Craig Hunter has entered most meets this indoor track and field season with his victory a foregone conclusion.
At times, it took just one jump for the Robbinsville High School senior to wrap up a win in the pole vault. Hunter finally was pushed Feb. 16, and he responded with his second straight indoor group title, this one in his first year in Group II.
“Winning means a lot still, especially now,” said Hunter, who soared 15-feet-6, a half-foot better than runner-up Jordan Pacheco of Morris Hills. “The competition is unheard of. It’s amazing how much the field has changed.”
Hunter cleared 16-feet for the first time last month in this season’s breakout meet at the Mercer County Indoor Track and Field Championships. He has wanted to prove to himself and the state he can reach that height again, but first he had to worry about the tough competition in Group II.
“It’s the first time I had to think about winning the meet,” he said.
Now, anxious to get back to 16-feet, Hunter hopes to do it at the Meet of Champions, the state’s top track and field event at the John Bennett Indoor Sports Complex in Toms River on Saturday (Feb. 23).
“He’s got his eyes set on it,” said Robbinsville boys coach Jon Hutchinson. “I told him, it’ll come again.”
Hunter is favored to win because he has had the highest clearance in the state this year, and he has been more consistent than anyone else in the state.
His best day was at the Jan. 27 county meet when he snapped the meet record, and literally raised the bar on his own expectations.
“Coming into these block of meets, 15-feet was my consistent jump,” Hunter said. “Now 15-6 is my consistent height. I’ll get to a height and then jump up. I know I’m fully capable of jumping 16 feet.”
Hunter fine-tunes his technique with hours of studying video and practicing.
“There’s always room to improve,” Hunter said. “I look at my vault and there’s so much I can fix. That’s why I’m happy – there’s something I can fix. Now more than previous times it’s a minute difference. But once you get to these heights, minute things make all the difference.”
RHS senior Noel Jancewicz also qualified individually for the Meet of Champions in two events. At the NJSIAA Group II meet on Feb. 16, Jancewicz won the 400 meters in a school-record 58.11 seconds, won the high jump when she cleared 5-feet-4, and led off for the second-place 4×400 relay of Kelly Koss, Paris Hughes and Kaitlyn Koss that ran a school-record 4:05.55. She had qualified, but did not compete, in the 55-meter dash.
“It’s part of the plan of getting her ready to peak this time for groups, Meet of Champs and Easterns,” said Ravens girls coach Mike Walker. “It’s good to know it works when you plan it out and actually put it into action and it works.”