Like a lot of Rumson-Fair Haven High School athletes, Lily Orr played three sports– girls’ soccer, winter track and girls’ lacrosse– during her freshman and sophomore years.
But as a junior in 2018-19, Orr changed her spring sport from girls’ lacrosse to girls’ track and field.
It may have been the best decision of her high school athletic career.
On May 24 and 25 at Jackson Liberty High School, Orr sparked Rumson-Fair Haven to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 team sectional championship.
Rumson-Fair Haven finished with 95.5 team points. Second-place Matawan Regional High School ended with 86 points.
The junior did this by winning two Central Jersey, Group 2 state titles herself— the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.
She also placed second in the 400-meter dash and anchored the Bulldogs’ 4×400-meter relay team, which took first with a final time of 3:56.70.
Orr won the 100-meter title with a final time of 12.12 and the 200-meter crown with a final time of 25.72. Altogether, it was a virtuoso performance by the spring track rookie.
“She’s a freak athlete,” said Rumson-Fair Haven coach Jason Lippart. “When she runs, she gets after it out of the gate. Then she hangs on until the end.”
Imagine a food connoisseur describing a new, locally sourced restaurant. That’s what it’s like to hear Lippart describe Orr’s running style. The coach has an appreciation for both the simple beauty and the complex ingredients.
According to Lippart, Orr combines the majestic strides of a distance runner with the blunt speed of a sprinter.
“She floats on the ground. Her feet barely touch,” Lippart said. “She has very strong ankles and knees, and just bounces.”
But it was actually Rumson-Fair Haven’s winter track coach, Bob Keogh, who convinced Orr to run in the spring. Lippart calls Keogh “a stats genius,” and that may be true. But he sounds more like a context genius.
Before the spring, Keogh showed Orr how her winter times compared to nationally ranked runners and previous Rumson-Fair Haven record holders. He specifically compared Orr to Grace Hofferber, a 2017 Rumson-Fair Haven graduate who broke school records in the 200 and 400-meter dashes.
Hofferber now runs for Wake Forest University, a Division 1 program in Winston-Salem, N.C. Keogh believed Orr had similar potential, and Orr agreed, joining the spring team before the 2019 season started in early April.
“Grace said to me when she graduated, ‘Are any of my records going to stand if Lily runs outdoors?'” Keogh said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be tough. She’s a special talent.'”
After joining the team, Orr proceeded to break Hofferber’s records in the 200 and 400-meter dashes. The junior also set a new Rumson-Fair Haven mark for the 100-meter dash, in the state sectional championship meet.
“I didn’t expect to be this successful,” Orr said. “I’m so happy that all the hard work has paid off.”
“And she’s still improving, cutting her time in every race she’s in,” Lippart said. “I don’t think she has a ceiling. She’s still relatively new to the sport.”
Orr is the standout. But a state sectional title is a team effort, and other Bulldogs stepped up, too, on May 24 and 25.
Senior Olivia Rehder, senior Alina Arko, junior Eliana Swell and three Rumson relay teams all scored top five finishes in different events. Rehder, senior Campbell Devlin and junior Eva Farr made up the rest of the victorious 4×400-meter relay team.