagles stood tall.
Despite losing the eight points that came with the 4x200 runner-up finish, they displayed enough depth to overcome the disqualification. Scoring twice in three of the final five events allowed Mercer County to outlast the nine-team field and win the Golden Eagle Invitational at Sherrard's Clifford King Field.
"To come back and have great performances, we're happy with everybody," said Mercer County coach Mick Louck, whose team tallied 130 points to outlast Monmouth-Roseville by 12 for its second title in three years. "I'm proud."
The outcome looked bleak with five events remaining.
Using a different order, the 4x200 initially took second behind Ridgewood in the race. However, it was ruled Payton Holmes and Adam Huffstutler surpassed the zone on the first exchange. The infraction led to the DQ.
"There was a little confusion," Huffstutler said. "I was too far out of the zone."
Responding to the adversity, the Golden Eagles had Holmes (40.77 seconds) and Huffstutler (44.29) take first and third, respectively, in the 300 hurdles. In the next race, Austin Jackson (fourth place, 4:57.16) and Zane Sackville (sixth, 5:10.35) added to the total in the 1600.
Chris Neeld (second, 23.83) and Corey Cox (sixth, 25.43) completed the double-scoring trifecta in the 200.
"We weren't sure how good we would be as a team coming into this year," Holmes said. " ... But we have more depth."
The depth was displayed.
Holmes (15.04) and Huffstutler (16.55) finished first and third, respectively, in the 110 hurdles, Zane Sackville (2:12.09) and David Kantor (2:15.26) occupied the top two spots in the 800 and Nathan Fippinger (11.3) was second in the 100.
Mercer County also received wins from its 4x100 and 4x800. All those results played a part in the Golden Eagles overcoming those eight forfeited points.
"We look to be competitive in everything," Holmes said. "Everyone on our team is competitive. We bring that to practice, and it pays off at the meets."
Hunter dominates: Monmouth-Roseville junior Martel Hunter won the 100, 200, 400 and long jump, the lone athlete to snag four wins. Hunter used a last push to win the 100 before earning victories in the 200 and 400 by at least a half second.
"I love the competition," said Hunter, who won the long jump by more than a foot. "Whenever I have that, I feel I'm at my best."
Devin Clark gave the Titans a fifth victory by winning the 1600. Clark, who recently returned from a knee injury, won by seven seconds
"I was trying to take it easy," Clark said. "I've been going out relaxed and trying to use what I have."
Ridgewood senior Aaron Leander won two events -- the triple jump and running the 4x200 opening leg. In the triple jump, he set a personal best by clearing 43-feet-6.
"I've been pushing myself," Leander said. "I think I can do more than what I did today."
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