CBA boys win 3,200 relay in season opener BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer Middletown South’s Julianne Toto was one of the stars of the Bishop Loughlin Games held at the New York Armory Sunday. The senior broke the meet record for the girls pole vault, clearing a personal-best 12-5. It was the first time that the Eagle had soared over 12-0. Last year’s outdoor Monmouth County and Shore Conference champion was named the meet’s MVP for the field for her record. The 51st Bishop Loughlin Games featured 6,000 athletes from more than 200 schools from the East Coast. For Toto, the Loughlin Games was one of the few chances she will get to compete undercover, and she made the most of it. Fifth last year at the Outdoor Meet of Champions, Toto has made an early case for herself as the pole vaulter to beat come spring. Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) used the Games to start its indoor season and the Colts won the 3,200-meter relay in 8:03. Derrek Jensen ran the lead-off leg for the Colts and handed the baton off to Peter Glackin. Kevin Rogers ran the third leg, and it was Greg Leach who brought it home on the anchor leg. Leach and Glackin ran earlier in the meet, picking up medals. Glackin finished fourth in the 600 meters (1:23.9) with Leach finishing fifth in the 1,000 (2:36.0). CBA’s cross country star Chris Horel was fifth in the 1-mile run (4:31.3). The indoor track athletes will be road warriors with the Red Bank High School indoor track only available for the Shore Conference Championships (Feb. 6) because of a conflict between the Shore Conference and the Shore Track Coaches Association. The Jersey City Armory will be used instead for the area county championships. The Monmouth and Ocean relays will be Jan. 22, and the Monmouth and Ocean individual championships will be Jan. 29. Because of the configuration of the Armory track, the field events for both meets will be held the next day, Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. Princeton University will still be the state championship venue, and action there will start Jan. 9 with the Groups III and II State Relays. Groups IV and I will be held Jan. 15. For the athletes in Groups II and III the Group State championships are coming early, Jan. 16 in Jadwin Gymnasium. It’s not until Feb. 20 that the Groups I and IV will contest their state championships. The NJSIAA Meet of Champions is Feb. 27. Over the Holidays there will be the Seton Hall Invitational (Dec. 28-29) and the Brown Invitational in Providence, R.I., (Dec. 29-30). The Millrose Trials are Jan. 5 at Seton Hall.
BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Middletown High School North’s girls basketball team saw an end to its five-game unbeaten streak with two losses late last week, but its awaited renewal of the rivalry against Middletown High School South on Jan. 14 still looks like it’ll be a good one.Middletown South comes into the week with a No. 10 state ranking in a 9-0 start and coach Tom Brennan said the Shore Conference A North Division showdown is good for the township, but he also feels it is too far on the horizon to think about it with three games this week against Howell High School on Jan. 8, at Holmdel High School on Jan. 10 and at home against Marlboro High School on Jan. 11.Middletown North, on the other hand, has only one game this week on Jan. 11 at home against highly-regarded Colts Neck High School.Middletown South knows this is a challenging week. It got its closest victory this season over host Holmdel, 61- 48, in the finals of the Holmdel Christmas Tournament. Middletown South trailed 7-0 early and tied it at 13-13 at the end of the first quarter. Carissa Gray, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored half of her 14 points in a 17-13 fourth quarter burst by Middletown South, which sank nine of 10 free throws in the quarter. Kiera Gannon and Stephanie Karcz made the All-Tournament Team.“We have to get through those games and, playing three games this week, we have to pace ourselves,” Brennan said.Middletown South comes off a 94-37 victory over Manalapan High School on Jan. 3, as Gray scored 19 points, including a 9-for-9 showing from the foul line, and Christiana Rutkowski, a junior reserve guard, also put in a career-high 19 points. Their efforts took the burden off Jackie Dluhi, a standout 5-foot-10-inch forward headed to Wagner College next fall.Brennan said he was heartened that there were 42 assists for the team’s 45 field goals in that game, with Gray leading that category with a career-high 10 assists and nine other girls having at least one.“They play for each other — a wonderful group of girls,” Brennan said. “They understand what the game is about and the legacy that they want to leave.”The team gets an added boost in the Middletown North game when Olivia Liskowitz, a transfer from St. John Vianney High School, completes her 30-day waiting period and plays in her first game.“That will help us,” Brennan said. “It’s her mindset. She has a very positive effect on the team. She’s a very disciplined defender and will step up with 3-point shots that will help us stretch opposing defenses.” Middletown North coach Ed Jones saw his team off to its best start in at least eight years and its first Christmas Tournament title in at least 10 years with a 57-51 over Midland Park High School in the finals of the Pequannock Tournament. Mia Ehling scored eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter when the Lions rallied from a 33-31 deficit.However, Jones said his defense and defensive rebounding wasn’t sharp enough last week in a two-point division loss to Freehold Township High School, which sank nine 3-point baskets, and an 11-point non-division loss to a tall Matawan Regional High School team.“We have to improve our defense and our defensive rebounding because without that, we won’t be successful,” said Jones. who hopes to have Marissa O’Reilly back from a finger injury in time for the Middletown South game.Center Emily Lavin, point guard Megan DeGrushe, senior forward Nicole Tollevsen and Ehling return from a 16-9 team that strung together eight straight victories late in the season to qualify for state and Shore Conference tournaments last year.Brennan said there is no different key to beating the Lions.“We need to do what we do,” Brennan said.After the Middletown South game, Middletown North plays Howell on Jan. 27 and then the Lions will participate in a Coaches vs. Cancer showcase at Delsea Regional High School on Jan. 19 against the host team, a 20-game winner last season. That stretch will determine whether Middletown North can contend in its division and in the end-of-season tournaments. Middletown North and South girls basketball teams set to face off on Jan. 14
By Alan BaldwinRed Bull’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position at the Korean Grand Prix on Saturday while closest title rival Fernando Alonso could qualify only fifth.Vettel, who chalked up his third pole position in a row, will have the Mercedes of 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton to keep him company on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s race but the German’s car was once again comfortably the fastest.He is 60 points clear of Ferrari’s Alonso in the standings, with five races to go after Yeongam, and is chasing his fourth consecutive win.Alonso would have been even further down the grid had Australian Mark Webber, Vettel’s team mate, not collected a 10 place penalty for taking a post-race ‘taxi ride’ on the Spaniard’s car in Singapore two weeks ago.Webber, who was on pole in Korea last year, qualified third but will start outside the top 10 with even more of a mountain to climb than Alonso.“I think it was fairly close. We had a very good lap on my first attempt. I knew it would be tricky for me to beat that time,” Vettel said after celebrating his 42nd career pole.“As expected Merc was very strong. It’s a tight battle … we have got the balance right this weekend and I improved the car from yesterday as I was not entirely happy after practice.”Qualifying conditions were cooler than in practice, although Vettel was also quickest in the final session on Saturday morning, and Sunday could see some rain although the threat of a typhoon has receded.“I don’t mind, it’s not a disaster if it starts to rain, we have rain tyres in the garage,” said the 26-year-old.“When I arrived on Wednesday, it was very windy but it has died down since then and I think the typhoon has changed direction.”Vettel and Alonso are the only drivers to have won in Korea since the race made its debut in 2010 and Red Bull’s triple champion is chasing his hat-trick at Yeongam.Alonso has made storming starts his trademark this season but will have both Mercedes drivers ahead of him with Nico Rosberg lining up in fourth place and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean in third.“We got the most out of the car. It has been a good qualifying for us and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to fight with them (Red Bull)” said Hamilton. “There’s threats all around but I’m just looking forward.”
The medical condition of seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is slightly better on Tuesday following a second operation during the night to treat head injuries sustained in a skiing accident, doctors said.“The situation is more under control than yesterday but we cannot say that he is out of danger,” Jean-Francois Payen, head anaesthetician told a news conference at the CHU hospital in the eastern French city of Grenoble where Schumacher is being treated.“We have won some time but we must continue an hour-by-hour surveillance,” he said.The retired motor racing great, 44, slammed his head on a rock while skiing off-piste on Sunday morning in the French Alpine resort where he has a vacation home.“His helmet did of course protect him at least partly. Someone who had suffered a similar accident without a helmet would not have made it here (to the hospital),” doctors said on Monday.Philippe Quincy, the Albertville public prosecutor, told Reuters an inquiry had been launched on Sunday to identify the causes of the accident. Initial findings indicated the blow was so hard that Schumacher’s helmet had shattered.“We know that the accident took place in an off-piste zone where rocks were partly or totally hidden by snow,” Quincy said, adding that Schumacher had likely been thrown off balance by one of them.Schumacher was initially conscious as he was transported to a local hospital in Moutiers and then to Grenoble. However, his condition deteriorated sharply afterwards.Neurosurgeon Stephan Chabardes said an emergency brain scan carried out on Schumacher had revealed internal bleeding and injuries including contusions and lesions. He said they had operated to treat the internal bleeding.
By Greg StutchburyAndy Murray overcame a blistering start from Tomas Berdych to advance to his fourth Australian Open final with a 6-7(6) 6-0 6-3 7-5 victory on Thursday.Murray will meet either top seed Novak Djokovic or defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who play their semi-final on Friday, for the title.It is Murray’s first grand slam final since he beat Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2013, and eighth of his career.“I was obviously disappointed to lose the first set,” Murray said in a courtside interview. “But I started to feel better and stick to my game and I was more aggressive in the second set.“I was trying to get him running more, which was important because I needed to change the momentum.”The 29-year-old Berdych had ended a 17-match losing streak against third seed Rafa Nadal in the quarter-finals and looked in a hurry against Murray to reach his second grand slam final.Berdych, who is now coached by Dani Vellverdu – a former member of Murray’s coaching team – started at a blistering pace that had the Scot hanging on by his fingernails as he scrambled all around court to save his own serve.The Czech conceded just two points on his first four service games before Murray clawed his way back with Berdych serving for the set at 5-3 and then forced it into a tiebreak, which the seventh seed surprisingly won after saving a set point when Murray hit a forehand into the net.A fired up Murray, apparently annoyed at something Berdych said to him during the changeover, raced through the second set in 30 minutes, the first time the Czech had lost a set this year at Melbourne Park.Murray then broke in the sixth game of the third when Berdych lost a 40-0 lead after serving consecutive double faults, an advantage he consolidated and then seized control of the match as the Czech began to look fatigued.Berdych rallied in the fourth and held two break points in the sixth game, the first opportunities he had to break since the first set, only for Murray to hold and like one of the boxers the Scot admires, he puffed his chest out in defiance.Murray then broke Berdych in the 11th game and served out to love to earn his place in the final, punching the air several times in delight.
Greek kickboxing champion Mike Zambidis will be facing off with Turk Erkan Varol on Saturday, as a part of the “Iron Challenge Cyprus” tournament.According to the press release, this is the 11th time Zambidis will be facing an opponent from Turkey. The Greek champion won all 10 previous matches.Zambidis is a 15 time World Champion, and is the current SUPERKOMBAT Middleweight Champion.“I expect that war will break out once the bell rings,” said Zambidis, during a press conference held in Limassol. I know how important this fight to everyone so I will give my best to win,” he said.Vakol said he knows that he is facing off against a strong opponent, “but I will do everything in my power to win.”The Iron Challenge tournaments will take place on Saturday at 6.30pm, at the Apollon Limassol Indoor Arena. A total of 14 matches will take place, mixing boxing, kick-boxing and Muay Thai.Ticket prices start at €10 and go up to €70. They are available at tickethour.com and all ACS stores on the island. On the day of the tournament tickets will also be available at the arena.
By Iain RogersReal Madrid players had little idea what the European Cup was when the record winners played their first fixture in the competition exactly 60 years ago on Tuesday, according to club great Paco Gento.Real beat Swiss side Servette 2-0 in Geneva on September 8, 1955 and claimed the first of five straight titles by beating Stade de Reims 4-3 in the final in Paris the following June.The tournament was an initiative of French sports daily L’Equipe and its then-editor Gabriel Hanot. World governing body FIFA gave their backing under the condition it was organised by their European counterpart UEFA.“I must confess that we had no idea how significant the tournament would become,” Spaniard Gento was quoted as saying in an interview with Spanish sports daily As on Tuesday.“We went to play and that was it,” added the 81-year-old former left winger, who is the only player to win the competition six times.“Nobody explained to us what would happen, neither the competition format nor that it was going to be something important for many years to come.“I don’t think we really realised what it all meant until we won the first title in the final in Paris.“Then we were able to see what the European Cup was all about. It was something indescribable.”Real, the world’s richest club by income, have amassed 10 continental crowns, their latest coming in 2014 when they beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in the final in Lisbon.Gento said he would “give anything” to see footage of the match in Geneva but as far as he was aware none existed.“There was no television, no videos,” he said.“I would love to be able to show my grandchildren those images from 60 years ago.“Now that we see everything, I miss being able to have more of my things from that era.”Real have been drawn in Group A of the latest edition, which was renamed the Champions League in 1992, along with Paris St Germain, Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo.They begin their bid for an 11th European crown at home to Shakhtar on September 15.
By Mike CollettManchester United and Manchester City must switch their focus from the Champions League to the Premier League when they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday (4.05pm) in a derby that Louis van Gaal says will show whether United are true title contenders.United face City after labouring to a 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow in the cold Russian capital on Wednesday while City make the short trip across town basking in the glow of their late 2-1 home win over Sevilla.United must be ready because their manager Van Gaal believes a win for his side is vitally important.“We have to be more consistent so next week when we win against Manchester City then we can say ‘OK, now we think maybe about title aspirations’,” the Dutchman said after last week’s 3-0 win over Everton.However Arsenal could be top for the first time in nearly two years by the time the two Manchester clubs meet on Sunday if they beat Everton on Saturday evening (7.30pm).Arsenal have been in electrifying form recently with three successive wins including a 3-0 victory over Manchester United and a 2-0 Champions League win over Bayern Munich, and now face an Everton side, eager to put last week’s defeat by United out of their minds.With nine matches played, City top the table with 21 points, followed by Arsenal and United on 19, with West Ham United a further two back on 17.West Ham’s credentials will come under the spotlight when they face champions Chelsea (5pm), who are 11th having won just three of their nine games so far, one of those being last week’s 2-0 home win over strugglers Aston Villa.Two managers will also come under even more intense scrutiny than usual – Jurgen Klopp, who will enjoy his first Premier League home match when Southampton visit Anfield on Sunday (6.15pm) and Sam Allardyce, in charge of his first home match as Sunderland’s boss when they take on his old club Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby (Sunday 2pm).Klopp, whose first game ended in a 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur last week, made his home debut in the 1-1 draw against Rubin Kazan of Russia in the Europa League on Thursday, something of a dress rehearsal before Sunday’s main act.Allardyce, who briefly played for Sunderland in the early 1980s and managed Newcastle for eight months eight years ago, has a huge task ahead saving the bottom club from relegation.Getting their first win of the season against their arch-rivals would be the perfect place to start after his first match ended in a 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion last week.Seventh-placed Spurs currently boast the longest unbeaten run in the league having gone eight games since their only loss, a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on the opening day.They were beaten by Anderlecht in the Europa League in Brussels on Thursday then travel to Bournemouth (Sunday 4.05pm), crushed 5-1 at Manchester City last week without three key long-term injuries, Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel, all out for the season.The clubs have only ever met once before when Bournemouth, then in the third tier, beat top flight Spurs 3-1 in an FA Cup fifth-round match in February 1957.A win for Bournemouth, who have slipped to 17th, on Sunday would not be quite as big a shock but it would still be a surprise.
By Nick MulvenneyJohanna Konta did not have to wait long after her stunning first round upset of Venus Williams at the Australian Open on Tuesday before having to field the inevitable questions about her national allegiance.Born and raised until her early teens in Sydney, the 24-year-old world number 47 moved to Britain in 2005 and plays under the flag of her adopted home.That background was not about to escape the attention of the local media, particularly after the impressive nature of her 6-4 6-2 win over the seven-times grand slam champion and former world number one.Asked whether she might consider switching her allegiance back to Australia, Konta was blunt.“No,” she said. “Unfortunately, my home is Great Britain. It has been for a long time now, over a decade. Yeah, no, that’s where my heart is.“Ah, jealousy is not a good thing,” she grinned, as the questioner pursued the point by contrasting her victory with former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur’s first round exit.“I think Australian tennis is doing quite well, to be honest.“You have a number of very good players, and it’s — what’s the word? It’s not a privilege, but it’s a compliment that you guys would say that, so thank you. But be grateful for what you guys have.”Apart from the local verbal tick of beginning her answers with a “yeah, no”, Konta has gained more obvious benefits from her time in Australia.“My ability to deal with the heat,” she said. “I think I’m very lucky that I got to spend a lot of my young years here, because I got obviously exposed to the heat out here.”That was particularly beneficial on Tuesday when temperatures crept towards the 30 degrees Celsius mark on Rod Laver Arena.Because of her nationality switch, Konta is unlikely to be back on the main showcourt for her second round encounter with Carina Witthoeft or Zheng Saisai.A strong run in the third grand slam of the year might see her grace Centre Court at Wimbledon, however, even if the home of British tennis has less meaning to her than some of her compatriots.“I didn’t spend my young years there so I didn’t grow up watching Wimbledon. So in that sense I’m a bit of an anomaly,” she said.“Whenever I step out on the court, whether it is at Wimbledon, whether it is here or in Wuhan or in Timbuktu, it really is just about enjoying where I am at that time and regardless of who I’m playing, to really knuckle down and take care of things on my end.”Second seed Andy Murray meanwhile advanced into the second round after a comfortable 6-1 6-2 6-3 victory over Germany’s Alexander Zverev on Tuesday.The world number two took the first two sets in 71 minutes but found the tall 18-year-old more of a handful in the third when he saved two match points before the Briton completed the victory in a little more than two hours.Zverev, playing in the main draw at Melbourne Park for the first time, suffered a nosebleed while serving at 30-15 in the second game of the match on a sun-baked Margaret Court Arena, and was forced to call the trainer to staunch the flow.Murray, who stayed on court and practiced his serve until Zverev returned, romped through the first two sets before the teenager produced some fight in a baseline battle in the third and made the Scot work for the win.
Rafa Benitez has known much grander stages than the English Championship but the Spnaniard has probably not heard noise like that at St James’ Park on promotion night after masterminding Newcastle United’s return to the Premier League on Monday.Few English grounds rock like United’s ground when things are going well and, for once, the fans had much to sing about.Benitez’s delight was clear as he strolled confidently to the middle of the pitch, applauding the supporters and punching the air after watching the 4-1 demolition of Preston North End.The cheers have not always rung out this season as Newcastle wobbled when in sight of the title but, despite two defeats and a draw in three games before Monday, belief was never allowed to ebb from the fans who know how to back their team.Given the turmoil of the past few years, when the Toon Army supporters were often in open conflict with the club’s owner Mike Ashley and many of Benitez’s predecessors, the 57-year-old Spaniard deserves great credit for keeping everyone onside.Since finishing fifth in the Premier League in 2012 under Alan Pardew, a downward spiral saw Newcastle twice narrowly avoid relegation before dropping into the second tier last season after bitter rivals Sunderland won at Everton.After flirting with relegation themselves for the past few years, basement side Sunderland now look doomed to the drop along with second-bottom Middlesbrough, which would leave Newcastle as the north-east’s top team.“From the final day of last season, when we beat Tottenham 5-1, I wanted to show my loyalty and rebuild the team,” said a delighted Benitez. “I am really pleased for the team, the fans, for everyone.”Any doubts that the man who steered Liverpool to Champions League success in 2005 would cope with the rough and tumble of the Championship have been disproved this season.NEW RECRUITSCrucial to the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan manager’s success was convincing Ashley that what goes down seldom comes back up quickly – Norwich City and Aston Villa, who were also relegated, are eighth and 12th in the stadnings respectively.The need for new recruits was obvious and over the summer Benitez was handed 55 million pounds to spend on 12 new players, most of whom have proved shrewd signings.The attack has been spearheaded by Dwight Gayle, who has scored 22 goals but missed Monday’s game through injury.Just behind him, Matt Ritchie knew exactly what was required having previously been promoted with Bournemouth, while Ciaran Clarke has shored up a perennially leaky defence.Benitez also scored wins off the pitch, mounting a charm offensive with the supporters and the local press, who had felt shut out by an increasingly inward-looking club frustrated by years of under-achievement.The result is now promotion, which was always the minimum return on Ashley’s investment. But there has sometimes been conflict and in January he refused Benitez’s request to re-sign England winger Andros Townsend from Crystal Palace.Immediately after Monday’s game, Benitez gave a broad hint that he will expect Ashley to strengthen a squad who currently look short of top-flight standard.“I think we have to analyse a lot of things and do what we need to be stronger,” he said, marking out a battle for another day as cheers echoed around him. For now, going up is enough.