Winter Sports Teams Gear Up for Championship Weekend

Montclair, NJ (2/17/11) – All six Montclair State winter sports teams are gearing up for an exciting weekend of championship action which kicks off on Friday morning and goes through Sunday, February 20.

(Follow the action for each championship  - swimming and diving, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, indoor track and field)

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams get it all started as they open up with the first day of the Metropolitan Swimming and Diving Championships which will be held at the Sonny Wreblin Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

The Metro meet has been a successful venue for the Red Hawks the past few years. Last year the Red Hawk men placed fifth overall and fourth among Division III schools while the women were seventh overall and fifth against the Division III field. In addition, Montclair set four new school records in the 2010 championships and now-senior Laura Spadoni (Nazareth, PA / Nazareth Area) posted an NCAA “B” cut in the 100 breaststroke.

The Metropolitan championship concludes on Sunday, February 20.

On Saturday, it will be the Montclair State men’s and women’s basketball teams turn to take the spotlight as they each face Richard Stockton in the opening round of their respective NJAC Tournaments in Pomona. The women will face the Ospreys at 1:00 pm with the men’s contest slated to start at 4:00 pm.

For the MSU women, they will take on Richard Stockton in the opening round for the second consecutive year. Last season, Montclair registered an 80-70 win at the Panzer Athletic Center behind 27 points from Jaime Ericson (Flemington, NJ / Hunterdon Central).  The two teams met this season with Montclair posting a 72-67 win at home on January 29.

MSU (13-12) earned its way into the tournament by winning its last two contests against New Jersey City on Monday and Wednesday, the latter a 77-53 victory. Those two victories coupled with consecutive losses by Ramapo against No. 21 William Paterson allowed the Red Hawks to claim the final berth out of the North Division and face Stockton, the No. 2 seed from the South Division. The winner of the game advances to the semifinals on Wednesday, February 23 at William Paterson.

The appearance in the NJAC Tournament will be the 19th overall for MSU and the eighth straight. Montclair State has reached the championship game three times, the last coming in 1995 when it downed Rutgers-Camden to claim its only conference crown.

Meanwhile the Montclair State men’s team claimed the final berth in their NJAC Tournament downing New Jersey City, 62-53 at home on Wednesday. The victory came in a win-or-go-home situation as the Red Hawks got 12 points apiece from Rodney Freeney (Piscataway, NJ / Piscataway) and AJ Larkin (Passaic, NJ / St. Mary’s) as well as 13 points from Andrew August (Bridgewater, NJ / Bridgewater-Raritan).

Montclair (18-8) finished as the No. 3 seed out of the North Division and will face Richard Stockton, the two-seed from the South Division for the second time this season. Montclair topped the Ospreys, 69-61 at the Panzer Athletic Center on January 29 behind 15 points from Tom Bonard (Westfield, NJ / Westfield) and a double-double by Tyrone Prewitt (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Central), who registered a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

The Red Hawks will be making their 16th appearance in the NJAC Tournament overall and its third in the last four seasons. MSU will square off against Stockton in the tournament for the fourth time and is 2-1 in the previous three meetings falling in 1979 (63-56) and claiming wins in 1984 (65-53) and a decade later in 1994 (73-62 in Pomona).  Montclair last won the NJAC championship in 2003 when it knocked off Ramapo 86-84 in double-overtime on Ben Martinez’ layup in the closing seconds. The winner of the MSU-Stockton contest will head to Ramapo for the semifinals on Tuesday, February 22 in Mahwah.

And after all the swimming and diving and hoops action the first two days, it all wraps up on the track on Sunday, February 20 as the men’s and women’s indoor teams compete in the NJAC Championships at The Armory in New York.

Both will be looking to better their standings from a year ago as the men placed third while the women were sixth.

For the men, 2009 NCAA national champion Will Brown (Glouceter, NJ / Palmyra) leads the men’s squad as he will take part in the 55 meter hurdles. Brown, who was the national-runner up last year, is the defending conference champion in the event and has already posted an NCAA provisional qualifying time this season.  Brown currently has the fourth-fastest time in the nation this season at 7.56 seconds.

Junior Jon Tancer (Montville, NJ / Montville) and senior Mario Morrison-Bird (West Orange, NJ / West Orange) lead the field athletes in the shot put and weight throw events.

For the MSU women, they too have an NCAA provisional qualifier in freshman Krystal Ellis (Morristown, NJ / Morristown), who has the third-highest score in the nation in the pentathlon. Ellis reached that mark last week at the CTC Championships with a score of 3,289 points.  Sophomore Heather Gearity (Rutherford, NJ / Rutherford) just missed the mark for the NCAAs in the same event finishing with a score of 2,995 points, five shy of the provisional mark.

Ellis and Gearity will also try to help the Red Hawks’ 4x400 relay team to an NCAA qualifying mark. The duo along with Michelle McNulty (Bayonne, NJ / Bayonne) and Ashadaya Patterson (Trenton, NJ / Northern Burlington) came within a second of a provisional mark in January at the Terrier Classic in Boston crossing the line in a time of 4:01.93.