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Track and field: South Hunterdon athletes making most of opportunities


As head track coach at South Hunterdon, Scott Ward has shepherded his program through a host of situations over the past 11 years.

From constructing a makeshift high jump structure with two athletes holding the pole to going to Saturday practices at New-Hope Solebury, from driving javelins in his Mini Cooper to a New Hope practice to celebrating the construction of a new school track four years ago, Ward has watched the program mature a great deal since its conception more than a decade ago.

During this time South Hunterdon has experienced inconsistent growth, with 2024 squad consisting of 23 boys and 10 girls – numbers that would be troublesome for larger schools. However, Ward’s athletes are making the most of their time in the program.

“Right now, we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Ward said. “A few years ago, we had numbers in the 30s for both boys and girls. Our boys numbers have been in the 30s, but our girls numbers have been down.

“We’re a small school with about 80 kids in each class. But we have had quality over quantity. We believe we have some kids here who can have a good postseason ahead.”

Senior Ryan Rampel placed fifth in the javelin (123-6) at the Skyland Conference Relays. He recently was seventh in the discus (126-11) and ninth in the javelin (134-2) at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex meet.

Earlier this season, Rampel threw a 141-11 in the javelin for an eighth-place finish, and a 126-7 in the discus for a fifth-place spot at the Raider Rumble Throwing Meet at Hillsborough in late April.

In addition, Rampel is currently fourth on the school all-time mark in the javelin at 150-1 and discus at 135-4.

“Ryan can have a good postseason,” said Ward. “He really has been coming along and works hard to become the best he can be.

“He is going to have some tough competition ahead, but he is very capable of being a sectional champ.”

Aside from Rampel, Ward also has high aspirations for senior Garrett Swayhoover and junior Thomas Breuer, who both have posted consistently high numbers in the shot put.

Junior Sophie Hinman has been among the elite in the 1,600 with her low times, and she also runs the 3,200 and the 800. Hinman has a PR of 5:23 in the 1,600, and has posted a 11:32 as a top time in the 3,200.

Fellow junior Olivia Nemeth helps form an effective tandem with Hinman, as she has been among the top performers in the 400 (personal record 1:06) and 800 (personal best 2:32). Nemeth also participates in the 1,600.

Hinman and Nemeth can be expected to close in on the school record of 5:08.1 in the 1,600 and 11:25.50 in the 3,200, both set by Kelly Shaffer in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

“Both of them have been pretty consistent,” stressed Ward. “They have been lowering their times, and we expect them to run even better in the next few weeks.

“Sophie is one of South’s best all-time distance runners. She will compete for a sectional championship in both the 1,600 and 3,200 this month.

“Olivia is developing into one of South’s best mid-distance runners, and she should compete for one of the top six spots at sectionals with a chance to move on to the Group 1 championships in the 800m run and 400m run. She is also an excellent 1,600 runner with the speed to outkick the field at sectionals.”

Promising newcomer Kyle (DJ) Milligan has ascended to one of the top freshmen in the conference in the 100 and 200. Sophomore Seth Hoyer also has excelled in the 200.

In addition to the team’s individual talents, the Eagles’ boys and girls 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams have had their share of top 10 finishes. They could be in the mix for a postseason medal.

Junior Liam Sirak could make an impact in the high and triple jumps. Sirak has a career personal record of 5-6 in the high jump and 37.10.5 in the triple jump.

“Liam will compete for one of the top six spots at sectionals in both events,” stated Ward. “Based on his progression this season, he will be very competitive at our sectional this month.”

Overall, Ward and his team haven’t wasted many opportunities. They are optimistic about the upcoming NJSIAA Central Group 1 Sectionals May 31.

“We’re small, but our kids are confident in what we can do,” noted Ward. “We know it will be a challenge for us, but we will keep pushing ourselves.”

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