The names that jump out are Bonvie Fosam, Lauren Kroepfl and Chelsea Manto. They are like the grandiose finishing touches to a building that everyone admires.
But there’s a lot that goes beneath that which people may not see, like the planks and nails and insulation. In this case, they go by the names of Kai Byron, Casey Hopkins and Braith Dicker. For without their contributions, Robbinsville High would not have successfully defended its NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II sectional championship on Feb. 12 at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
Granted, the heavy lifting was done by the Big Three. Fosam won the 55 meters (7.37 seconds) and high jump (5-2). Kroepfl won the 3,200-meter run (11:11.44) and took third in the 1,600, and Manto was fifth in the 55 and 400 while leading off the relay team.
That in itself, however, would not have gotten the win.
Dicker took fourth in the 55 hurdles while Byron was fourth in the shot. Fourth-place finishers earn four points toward the team score. If one girl or the other had not placed at all, Robbinsville would not have won. The Ravens finished with 51 points, to outdistance Governor Livingston by three.
“I actually didn’t know that, that’s really cool,” said Byron, a senior who has been with the program for four years. “I was in eighth place in the pre-finals, and my first couple of throws in the finals were pretty low. Then I got lucky with my last throw (at 35-2.75) to get fourth. It’s pretty cool those points put us over the other team.”
And then there was Hopkins, another senior. Coach Christina Fisher knew that if Robbinsville could take first and sixth in the 3,200, that would clinch the meet and render the day’s final event—the 4×400 relay—moot when it came to the team title.
Kroepfl got her first, and Hopkins came through with a sixth-place finish in 11:58.44, which took all the pressure off the relay team. Hopkins, however, deflected praise.
“I put it more on Lauren, who came in first obviously,” Hopkins said. “I think she gets more of the credit for that. But we did such a good team job that day. I think that the security it gave us afterward, was that we didn’t have to put it all on the four by four. I know it’s very stressful for them. All the meets we come to it usually comes down to that. It definitely was a huge surprise to have it won before then.”
For good measure, the relay team of Manto, Enlin Carow, Sara Mazalewski and Sara Toscano took a fifth place to get into the Group II state meet.
Of everyone who advanced to groups, the Ravens got two into the Meet of Champions. Fosam took third in the 55 meters and high jump in the group meet on Feb. 18, while Kroepfl was fourth in the 3,200.
Fisher is now 2-0 as the program’s head coach in sectionals. The Ravens have won titles in each of her first two years after serving as an assistant under Mike Walker.
‘In the end this isn’t about the individual, it’s a team title.’
“They’re definitely different people,” Hopkins said. “Everyone has adjusted so well. Our team is just the same. Even with a new coach we’re just as close. We’re working just as hard. And Coach [Fisher], it’s just an amazing experience being with her.”
Fisher feels it’s equally amazing being with her talented girls, including the ones who don’t get the glory but make a difference.
“You can’t just win with two athletes, even though they might be the best athletes out there you have to have more than that,” said the former Florence High standout. “I coached under Mike Walker for four years, I always remember him saying, those fifths, sixths, those places are just as important as getting first and second. You have to have everything to win. You just can’t have one girl do it all for you.”
It is nice, however, to have girls like Fosam and Kroepfl to count on. According to the coach, both went into the sectionals brimming with confidence, and it showed in their results.
“We knew coming in it would be between us, Governor Livingston and Matawan,” Fisher said. “We knew we could get in that top three, and if you’re there, anything can happen. I explained to the girls, ‘You’ve got to have a top performance to win today. And a couple of the girls rose to the occasion and really sealed the deal for us.
“Bonvie getting first in the high jump and the 55, was what we needed. They had to go back to the cameras to look who got first and second in the 55, and she beat the girl from Lawrence (Breasia Solomon) and that was big because that girl beat her in counties. We were trailing at that time, so her getting first and Chelsea getting a fifth was a big bump for us.”
Kroepfl got her win with 10 seconds to spare, running her best race of the year according to Fisher.
“They’re just the most determined people I know,” Hopkins said of the Ravens stars. “They do everything right, they go the extra mile for everything and anything.”
But what Casey really felt was the difference, was team cohesiveness.
“We’re all so close together and so supportive,” she said. “Practice is fun for us. It’s not like an extra job, it’s not like “Aww, practice today.’ When we go to practice, we’re laughing, we’re dancing every day. It’s fun for us and that’s what really makes it such a great experience for everyone.”
It translates onto the track, and it’s important to note that in winning a second straight sectional, Robbinsville has proven it is still a perennial top program under Fisher like it was under Walker. Last year’s title was not just a one-shot deal.
“That’s definitely awesome,” Byron said. “Last year we were really strong, this year we had a lot of new people come on. It was really cool to see that although we lost a lot of seniors last year, that we’re still a very strong program. A lot of people put in a lot of tough effort. It was good to see everyone depend on each other and cheer everyone else on.”
“It just means such good things for the Robbinsville program,” Hopkins added. “It goes to show we have what it takes to win big meets like this. I think we don’t get too comfortable here. I was definitely nervous this year because I knew we lost a lot on the sprinting side from last year. That was a concern but we definitely all brought it that day.
Fisher feels that the Ravens indoor performance should have a positive carry-over into the spring. What makes her happiest is that each girl seems to have grasped what is important.
“That’s what I try to impress on all the girls about contributing, and they really understand that now,” she said. “I tell them ‘You’ve got to make sure you’re out there trying your best to be able to provide for the team.’ In the end this isn’t about the individual, it’s a team title.”
In this case, two straight team titles.